PETER JACKSON MOVIES
Four Empire writers assess the filmography of the real lord of the Rings
Chris: Let’s start by talking about when we first knew of Peter Jackson.
Dan: I was about 15. Everyone was raving about this really funny film which involved aliens who ate people, and it had this really funny bit where someone fires a bazooka and it goes all the way through the house, and misses everything, and there’s a shot of a sheep standing there in a field and the bazooka hits the sheep and the sheep blows up.
Chris: Hang on. You had that spoiled for you? That’s the best joke in Bad Taste. Dan: Yep. So I watched it on video and it was brilliant.
Chris: And it absolutely lives up to the promise of that title.
Nick: For me, it started with the DVD cover for The Frighteners. That was the first Peter Jackson film that made an impact on me. Then The Lord Of The Rings came out. I was obsessed with those films.
Helen: Seeing Fellowship for the first time is one of my all-time great cinema-going experiences. I went to a midnight screening in Houston, Texas. I got speaking to random geeks in the queue who told me what slash fiction was.
Nick: Have you seen the new Lord Of
The Rings slash fiction?
Helen: I have not.
Chris: Some hot Treebeard and Legolas slash fiction going on.
Nick: How would that even work?
Helen: Please let’s not. But that was one of the great feelings.
Nick: From that prologue it was immediate that he was doing something different. It’s got those strange Peter Jackson angles. Chris: I was an early adopter of Jackson. Braindead is, to this day, the only film that has made me want to be physically ill. The bit where the ear falls into the custard… Dan: Isn’t there pus as well? Chris: Yeah. This is a guy who started his career with people passing around a bowl of alien chuck and drinking it. Dan: There’s worse in Meet The Feebles. There is a fly literally eating poo poo. Helen: That’s what flies do, man. It’s the natural order. Chris: Nick, you love The Frighteners, is that right? Nick: I think it’s one of the most underrated films of the ’90s. You can really see Lord Of The Rings coming out of it. It’s funny, it’s really inventive, it’s scary at points.
Dan: The Frighteners just didn’t do it for me. It felt compromised and sanitised even though I saw it after Heavenly Creatures, which I thought was absolutely astonishing.
Chris: I love that he has this crazy side to him, this gore-loving side. I love Meet The Feebles. I think it is a deranged piece of moviemaking.
Dan: What I love about Peter Jackson is that he has had a journey like few other filmmakers. He’s gone from a guy who directed a puppet movie in which a cat gives a walrus a blow job and become the Oscar-winning director of this colossal trilogy. He transformed the film industry, transformed New Zealand.
Nick: I feel the danger has gone a little bit from his work, which is sad. The Hobbit
films felt neutered in a way the Lord Of The Rings films didn’t.
Helen: Part of it is growing up. It’s a good thing. You shouldn’t feel obliged to fill your films with splatter and gore because that’s what you do.
Chris: Let’s pick up where he is now, with his most recent films. I like a lot about the Hobbit movies. Have you watched all six films in a row?
Dan: No. I thought about doing that. Chris: It’s 18 hours.
Dan: It just doesn’t feel right to watch the Hobbit films and then go into the Lord Of The Rings as if it’s one big story. They don’t feel of a piece.
Nick: The Desolation Of Smaug is the best one by a country mile. What I don’t like is where they’re constantly nudging you and going, “Hey, remember the Lord Of The Rings films?”
Helen: Something about them feels synthetic to me in a way that all his other films don’t.
Chris: Has Jackson given into bloat and self-indulgence as a filmmaker? King
Kong did not need to be three hours long. Helen: I really don’t mind the length in that one. I do in the Hobbit movies. I liked the sense that you spend more time on the boat and get to know these people before they get eaten by gigantic bugs.
Dan: There’s a greater sense of journey. It should be an epic. This is something Jackson does better than any other filmmaker except maybe Spielberg in his finest moments, which is building the narrative of an action sequence and knowing how to sustain and layer and give it pace. What he did with the T-rex versus King Kong sequence…
Dan: Sorry! V-rex.
Nick: That is my favourite Peter Jackson action sequence.
Helen: I love Kong. I was heartbroken when he fell off the building. I thought this time he might make it.
Chris: I was glad he died. Screw that guy. But I love that sequence. It’s second only to Lionel going nuts with a lawnmower at the end of Braindead.
Nick: That scene’s too much for me.
Chris: So, Lord Of The Rings. What is your favourite?
Dan: It’s so hard. I find it hard to separate them.
Nick: It’s Fellowship.
Helen: It’s Fellowship.
Dan: But it’s Fellowship.
Chris: Right, enough squabbling.
PETER JACKSON’S MOVIES ARE OUT NOW ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DOWNLOAD
To listen to the full Jackson debate as a podcast, go to www.empireonline. com/podcast.