The Rover

I know that there's been a lot of tourism to New Zealand after the Lord of the Rings movies, and I'm told that a lot of the landscape is recognizable from those films, but it wouldn't occur to me to expect that country to look like the fictional countries it was meant to represent. Mordor doesn't seem real to me, so the idea of there being a real place that looks like that seems a little weird.

In contrast, when I was watching the Rover - a post apocalyptic movie that's set in Australia "ten years after the collapse" - I kept looking at the Australian countryside and thinking: Jesus Christ, did they even have to go looking for those locations, or did they just step onto their porch and see a sun baked wasteland that was perfectly apocalyptic looking?

I know in the back of my mind that there are large parts of Australia that are cosmopolitan; the country's most famous architectural landmark is an opera house for Christ's sake. And I know that I've seen movies that were set in Australia that weren't about murderous madmen wandering in barren hellscapes looking for trouble, but it took me a minute to pull Strictly Ballroom from my memory banks, while the Mad Max trilogy, The Proposition and Animal Kingdom were right on the tip of my tongue. (Although in fairness, The Proposition, Animal Kingdom and the Rover all star Guy Pearce, so maybe he was just on my mind.) (Also: remind me never to travel with that guy.)

There are a lot of westerns that make the American landscape look harsh, but because westerns tend to be set in the past the human figures in the frame are often on horseback, and something about the contrast of the living creatures against the open terrain suggests "unspoiled" as much as it does "unpleasant". The apocalyptic Australian films I'm thinking of don't have that going for them - when they have busted up cars driving through miles of uninhabited roads it looks lonely and foreboding, as if they were mad individuals who somehow found themselves trapped in a land that was unfit for civilization. And I don't think this is unintentional; while a lot of westerns were about America trying to sell itself on it's own myth, it seems like a lot of Australian films (or at least the ones that get imported to the United States) are about their culture worrying about the permanence of their civilization. They have a certain cynicism that American westerns generally lack.

I'm sure that if I ever went to Australia I would spend most of my time in the big cities, and I would end up being a little disappointed in how normal and functional their lives are. But if I did manage to get out into their countryside I wouldn't be able to stop myself from thinking, aha, here's where the dingoes eat the babies! But meanwhile I could be at ground zero of Mordor and I'd be thinking about sheep, not the eye of Sauron. New Zealand might have a lot of vicious orcs in it, but it just seems more pleasant, you know?

(Anyway, as a film the Rover wasn't for me - too relentlessly humorless, with a plot that was a bit thin - but I will give it this: it sure did do a good job of looking appropriately apocalyptic.)

Winner: Draw

The Rover on IMDB