Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a masterclass in filmmaking. Jackson and his team spent years simply planning the production before filming ever began. Every choice they made was methodical. When filming finally did begin, it was done with the entire picture in mind. A trilogy of movies shot together so that every piece would fit together properly into the whole. Then Jackson returned to Middle Earth to film The Hobbit, and apparently the wheels came off the bus. Jackson comes clean in a new documentary for the DVD release of The Battle of Five Armies and says that making these movies was a complete mess.
The chaos started, as you may remember, because Jackson wasn’t supposed to direct The Hobbit in the first place. Originally Guillermo Del Toro had that chair. When he had to bow out, however, Jackson jumped in, but by then the schedule was already set. Jackson couldn’t go back in time and do the prep work he had done the first time around. Jackson says he was filming scenes that never had storyboards made and that the script that he had been working on with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens wasn’t even finished. However, since he was now focused on directing he couldn’t focus on that.
So what happened to all the prep work that del Toro did? It sounds like the man behind Pan’s Labyrinth was going to make a substantially different movie. When Jackson took over, the two years of work that del Toro had done to prepare went out the window because Peter Jackson was going to make a different movie. The film was completely redesigned. As The Guardian quotes the director, since Jackson couldn’t prep the movie, it sounds like he didn’t even try.
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 whole thing makes the production sound like such an utter disaster that it’s actually hard to believe the movies turned out as good as they did. While there’s no denying that The Hobbit is not the masterpiece that The Lord of the Rings is, it’s also not a bad set of films. It’s a perfectly serviceable fantasy epic. Check out this clip from the documentary below for more details on the problems of production.
Well, at least now we know. Peter Jackson bit off more than he could chew when he took over the director’s chair. Of course now we’ll be forever left to wonder about what could have been. If Guillermo del Toro has never left, or if Jackson had more time, what could we have seen then?