Dear Peter Jackson,
… Perhaps I should explain.
Prior to your adaptation of the Lord of the Rings films, I had no knowledge of who you were. I know vaguely, as many do, that you were involved with horror movies prior to landing a few higher profile films and then your big break – kind of like Sam Raimi, except that Sam Raimi’s big budget blockbusters had some respect for their source material.
Unlike Sam Raimi, your film trilogy was not to my liking.
Don’t get me wrong; your LOTR films had their moments. The casting is good, the first movie is a pretty good adaptation, the camera work and score and graphics are appropriately “epic” and Andy Serkis is flawless. But the second and third films became ponderous, with “The Two Towers” boasting needless story changes and a morose color palette and “The Return of the King” consisting mostly of fighting, Frodo’s eyes bugging out, or inexplicable close-ups of Denethor eating.
And yet I watched them, like everyone else. I even saw the last one in theaters (I hadn’t read the books when the first one came out; by the time the final one was at the box office I was a superfan, with “The Hobbit,” “The Silmarillion” and other Middle Earth esoterica under my belt). More than most big-budget filmmakers, you manipulated your sound and fury so as to appear to signify something, and the viewing public was sated. You distilled the adventuresome world of Middle Earth into a competent string of sword and sorcery flicks.
The second two films (particularly “Two Towers”) have not held up well in my eyes after repeated viewings, but that’s neither here nor there. The last one of those came out almost 10 years ago; this open letter is castigating you for a more recent offense.
You see, Pete, you tipped your hand the other day when you announced that your adaptation of “The Hobbit” would stretch into not one, not two, but three movies. For the first time since the army of elves defended Helm’s Deep, we saw your ego laid bare for what it was.
Obviously, stretching a book into multiple films is all the rage these days. And yes, I’m aware that a single movie will inevitably fail to capture all the complexities of a full-length novel. But you made each Lord of the Rings book into one movie, and one movie only, and you’re telling me you can’t do the same with “The Hobbit”?
Don’t even try to defend yourself. We both know you could adapt it in one, or even two, but you won’t. Instead, you’ve made the inexplicable choice of turning a 300-page book into what will likely be a six-to-eight-hour series of movies (more with your typical extended editions). Your combined screenplays will be longer than your source material!
I could make the typical claim that this is about money, and I’m sure that for New Line Cinema, it is. But I don’t ascribe such motives to you, Mr. Jackson. This decision smacks of directorial hubris – of the idea that you can make a better version of these stories than the dearly departed John Ronald Reuel himself.
The evidence has been there all along. The overemphasis on Arwen, your general elf fetish, the absurd Aragorn-floats-down-a-river sequence in “Towers,” the ents’ initial refusal to join in the fight, the jacked-up drama between Frodo, Sam and Gollum – you didn’t look at the books and say, “What do I have to change to make this into a watchable movie?” You said, “How can I make these better?”
So it will be with these “Hobbit” films. You will pull from the appendixes, create new characters, focus a heckuva lot more on the elves, and portray plenty of previously unseen scenes involving the battle against The Necromancer. You will turn a children’s book into a blockbuster epic, stripped of its youthful fun and layered with your own self-importance. You will prove to the world once again that you are a visionary, faking your way into the populist canon of Spielberg, Cameron and Zemeckis, and you will provide viewers around the world with another box set to accompany their original collection of Jackson epics.
But not me. I’ve seen your game now, and I’m taking my ball and going home. Maybe I’ll read a book…
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