October 28, 2000
Our Armies of Hobbits
Sock it to them, says Mr Mark. Never mind the international perspective soak them for every buck private carrying a spear and every engineer helping to build a road or a rampart.
If our current antiquated military hardware fits in nicely with the style of Middle Earth, then charge them a few million dollars more for that as well.
This is a depressingly small-minded attitude. It can only be hoped that our military planners are capable of taking the wider view.
After all, they now have at their disposal a priceless asset in the shape of the talented Mr Jackson, whose skills in the art of visual effects are second to none.
It would be a shame to waste their potential in the longer term over the negligible price of a mess of culvert-building pottage.
For starters, most of our army is pinned down in Timor, so the resources used in filming are not that extensive.
Furthermore, our shrewd top brass will very likely have struck a deal with super-illusionist Jackson which in coming years will mean that the world will be overawed by our apparent military might.
Just as the Soviets at the height of the Cold War used psych-war trickery to frighten the world into believing they had more rockets and guns than was the case, so too could New Zealand deter a future aggressor using similar legerdemain.
Employing the latest optical illusions developed in a shed "somewhere in Wellington", Mr Jackson might well perfect film that would convince the world that we have war-making marvels that would ordinarily cost billions to develop . . .
There would be Harvard aircraft powered by aspirin that can travel in space at Mach 9 and disappear in the twinkling of an eye; swarms of fanatical AK47-toting hobbits in blue helmets egged on by scores of handsome windswept generals (all looking suspiciously like Sir Ian McKellen); field radios that work over prodigious distances even though they look oddly like standard World War II apparatus; and, using a computer variant of the old "six-shooter that kills a thousand Indians" trick, our armed forces would never, ever be seen to run out of ammunition.
Through the black arts of film deception, this country could go so far as to persuade the world that it might possess nuclear weapons, if only by manipulating some old TV images of Mt Ngauruhoe blowing its top. (That is probably what the Indians and Pakistanis do though we could back it up with the "proof" of a decent-sized earthquake.)
So let us treasure our unique strengths in this dangerous and duplicitous world. Most countries would give their eye-teeth to have a master-technician of this quality.
If we play our cards right, we may yet see Mr Jackson become the first man in history to receive a Nobel Peace Prize and an Oscar on the same night.