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Peter Jackson is one of the rare directors who sits upon a pedestal in the minds of two very distinct leagues of fanboys: those who worship Lord of the Rings, and those who worship splatter horror. While The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is currently making barrel-loads of money at the box office, many film fans have reached a saturation point concerning Jackson’s place in the Tolkien universe, and we pointed out earlier that disputes with the Tolkien estate have made it all but impossible for the director to return. That’s perfectly fine with me, because I don’t think Jackson ever should have gone back to Middle-earth in the first place.
Pardon my generalization, but stay with me here. When you ask a casual film fan what their favorite Peter Jackson film is, they’re more than likely going to say something like The Two Towers, which is a perfectly suitable answer. But if you ask a Peter Jackson fan what their favorite film of his is, a lot less attention is shown to LOTR and is given more to the films that helped shaped his career, such as the insanely raucous 1992 gag-worthy comedy Dead Alive or the haunting true crime drama Heavenly Creatures. Just take a look at the relative subtlety of Jackson’s vision in the latter film’s trailer below, though the voiceover narration is as unsubtle as you get.
When are we ever going to see another film like this come out of Jackson? I assume some people might say that his take on Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones was in the same vein, but that film traded humanity for a multi-colored purgatory. Even his impressive remake of King Kong in 2005 was seemingly weighed down beneath Jackson’s determination to make each of his successive films bigger than the last. Is it impossible for him to pull back the reins on his art, or is he merely continuing to build up his box office clout to one day begin making films for himself again?
While I absolutely love the creative awfulness of Jackson’s earliest films Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles, I find 1996’s The Frighteners to be his most accomplished non-LOTR film to date, blending together an imaginative story and rounded characters with excellent effects and direction, plus a bunch of genuinely frightening sequences. (The comedy of Michael J. Fox and John Astin don’t hurt, either.) The horror genre is always sorely in need of directors with such honed visions, but Jackson’s presence in the world of sci-fi and war drama would be just as welcome. Hell, he could even stay in the realm of fantasy if he wanted, so long as Hobbits were completely absent, and he should probably just stay away from adaptations and remakes altogether while he’s at it.
Should The Silmarillion ever make it to the big screen, it deserves another director with a passion for the work and an understanding of limitations. The Tolkien universe is filled with enough imagination that a less thoughtful director would still have more than enough to work with, while Jackson needs to put his valiant efforts into projects that would fall apart in anyone else’s hands. We of course have The Hobbit: There and Back Again coming next year, with an eventual Tintin sequel coming after that, but maybe 2015 or 2016 will be the year in which Peter Jackson reminds people that he was an amazing filmmaker long before Elijah Wood ever touched any rings.
But maybe I’m just crazy or stupid and Jackson actually should spend the next thirty years directing films based on Tolkien works. I’m sure everyone will be sure and let me know in the comments. If you need me in the meantime, I’ll be busy chasing after Lord Crumb.