Why I Miss the Peter Jackson of 2001

Peter Jackson

Let’s get two things straight, I completely understand that always making comparisons to Rings is unfair and at their heart they are two different sets of films. This is not supposed to be a rant at ‘Why couldn’t they be more like Lord of the Rings!?’ – I am actually of the opinion that Peter Jackson and his co-writers attempts of giving The Hobbit films more of a LOTR connection both in its tone and story has proved to be its undoing in many respects. I simply want to look at some of the aspects of Jackson’s filmmaking that I admired so much in the LOTR and evaluate why I was disappointed with Jackson’s filmmaking in the first two Hobbit films and why that has affected my anticipation for his final instalment.

Secondly (and this is important), this is not a slating of The Hobbit films, I don’t dislike them, quite the contrary, I find them very entertaining, the acting is top notch (here’s looking at you, Mr Freeman), the world Jackson and Co. have created is intricate and vibrant and the screenwriting (for the most part) is fantastic for a blockbuster movie. I will of course be making a trip to see BotFA upon its release. However, they are not on the same level as his, let’s call it ‘Original Trilogy’ or ‘Oridge Tridge’ if you like, nor is my anticipation.


In my humble opinion, The Fellowship of the Ring is Jackson’s finest work to date and is the best Rings film, I’m still not sure if this is popular opinion or not, people sometimes agree with me when I say that, others simply spit at me and run away. However, I love that fact, I love how there is not really a renowned favourite, for example, when you ask people what their favourite Star Wars film is, I bet you’ll find 80% will undoubtedly say ‘Empire’. It’s a nice change.

I believe Jackson accomplished something quite special and rare with his first outing. Again, I’m not going into story but the filmmaking itself. For me it represented THE perfect combination of old school and new school filmmaking techniques. If you have not seen the DVD appendices for the Lord of the Rings, which examines in absolutely precise detail the filmmaking process from Pre to Post production, please do. Even if you are not a fan of the trilogy but are interested in filmmaking itself, it is a great insight into that very daunting process and has taught me a lot about making films on a grand scale. I found my self purchasing the Extended Edition of The Hobbit upon its release simply due to its in-depth making of rather than for the film itself. Which is about the saddest thing I have ever admitted publically.

Jackson amazingly blended the use of masterfully built miniatures (or Bigatures as they are known due to their size and level of detail), fantastic make up and prosthetics and the use of practical effects with the sparse use of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). New Zealand turned out to be Jackson’s strongest asset, it almost seemed that when God (apparently?) created the Earth in seven days he knew that one day, The Lord of the Rings would be a thing and that a filmmaker would need somewhere to shoot the damn thing. From the expansive, heavenly green meadows and the dramatic enchanted lakes to the never-ending rocky and moss filled landscapes of NZ, each location had its own unique character and it ALL translated to the screen. It was real. You can actually go to those places now, literally, Hobbiton is now a place, look it up!

Hobbiton in Matamata
Hobbiton in Matamata

As well as Jackson’s original preference for practical effects, he also showed tremendous talent as a director. Now I very much feel all three were excellently directed (even if the last film did have slightly too much visual effects and over the top spectacle for my liking). However all three of Jackson’s films had, what I like to call ‘Those moments’: moments when it seemed Jackson really went all out and ballsy with his artistic voice, moments when he really took a hold of the audience by the throat and eyeballs and didn’t let go.

For example, one of the most powerful moments in Fellowship was the supposed death of (spoiler) Gandalf. Now, I’m not saying it’s powerful just because a key protagonist dies in the scene, it was the way the scene was handled, a scene like this could be directed in an endless amount of ways but PJ’s had a gradual and perfect build, the tension was at its highest point, the use of sound and the believability of the acting completely sold the situation. When Mr McKellen falls, Jackson pulls nearly all of the sound from the scene, runs it at slow motion with just a male child’s voice singing in high pitch while the characters react to what has happened. On paper this idea sounds terrible, cheesy, like something out of a bad 80’s flick but Jackson pulls it off. Through all the hectic action and chaos of what’s happening, Jackson strips away everything and makes it the most quiet, tender and personal scene of the whole film. It still gives me goosebumps when I watch it today and that’s just one scene, there are several others I could go into in great depth.

When I watched the first of The Hobbit films however, in many respects it could have said ‘Directed by Joe Blogs’ because many of the qualities that made me fall in love (completely platonic) with the J-man years prior were no longer existent in his filmmaking.


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