Sydney - Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman walked the red carpet Tuesday at the Sydney premiere of a film they made together in the red dust of the Outback.
Directed by Baz Luhrmann, Australia has been praised by film critic Claire Sutherland as a love letter to the landscape that "has international blockbuster written all over it."
Others are not so sure. Veteran film reviewer David Stratton said the 100-million-US-dollar extravaganza is "not the masterpiece we were hoping for" and that "while it will be very popular with many people, I think there's a slight air of disappointment after it all."
World War II is the backdrop with Kidman playing an alabaster-skinned English aristocrat bowled over by Jackman, a sun-kissed cattle drover who helps her save her farm from robber barons.
The most expensive film ever made in Australia, it carries the torch for a tourism industry reeling from cancelled bookings in the wake of the global financial crisis.
A multimillion-dollar tourism promotion campaign with television commercials playing in 26 countries is piggy-backing on the publicity for a film that showcases the nation's prime dramatic talent and its sweeping natural beauty.
"This movie has the capacity to redefine the way Australians and the rest of the world see Australia as a destination, and it's up to all of us to capture that potential for the tourism industry," Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said.
The 165-minute epic, financed by Rupert Murdoch's 20th Century Fox film studio, is Luhrmann's first feature since 2001's Moulin Rouge, which also starred Kidman, 41.
"I love working with Baz; creatively, he's my soulmate," Kidman said at a press conference where she also confided that Australia might be her last film.
"I'm in a place in my life where I've had some great opportunities, but there are many things I want to do besides act," the new mum said. "In terms of my future as an actor, I don't know."
Luhrmann drafted Jackman after Oscar-winner Russell Crowe wanted too much money to don cowboy duds and ride to Kidman's rescue.
"Kidman and Jackman are perfect together - Jackman's broad-speaking drover a perfect foil to Kidman's snooty English rose," a local critic said.
Kidman joked that romancing the hunky Jackman was a bonus. "Obviously, we were in character - but it was good to go to work," she said.
Jackman said the film was about "adventure, frontier, optimism, possibility, some kind of slightly idyllic flashback to when life was as it should be - people were straighter, more honest, more authentic, where everything was a little more in its place."
Luhrmann denied that pressure from Fox after disappointing test screenings obliged him to change the ending, letting Jackman's character survive rather than perish. He insisted he wrote six endings, shot three of them, screened two for test audiences and settled on the one with the happy ending without hindrance from Fox.
Luhrmann, who wrote as well as directed, told reporters he was ready for the criticism Australia would inevitably draw.
"Really, there will be some of that, and there will be some people who really embrace it," he said. (dpa)