19 Nov 2008

Australian epic debuts in Sydney

10:43 am on 19 November 2008

Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman have attended the world premiere in Sydney of a 1940s epic about Australia.

Directed by Baz Luhrmann, Australia - reported to have cost $A150 million - is the most expensive film ever made on the continent.

The film was also screened on Tuesday night in Darwin, Kununurra in Western Australia and Bowen in north Queensland. All were key filming locations.

Kidman, 41, plays an English aristocrat who inherits a remote cattle station just before World War II.

When cattle barons threaten to take her land, she reluctantly joins forces with a rugged cattleman, played by Jackman.

Part of the film, which lasts two hours and 40 minutes, focuses on the Japanese bombing of the city of Darwin in 1942.

The story also deals with the so-called "stolen generation" of Aboriginal children who were taken away from their families to be raised by white foster parents.

The film was mostly shot in north-west Australia. A major tourism campaign is linked to it.

Mixed reviews

However, the ABC reports early reviews are mixed.

In The Australian, David Stratton says Australia "is not the masterpiece we were hoping for" and "there's a slight air of disappointment after it all".

Fairfax reviewer Jim Schembri says Australia is not a bad film, but it is far from a great one and "feels too much like a work-in-progress".

In the Sydney Morning Herald, Sandra Hall says it's a "big-hearted melodrama" - but "no super-movie."

However, the Herald Sun's Claire Sutherland has nothing but praise: "Baz Luhrmann has pulled off an incredible film in Australia ... [It] has international blockbuster written all over it," she wrote.