The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Dear Peter Jackson:

with one comment

Stop making movies.  Please.  At the rate you’re going, you’ll wreck a lot of Hollywood (including the good parts), further wreck your reputation, and ultimately become the next M. Night Shyamalan.  I saw the first installment of your interpretation of The Hobbit three weeks ago and have been so incensed that I haven’t returned to a movie theater since, and have vowed that I will not see the next two installments.

Speaking of installments…  Three films for The Hobbit?  And one set for summer release?  What’s really happening here–are you interested in making quality films, or turning a profit?  The review in The Chicago Tribune mentioned this, and I agree.  It seems that this decision was made more for financial than artistic reasons.  The source material is lengthy and rich, but if you’re stretching it to three films, you’re stretching it too far.  And if what I’ve seen in the first film was problematic, then I’m very worried about what you’ll try to pull off in the next two.  Which is why I’ve sworn I won’t see them.

First, Mr. Jackson, don’t start a film with an overly-long framing piece that is going to lose the audience’s interest.  As Arthur Plotnik points out in his book Spunk and Bite, this is an indulgence given to established writers (and you did, BTW, help write the screenplay), but that doesn’t make it proper.  In your case, you had viewers bored and confused just as they were settling into their seats.  I was bored–and I’m a huge Lord of the Rings fan and I know all the back story.  You did no better at setting things up than the writers and producers at Marvel did last year with their incredibly idiotic The Avengers.  As a writer, I have learned how essential it is to establish context and background, but your whole framing piece could have been delivered via character narration and flashback so we could put a face to a back story and perhaps have more emotional interest in the characters.

Second, maybe you want to reread The Hobbit.  I have been rereading it for the first time since I initially read it 30 years ago.  I couldn’t help but notice that there are things that happen in the book in a matter of sentences (or even mere words) that you spend a lot of time portraying on screen.  Primarily, there is a huge drawn-out scene in which stone giants battle each other.  The scene is just about impossible to follow visually (I’ve complained about this before in your films), but it also puts the characters in a huge amount of danger that-surprise!- they somehow survive, and it ends up stretching the fabric of plausibility and suspension of disbelief too far.  Here’s the stone giant encounter in the book; it all happens within one paragraph:

“…When he peeped out in the lightning-flashes, he saw that across the valley the stone-giants were out, and were hurling rocks at one another for a game, and catching them, and tossing them down into the darkness where they smashed among the trees far below, or splintered into little bits with a bang…  They could hear the giants guffawing and shouting all over the mountainsides.”

You overblew the scene horribly, and to what end?  To show the audience, “Hey!  Looky at what I can do!”  I’ve commented before, too, that over-reliance on cool special effects ruins films in the sci-fi / fantasy genre far more often that it helps them.  Thanks for becoming another example of that.

Furthermore, who is Radagast?  This is what he’s given in the book when mentioned by Gandalf:  “…perhaps you have heard of my good cousin Radagast who lives near the Southern borders of Mirkwood?”  Otherwise, he hardly even appears in The Lord of the Rings.  But here you give him a great amount of screen time, which only unnecessarily sidetracks the movie as you try to plant seeds for what happens in The Fellowship of The Ring.  You’re trying to set up the action of the films that have already been made by engineering things in this current film.  Guess what?  Nobody cares!  The plot points in the book are so small as to be almost imperceptible to the ordinary movie goer who may or may not be familiar with the books.  Also, most people who see this are going to understand that there will be an undotted “i” or uncrossed “t” throughout this series.  You don’t need to make every single connection, no matter how small.  Furthermore, the character of Radagast is asinine–he smokes Gandalf’s weed and goes wonky, has loads of bird shit caked on the side of his face, and takes part in a ridiculous chase on his rabbit-drawn sled.  Again, all you’re doing is dragging down the plot.

And another thing:  Don’t create conflicts that aren’t already there.  There doesn’t need to be any elevation of the conflict between dwarves and orcs, so pumping up a bloodfued between Thorin Oakenshield and the head honcho orc is merely putting icing on top of a cake that already has icing on top of it, and trying to create drama and intrigue where drama and intrigue already exist (see:  overdoing it).  What’s more–the head honcho orc was killed by Thorin before The Hobbit even began!  And now you’ve resuscitated him and will use him to pump up the unnecessary conflict until you decide to wrap-up the trilogy of films.  Unfortunately, you insist on dragging the plot down, and then you have to speed through other parts to compensate for the time you wasted developing things that didn’t need to be developed.  You call this quality film-making?  I call it crap.

Unfortunately, I should have seen all this coming and approached my viewing of The Hobbit with perhaps a different mindset.  Your penchant for bombast is evident even in your earliest films, Mr. Jackson (Dead Alive comes to mind).  You took some criticism for your overblown battle scenes in The Lord of The Rings films, though your indulgences were well-deserved and well-done (see:  The Battle of the Hornburg), but you don’t seem to have taken that criticism to heart.  It’s too bad that when I went to see what you made of King Kong a few years back, what I saw was essentially a prelude to the bastardization with your name on it that is now playing at my local theaters.

In a nutshell, the whole problem here is that you are the writer, director, and producer of the film.  You don’t have anybody to tell you “No,” which is a critical part of the creation process.  You have to be reeled in and sat down and forced to reconsider what you’re doing when you produce music, prose, film, paintings and sculptures–you name it.  And this doesn’t have to be done to force you to change things, but because you need to think, rethink, and rethink and rethink again what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to accomplish it.  Through that process, you’re undoubtedly going to change things and take a step closer to the sublime in your creation.  When you don’t have that, you have free reign to do whatever, and that (for you, Mr. Shyamalan, and countless others) causes things to run off the rails.  The mysterious path to the sublime usually follows closer to subtlety than to bombast.  So please, get someone to tell you “No.”

The only thing that will save this situation now is for you to do some serious reconsideration of what you’re going to do with the remaining two chapters of The Hobbit.  Please–recall the cast, get back on location, hire a different screenwriter.  Re-edit.  Whatever.  So long as you don’t churn out another cinematic turd like the one I suffered through before Christmas.  But I know that none of this will happen because money and profits speak louder than logic and artistic integrity, which is why you won’t find me in line to watch the rest of The Hobbit.

Written by seeker70

January 12, 2013 at 10:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] There has been a lot of talk about practical effects in Fury Road.  Everybody seems to be raving about how every car was built for the movie and actually worked as shown in the film.  I’m cool with that, because that falls in line with the previous films.  In fact, the previous films were renowned for their technology because the cars were freaking real!  The producers didn’t have the money to do much more than what was literally practicle and doable and what could be accomplished by piecing together some cars busting up a few stuntmen.  The days of somewhat realistic practical effects are over, I guess, replaced by bombastic computer-generated effects.  Despite all the practicality evident in the film, it is still washed with tons of CGI.  The problem is that too many directors can’t find the “off” switch, or even a dimmer switch to control the intensity of the effects.  There’s too much temptation to go bigger, bigger, constantly bigger.  I had read a year ago or so that producer / director George Miller had set up a bunch of cars and something known as a “car catapult” during filming.  I held my breath, hoping that Fury Road would be a game-changing action movie in that it would be a return to practical effects, or in the least be a sensible balance between practical effects and CGI.  It wasn’t.  In fact, it was every bit as bad as The Hobbit. […]

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