Think The Hobbit films are an overblown mess? So does Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson has revealed in a new video that he “didn’t know what the hell he was doing” with The Hobbit movies. After the great success of the Lord of the Rings movies, The Hobbit was a complete let-down.

hollywood Updated: Nov 20, 2015 17:22 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
The Hobbit,Lord Of The Rings,LOTR
The Hobbit shall and will not pass.(Warner Bros.)

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was an anomaly. It won the hearts of fans and critics alike, earned billions and swept the Oscars. But then came the three Hobbit movies. Sure, they earned billions too, but one thing was for sure: No one really enjoyed them as much as they loved LOTR. As it turns out, there’s a pretty good reason for why they ended up being so average because Jackson has revealed in a new making-of video that the entire shoot was pretty much a large-scale debacle and for most of it he “didn’t know what the hell he was doing.”

Guillermo del Toro was hired as director back in 2008. The Mexican auteur spent years fine-tuning the script as he prepped the huge production from both Los Angeles and New Zealand. But in the end, constant delays forced him to exit the project.

Watch the video here

Here’s when things started going south, or as they say in Middle Earth, Mordor. Says Jackson about the whole situation, “Because Guillermo Del Toro had to leave and I jumped in and took over, we didn’t wind the clock back a year and a half and give me a year and a half prep to design the movie, which was different to what he was doing. It was impossible, and as a result of it being impossible I just started shooting the movie with most of it not prepped at all.”

This is interesting for many reasons. The most obvious one being that The Hobbit isn’t that large a book. Its 300-odd pages pale in comparison to LOTR’s 1000+. The why did Jackson and co. decide on adding a third film to a story that could be told perfectly well in just one?

This was one of the biggest criticisms the Hobbit series drew. Harry Potter split its final film into two parts and it made sense, mostly because they made it work. Clearly, other franchises have tried this trick and have all failed. Moves like these can’t help but seem like blatant cash-grabs and the audience has woken up.

Those who’ve seen the meticulously detailed behind-the-scenes vlogs that Jackson kept releasing during the production of The Hobbit trilogy will appreciate that this was one of the largest productions in film history. Some numbers actually point that it is, costing an upwards of $700 million. Jackson essentially took over a small town, flying in thousands of cast and crew. So statements like these strike as especially insulting: “You’re going on to a set and you’re winging it, you’ve got these massively complicated scenes, no storyboards and you’re making it up there and then on the spot […] I spent most of The Hobbit feeling like I was not on top of it ][…] even from a script point of view Fran [Walsh], Philippa [Boyens] and I hadn’t got the entire scripts written to our satisfaction so that was a very high pressure situation.”

Let’s face it, Jackson is hardly the visionary he once was. Even LOTR star Viggo Mortensen called him out for his growing reliance on CGI over character and plot. Again, those vlogs revealed some rather disappointing facts. For most of the action scenes he set up around 40 cameras for coverage leaving the movie in the hands of his editors. Now compare that to Chris Nolan and his single camera setups.

Jackson continues about the titular battle in the final film, “We had allowed two months of shooting for that in 2012, and at some point when we were approaching that I went to our producers and the studio and said: ‘Because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing now, because I haven’t got storyboards and prep, why don’t we just finish earlier?’ And so what that delay gives you is time for the director to clear his head and have some quiet time for inspiration to come about the battle, and start to really put something together.”

The decade after the release of the final Lord of the Rings film was an interesting one. Not since Star Wars had a genre that was mostly neglected as being superficial received such acclaim and attention. The Oscars changed their rules, superheroes dominated the box-office and geekdom took over the world. It’s unfortunate that the only thing The Hobbit movies will be remembered for in a few years is its similarities to the Star Wars prequels.

First Published: Nov 20, 2015 17:21 IST