Sunday Star Times
May 15, 2001
Cannes Critics Spellbound by Rings
The world's harshest critics have been spellbound by a sneak preview of the New Zealand-filmed trilogy Lord of the Rings, which stole the limelight at the Cannes film festival.
The veil finally lifted on Peter Jackson's $300 million project, when 25 minutes of footage was screened to a select group of reporters and buyers yesterday.
"You can tell the scope of this film just from 25 minutes of the preview - it looks epic and dramatic and remarkably well cast and acted," said Ian Spelling of the New York Times.
Two critics - Pete Norman of People magazine and Simon Barnard of BBC Radio 1 - said JRR Tolkien fans would have little to fear. It was everything you could want from the adaptation, said Barnard. "It's perfectly cast, amazing special effects and it captured Middle Earth perfectly."
Norman said: "As a Tolkien fan I have a great feeling about this film - it is true to the book."
ABC radio critic Mary Cobert said the footage, which featured Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler, Elijah Wood and Ian McKellen, was "astonishing" and "brilliant".
The centrepiece of the footage was a 14-minute segment of the heroes' harrowing journey through the mines of Moria.
Steven Garrett of New York's Time Out magazine said his knees were weak and there were few words to describe his excitement. Smoko Sakai, from Tokyo's Nippon Herald, said the Japanese media were "blown away".
"It will only enhance the well-established image and profile New Zealand already has in Japan."
The first part of the fantasy adventure is due out in December. The shoot finished last Christmas and Jackson is now adding thousands of special effects needed to bring to life Tolkien's world of hobbits, trolls, elves, dwarfs and wizards.
"This footage arrived wet at the airport and our team has been blowing on it to get it dry," Jackson said at the screening.
The film is not part of the Cannes festival but the producers are planning a number of events to promote the trilogy. Producers have reconstructed some sets in a chateau near the Mediterranean resort to show visitors.
"It's weird, because it's not the movie," said Jackson. "It's like a teaser for the films. It's a little bit painful to just show a . . . sketchy montage of the story."
Mark Ordesky of New Line Cinema, which is financing the trilogy, said filming in New Zealand had saved millions.