And so to the other big location pic of 2008/9: Australia. I finally caught it on the very small screen – on the way back from Locations Trade Show 09.

And what can I tell you about it? Well, I can see why so many people hated it, why the critics whipped themselves into a frothing rage of apoplexy. It’s a schizophrenic sort of film that swings awkardly between a whole host of genre pics including Crocodile Dundee, Pearl Harbour, Rabbit Proof Fence, Gone with the Wind, Charge of the Light Brigade, anything Disney with a cute kid, anything with John Wayne and cows. I am also strangely reminded of Who Framed Roger Rabbit – to do, more than anything, I think with Nicole Kidman’s cartoon-hammy, wasp-waisted English aristocrat. There’s even some soft porn in there – cue Hugh Jackman, all shoulders and chest, in a bizarre little shower scene. Nothing much in the movie makes emotional sense. But damn it, it does look good; Jackman prods Kidman into exuding a little bit of chemistry, the cattle drive is exhilirating and the Australian outback is hugely photogenic. So, yes, whilst I can indeed see why people hated it, I strangely enough didn’t.

The Invasion

OK. So whose bright idea was it to cast Nicole Kidman as the lead of The Invasion?? I mean, for goodness sake, she plays a character who has to act wooden to remain undetected by aliens. Act wooden? Oh come on, now! Wooden is pretty much what we’ve grown to expect from Ms. Kidman these days, so surely no one (no one sane, at least) was expecting a breakthrough performance.

The Invasion is a strange remake of not one but two earlier films, including the scary – and much, much better – 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This version has echoes of earlier storylines; people are indeed changing, taken over by an aggressive alien intelligence. This time though, they change for the better. There’s no more war, no aggression – there’s not so much as a bitch-slap or a momentary lapse into rudeness – except of course if you don’t comply. And so Nicole and her ghastly kid set out to make sure that the human race remains smug, brutal, bloody and cantankerous. Ah well.

The movie shot in Baltimore, Maryland. At least it did at first. Unhappy with the results, parts of the film were re-written and extra scenes were shot in LA. Frankly, it shows. The film feels like it was mangled together absent-mindedly (the debate at the Czech embassy seems to have been cut and paste from an entirely different genred film altogether.) They even changed the title a few times. So it’s all a bit schizophrenic really, Nicole is the same as always, and I found I missed the pod people quite a lot, on the whole.

I should also add that someone should probably be criminally charged for the woeful under-use of Daniel Craig; his role could have been written out entirely and it would have changed nothing of any import (except perhaps the resultant loss of eye candy.)

The Hobbit Effect in Australia

Due for release in November of this Year, Baz Luhrmann’s latest opus Australia is set in north of that country just before World War II. It revolves around an English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) who inherits a cattle station the size of a small European nation. When rival cattle barons plot to annex her land, she joins forces with a stock-man (Hugh Jackman channelling Crocodile Dundee?) to drive her cattle to market across the country’s most unforgiving territory, arriving in Darwin just as the Japanese airforce begins its bombing attack…..

Noting that following the release of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, tourism numbers to New Zealand were roughly double those visiting Australia during the same period, the Sydney Morning Herald quite rightly trumpets the exciting news that:

Tourism chiefs are to unveil a deal between the film’s distributor, 20th Century Fox, its director, Baz Luhrmann and the federal tourism body, Tourism Australia, at a tourism conference in Perth today.

The goal, apparently, is to use the movie to switch the tourism focus back to the harsh but beauteous wilderness that makes up the vast interior of the country. (My quip about Hugh Jackman as Crocodile Dundee was actually semi-serious; the 1985 Paul Hogan movie almost singlehandedly reimagined Australia, Australians and the Australian bush in the global conscience, and it significantly boosted tourism to the vast Outback.) The SMH article notes some of the plans to develop movie tourism around this movie. 

One idea is recruiting travel agents to pitch to travellers the idea of following in the footsteps of the film’s stars, experience the scenery themselves and, perhaps a little of the romance as well.

Well, of course.

So kudos to the Aussies for actually planning this before time, rather than functioning with the “if you build, it they will come” mentality of a lot of jurisdictions.

PS And check out this cute You Tube link to see the genuine excitement of residents of a small rural town when Hollywood rocks up…..