Home > Movies > Peter Jackson, “The Hobbit” and why maybe this whole thing isn’t such a hot idea

Peter Jackson, “The Hobbit” and why maybe this whole thing isn’t such a hot idea

The Lovely Bones

The Bride and I caught “The Lovely Bones” on cable over the weekend, and it’s certainly not the disaster so many critics claimed it to be. Sure, it’s deeply imperfect, with a great deal of tonal unevenness, flashy special effects where subtlty would have worked better, and a performance by Susan Sarandon that feels so completely off from the rest of the proceedings I think she was acting off of a different script.

It’s merits are many, though, not the least of which being Stanley Tucci getting an all-too-rare showcase role as the murderer who sets the story into play, as well as Jackson showing off several solid set pieces of pure suspense and a showstopper sequence of Susie, the murdered girl, discovers all of her murderer’s previous victims. But it never reaches that level of pure filmmaking thrill Peter Jackson’s always enfused his films with. The argument could be made the subject matter didn’t exactly lend itself to such treatment, but Jackson has handled similiarly touchy material before, with the beautiful and chilling “Heavenly Creatures.”

Where all of this is going is the announcement of Jackson directing the “Hobbit” films. I wish I were enthused about this news on any level, but I’m not, because Jackson already made that trip to the shire with the “Lord of the Ring” trilogy, and I can’t help but feel that he’s going back to this well because it’s comfortable and not because he’s so compelled to tell the story. Jackson’s films since winning three Oscars for “Return of the King” (“King Kong” and “The Lovely Bones”) have been interesting if not entirely successful ventures. “Bones” we’ve already discussed, and “King Kong” felt like the work of a director so driven to entertain you, throwing thing after thing at you, you almost wanted to pay an extra buck or two when you left the theater.

Peter Jackson

But Jackson’s decision to direct “The Hobbit” after a myriad of delays forced Guillermo del Toro to drop out feels more like a financial vision than an artistic one. Jackson is someone who made his name in DIY features in New Zealand, a director unafraid of gore, emotion, or scale, and I hoped “Bones” to be a step to steer him toward more personal projects (“LOTR” does count as that in my book). For the same reason I was thrilled to see del Toro leave “The Hobbit” I’m sad to see Jackson pick it up. It’s not that either man couldn’t create a good movie; it’s just that the depths of their imaginations are such, you hate to see them continually play in the sandboxes of others. del Toro infused even his “Hellboy” adaptations with his own flavors (Catholicism, mysticism, Lovecraftian themes, a deeply romantic sense of yearning), and his works based off his own scripts are truly films that could never have been done by another director.

Guillermo del Toro

Jackson’s well of imagination is immense, too; view his early New Zealand flicks like “Meet the Feebles” and “Dead Alive” to see that, or even “The Frighteners,” a massively underappreciated little piece of pop horror, maybe too Hollywood-ized (it was produced by Robert Zemeckis and was originally going to be a “Tales from the Crypt” movie), but with nicely twisted bits (does anyone do batshit crazy better than Jeffrey Combs?) and a third act that’s genuinely just plain works. I don’t know that another Tolkien adaptation is the best way to utilize that creative energy, though. I’d be far more interested in Jackson’s take on an original script, maybe even a return to horror a la Raimi and “Drag Me to Hell” (and why Raimi didn’t need to make a fourth “Spider-Man” movie). As Jackson gets ready to turn 50 next year, he needs to look at what he wants to leave behind in his next 10 to 15 years, which could be incredible fruitful and production years. Consider Spielberg and Eastwood, both directors who have sharpened as they’ve aged and occasionally taken challenges they might have otherwise in their respective youths.

No, directing “The Hobbit” is what a director like Jackson does when his previous two films are seen as underperforming (ignore that “King Kong” made a ton of money; it also cost a fortune to make and market). The financial success of “The Hobbit” films will probably give Jackson leeway on whatever he opts to do immediately afterwards, though at the cost of being able to do something more interesting now. There’s little that will detract from what Jackson achieved with the “LOTR” films. However, there’s also little that Jackson can contribute to this particular mythos that he hasn’t already. I’ll probably end up seeing the “Hobbit” movies, but that raw joy from experiencing the “LOTR” films won’t be there. Nothing can recreate that sort of magic, not even with the same magician trying again.

Categories: Movies
  1. October 18, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    I care and this is a brilliant piece! It is true and reading this now I get your sentiment of it whereas before I didn’t get it…thank you for writing this blog!

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