Movie News: THE HOBBIT - An Unexpected PR Disaster

Written by John Knott Monday, 26 November 2012

Movie News

We’ve all got a theory: It might be great but it might suck. The fact is that we’re not going to know if The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is going to be any cop until we’ve actually seen it. But in the meantime we can look on with detached bafflement at the film’s uncanny ability to attract controversy and animosity. It all started with the departure of Guillermo del Toro; then there was a run-in with the unions that managed to bring in the New Zealand government when Peter Jackson threatened to move it all to Eastern Europe. Would he have done it, one wonders? You’d been forgiven for thinking The Hobbit had exhausted eyebrow raising opportunities when it was announced that a movie whose source material is shorter than any single volume of Lord of the Rings was, like its grown-up brother, also going to be turned into a trilogy. Yeah, good luck with that one Peter; fingers crossed.

But The Hobbit keeps on giving when it comes to tales of straining public relations. Last week a news story broke in New Zealand that a Radio New Zealand reporter, Cushla Norman, had been banned from the red carpet premiere due to her previous negative coverage of the production. The Guardian is reporting that Peter Jackson was “mortified” by the whole business and she’s back on the guest-list but one of her apparent misdemeanours was not only her reporting of the aforementioned industrial dispute but also her coverage of the latest Hobbit PR disaster, the allegations that 27 animals have died as a result of poor treatment during the film’s production. All this has been strenuously denied by the producers with no less than Elijah Wood telling TMZ that he believes aggrieved (and apparently dismissed) animal wranglers were just trying to sabotage the film. So that’ll be somebody else they’ve cheesed off down the line then.

But the latest instalment of The Hobbit: How to Win Friends and Influence People features The Hollywood Reporter story that the Tolkien estate is filing a lawsuit against Warner Bros. for producing “intangible” merchandise that it considers “highly offensive”. Goodness, this sounds juicy. Well the merchandise that’s caused to trouble is a Tolkien-themed online slot machine. Now that is tacky. Is someone more likely to waste money on a slot digital one-armed bandit if it’s got a picture of Gollum on it? Well someone, somewhere obviously thinks so. Let’s hope the courts have the good taste to go with the Tolkien estate on this one.

If all this weren’t enough Hobbit-related antagonism, are we the only people who’ve noticed that among the latest Hobbit posters is one of Galadriel in which Cate Blanchett looks distinctly like she is giving us the finger? Just what are they trying to say?

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