Some directors are well known, not because they have made a lot of films, but because the films they have made impacted society so heavily. Because of these directors’ gravitas, we welcome any film they choose to create with much anticipation. Unfortunately, many of these directors can’t live up to their breakout success. Directors like the Wachowski’s (with The Matrix (1999)), M. Night Shyamalan (with The Sixth Sense (1999)), and Neill Blomkamp (with District 9 (2009)) have all created fantastic films, but their follow-up creations have been less-than-stellar, critically speaking. Usually, we see a steady decline in quality as these directors continue to create, essentially cementing them as “one-hit wonders”. This week, we’ll be examining some of the better-known works of one of these directors: Peter Jackson.
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Length: 201 minutes / 3.35 hours
Critics of literary adaptations have always held certain works in highest esteem. They say that “it could never be made” and “the book will always be better”. The Lord of the Rings was just such a book. While there were a few adaptations in the 1970’s, none were treated with as much care as the trilogy created by Peter Jackson. Shot over the span of a few years, all three films in their extended format thoroughly cover the fantasy epic loved by millions. Unfortunately, a decade later, Jackson would go on to “George Lucas” himself by directing a prequel trilogy that had lost a lot of the elements that had made the original trilogy work so well (much like Lucas did with Star Wars). The Hobbit is a short prequel novel to the Lord of the Rings and many felt that padding it out to three movies by using the Lord of the Rings’ appendices was unnecessary.
Some of Peter Jackson’s success with The Lord of the Rings came from his previous works in the horror genre. Films like Bad Taste (1987), Braindead (1992), and The Frighteners (1996) gave him the experience to create the ugly creatures that embody the evil forces led by Sauron in Middle Earth. These orcs, trolls, and wraiths are truly terrifying, especially when collected, en masse, to counter the forces led by Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) marching on Mordor. Meanwhile, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) complete the last leg of their journey, surreptitiously sneaking behind enemy lines to arrive at Mount Doom: the volcano that created Sauron’s one ring of power. As the armies of men distract Sauron’s gaze, the two hobbits struggle with the temptation of evil in their penultimate quest to destroy the ring.
Length: 187 minutes / 3.12 hours
How many of us have that one film from our childhood that influenced us to no end? Did you ever set up your action figures to recreate scenes from Star Wars? Would you take your Lego figurines and use them to film stop-motion re-enactments from Harry Potter? In these regards, Peter Jackson is as much one of us as he is a big-budget Hollywood director. As a child, one of the main influences which inspired him into making movies was that of King Kong (1933). Even with limited resources, he would try to remake it with models he had made himself. Many decades later, just coming off the high praise for the aforementioned Lord of the Rings series, Jackson finally had the money and technology to make his dream a reality. In 2005, Peter Jackson would go on to remake his favorite film of all time: King Kong.
A film about making movies, King Kong follows out-of-work actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) as she comes upon hard times during the Great Depression. In a stroke of good luck, she is discovered by Carl Denham (Jack Black), an enthusiastic director who wants to shoot his latest project on location: Skull Island. This mysterious island that time forgot ends up being much more dangerous than anyone could imagine. With enormous insects, once-extinct dinosaurs, and the eponymous King Kong (Andy Serkis), the small crew barely makes it away alive, let alone with the enormous gorilla in their cargo hold. Once back in New York, Denham decides to put the beast on display, but when it escapes and takes Ann hostage, she tries to let everyone know that Kong is mostly harmless. Unfortunately, the beast meets its demise atop the Empire State Building, falling to its death on the streets below.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 giant Jackson blockbusters
Bacon #: 2 (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King / Elijah Wood -> Beyond All Boundaries / Kevin Bacon)