An article in a New Zealand paper by cultural critic Ed Power stated "one of the more glaring (literally) problems with Jackson's Tolkien films, a problem that has become more evident to me with each instalment. It's the choice of his own native land, New Zealand, as the backdrop for these British stories. The island nation of swooping hills and glistening peaks isn't merely an unfortunate choice - it's one of the worst options I can imagine."
Power went onto state that when viewing the films: "Your first thought is "Wow, that's pretty," and your second may well be "I bet that's a wonderful place for bungee jumping...Jackson ought to have gone to the Old World, to Ireland or Iceland and other places thereabout, where people seldom bungee-jump and the ancient and the modern often appear to live in uneasy alliance."
Is the Southwest a better option for filming? Here in the southwest, we do have ruins from many civilizations, and here the ancient and the modern do indeed often appear to live in an uneasy alliance. There are many locations in the area that would convey that.
But let's go a step further, suppose that the books had an originally been set out here in the Southwest, if Tony Hillerman had wrote the Hobbit, or something like that. I'll let the reader play around with the various scenarios, and decide who will play the Hobbits, elves, dwarves and men. (Not going to go there.)
Tolkein's symbolism could be transported to the southwest. Our lore is as good as Tolkien's lore. Bilbo might be from a traditional Northern New Mexico town, or he could be from a native American pueblo and he journeys to find something. Smaug the dragon is a metaphor for greed, he could be symbolized by the energy or the military industrial complex. Gollum is an addict and the ring is seeming to be a wonder drug that actually does more harm than good.
I had a friend who wrote a sequel to the Lord of the Rings, and when he asked for permission from the estate, they said no. It is my understanding that he then went back and literally used the "find and replace" keys on his computer to make changes, until it could pass legal muster.
Nobody bought his book by the way . . .
We can do better than that, someone out there can write a Lord of the Rings type book set in a historic or an imagined New Mexico. And we can film it here as well.