hobbit movie problems

Even the most ardent defenders of Peter Jackson‘s three-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit acknowledge that none of them come close to matching the highs of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Something about them just feels off from frame one, like something important is missing. Whatever spark made the first trilogy such a magical experience is missing here.

And it’s now apparent that no one knows this more than Jackson himself. In a new special feature on the newly released extended edition of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the Oscar-winning filmmaker is completely honest about his experience on the films and how a rushed schedule sapped his spirit. You will never see a filmmaker look more tired, lost and despondent than you will here. It’s genuinely heartbreaking.

Keep on reading to sort through the various Hobbit movie problems with Peter Jackson as your tour guide.

A tip of the hat to The Guardian for brining this video to our attention. If you want the full picture of what Jackson went through, complete with a thorough look at a film set where everyone looks exhausted and various shades of miserable, you need to watch the video below. This is no promo where everyone puts on a fake smile – this is the real deal. It’s brutal.

The short version: when Jackson took over the Hobbit films from original director Guillermo del Toro, the schedule was not adjusted. He was not granted the amount of time necessary to storyboard and redesign the world to his specifications. He was behind from day one and spent every other day sprinting to play catch-up. “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing,” Jackson admits. He recalls having to call for extended lunch hours just so he could figure out how to approach a scene. Compare this to the literal years of pre-production he had on The Lord of the Rings.

A choice quote:

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. 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.

The problems extend beyond storyboards and shot outlines. Jackson admits that he’s not even happy with the screenplays, which never came together in a satisfying way:

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.

The shot in the video of Jackson, alone on the set and lost in thought, is chilling. How did this happen? If one of the most powerful directors in Hollywood can’t force a schedule change on his movie, than what about other, less-established artists?

Jackson is a genius and legitimately great filmmaker. Before The Hobbit, even his lesser movies were worthy of examination. This guy is a natural-born storyteller and a man of many genres. But he’s not a miracle worker. Under circumstances like these, it’s difficult to imagine any director making a good movie. Having now seen just how badly Jackson was broken by the process, it’s a miracle that the Hobbit movies are watchable at all.

We wish Peter Jackson a long vacation and a couple hundred hours of nap time. When he’s ready to make another movie, we hope he’s able to work on his own terms again. Now that we know what he went through, it’s no wonder he’s seemingly done with big Hollywood franchises.

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