Why I Miss the Peter Jackson of 2001

Peter Jackson

Many commenter’s have compared The Hobbit films to Lucas’ Prequel trilogy and while there are certainly similarities both with the films and filmmakers, I won’t discuss George or ‘those’ films here, as to quote Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, ‘I have not the heart to tell you. For me the grief is still too near’.

Jackson for the most part used most of the same crew on Hobbit as he did on Rings, minus Grant Major, the unsung hero of the trilogy. Major was the production designer on Rings which would explain the differences and eventual departure from the more realistic, grounded approach to the world.

Many of the commenter’s on Jackson’s new set of films have all pointed towards the abundance of CGI and whilst I would love to have a different argument, for me, many of the problems originate with this issue. In the appendices of the Hobbit, Jackson and his 2nd unit director Andy Serkis (yes, Gollum) talk about how CGI has come so far that now they can now just shoot a bunch of shots in a scene using green screen and multiple cameras, they don’t really have to worry as much, they can just piece it all together and figure out any problems in post. The decision process is now being done in the VFX room not the drawing board.

For example when you look at the two Rivendell scenes in both An Unexpected Journey and Fellowship, they both feel and look different. The latter film used many large sets and well-crafted miniatures, whereas the former (like many places in the film) used completely CG environments. Jackson talks about a particular scene in Rivendell when Bilbo is walking around taking in the sights. That entire scene was shot on 100% green screen. Jackson comments that they can now film a scene on green screen and just decide what to put in on the background later.

The Hobbit CGI

One of the smallest problems in The Hobbit but something that for me, spoke volumes about the type of filmmaker Jackson has turned into, was the antagonist, Azog (the one that looked like a football hooligan skinhead). There was absolutely no reason for him to be a CG character. Not when the villain at the end of Fellowship, who was made entirely from prosthetics on top of an actor, was so damn remarkable and terrifying. However, it was later revealed that they had in fact shot all of Azog’s scenes using an actor in prosthetics but got into the edit room when Jackson decided he actually didn’t like the look of the character after all (they had been shooting for several months at this point). So they went back and changed all of his scenes and just layered a CG character on top of the original plates (FYI – They also did the same with the secondary villain in the DoS).


These are just a few examples from what was undoubtedly a whole trilogy of films being made under this mentality. The mentality of, ‘fix it in post’, it’s under this mentality that passion and creativity can die. I understand that Jackson didn’t like the look of certain things but when you’re in position as a filmmaker that you CAN constantly be changing, tweaking and adding things in post-production, where do you stop? Everything suddenly becomes synthetic and fake. It’s not believable anymore. For example, just take a look and count how many perfect and gigantic wolf man style full moons there are in AUJ. Even the weather looks unrealistic. For me that not’s real filmmaking, a good filmmaker addresses the script and the actors. He tries to pinpoint the motivations, the emotions and beats for each scene he is about to film and shoots it accordingly to the way he feels will best translate that emotion and meaning to the big screen. Obviously post-production is a great tool and can change and improve scenes and films for the better, through editing, sound design, score, grading and yes, visual effects but it shouldn’t be the main process, it should seek to aid the filmmaking process not detract from it.

What do I think is the cause of this mentality? Well it appears to be an easy answer: money and as a result of that, too much freedom. Jackson (as Lucas did) now has far more power and money than he did on the original films and money can make a lazy filmmaker. It’s much easier to throw money at an issue instead of working around a problem and being creative. Location shooting is one of the greatest things as a filmmaker (especially when you’re a young one like me) it makes you think on your feet, it forces you to use all of your creative juices, it’s not relaxing, comfortable or dull, you’re not looking at 4 bright green walls all day and just shooting anything, you’re looking at a rich environment and figuring out the best way to shoot it and the best way to tell your story.

In short, I miss the subtly of Peter Jackson’s directing. Gone are the days of those quiet moments I talked about. Everything is hectic and chaotic. Everything is grandiose, synthetic and fake. However, essentially for me it all lies down to the lack of ‘Those moments’ in The Hobbit films. Moments where Jackson as a filmmaker really grabs my attention and shouts ‘look how talented I can be!’. People often say to me ‘but what about that barrel sequence?’



Perhaps when a filmmaker finds fame and fortune, they can never truly go back to their roots and find that spark. Lucas couldn’t, Coppola couldn’t, Oliver Stone couldn’t, Kevin Smith still can’t, although he is trying, bless him. I think Aragorn himself, Viggo Mortensen, said it best when he commented on Jackson in his damning critique of his director’s post Rings career: “I was sure [Jackson] would do another intimately scaled film like Heavenly Creatures but then he did King Kong. And then he did The Lovely Bones – and I thought that would be his smaller movie. But the problem is, he did it on a $90 million budget. That should have been a $15 million movie. The special effects thing, the genie, was out of the bottle, and it has him. And he’s happy, I think…”

The Battle of the Five Armies is out December 17th

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