Is it Art?: “‘Middle Earth’ meets ‘Heaven on Earth’”

Air New Zealand 777: "The Hobbit"

Air New Zealand 777: "The Hobbit"

Art very literally took flight last Saturday, 1 December 2012, when Air New Zealand’s 777 “The Hobbit” took off from our international airport here in Rarotonga, just as the movie itself was slated to take off in theatres around the world.

The Hobbit, through the door

The Hobbit, through the door

Art and culture converge in many ways in this event and this airliner image, on deeper and deeper levels.

First, of course, there is the tremendous artistic and technical achievement of the “airmural” wrapped around this technological work of art, the Boeing 777.

Then, there is the cinematic art of director Peter Jackson that created, first, “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and, now, “The Hobbit” movies, which created movie sets like this, in New Zealand:

The Hobbit, movie set in Matamata, NZ

"The Hobbit", movie set in Matamata, New Zealand

Beneath that are the J. R. R. Tolkein fantasies that are the foundation of it all.

And it doesn’t end there.

As English writer Max Davidson says,

“Tourists have been flocking [to New Zealand] since it was chosen as the location for the Lord of the Rings films. They will no doubt be back in force with the release of The Hobbit, greeted by an enormous statue of Gollum at Wellington airport. Is it too pedantic to point out that Tolkien himself never set foot in the country? Or that, if people really want to find the Shire in Middle-earth, the setting for The Hobbit, they would be better off looking in the suburbs of Birmingham or a pub in Oxford?”

The Hobbit, Edgbaston-Birmingham, where Tolkein lived

The Hobbit, Edgbaston-Birmingham, where Tolkein lived

And is it too much to say that the vaunted but false notion of New Zealand origins for the fantasies of Tolkein have taken root in the global popular imagination, including that of many Kiwis, who should know better?

But, with New Zealand vistas like this, why should they bother knowing better?

The Hobbit, New Zealand, Great Alpine Road

The Hobbit, New Zealand, Great Alpine Road

While admiring this, note that this is an image of the Great Alpine Road, in South Island, New Zealand, not in Europe, where those other Alps are.

Which brings us full circle to our 777 “Hobbit” image…

Air New Zealand 777: "The Hobbit"

Air New Zealand 777: "The Hobbit"

Set as it is here in the mountains of paradise that we call Rarotonga, we can image that, if they’d had jet airliners in Middle Earth, they would have looked like this, and they would have been right at home in The Cook Islands.

Which all points to the stunning power of fantasy and image to change our view of ourselves.

If that isn’t art, we don’t know what is.

What do you think?