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Dominic Corry: What Peter Jackson should do next

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Peter Jackson attends the New York premiere of The Hobbit. Photo/AP
Peter Jackson attends the New York premiere of The Hobbit. Photo/AP

It seems like 99 per cent of film coverage these days is focused on the future. Almost to the point where a film's release day is the final stage in its life. Far be it from me to buck this trend - so with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in New Zealand cinemas today, I am going to look at what films Peter Jackson could (and should) do next.

There are of course two more Hobbit films to come, (the first image from the second film has just emerged) and reports from just before The Adventures of Tintin was released last year stated that Jackson will direct a sequel to Steven Spielberg's motion-capture adaptation of Hergé's beloved character, which he functioned as a producer on.

As much as it feels positively mean-spirited to discourage the Tintin T-shirt-sporting young Peter Jackson seen in this video, there's something decidedly unexciting about the prospect of him visiting this already-established world.

A Jackson-directed Tintin follow-up would probably be great (especially if they adapt The Seven Crystal Balls as once rumoured) but even more so than The Hobbit trilogy, it feels like well-trodden ground, and thus lacks a sense of forward progression.

But the green-screen studio and ping-pong balls filmmaking style of the Tintin films means the project most likely won't take up a huge amount of Jackson's time, which I am taking as license to wildly speculate about the next live-action project the filmmaker may line-up.

Jackson's career path of late has been atypical for a major director - stepping in to direct the gargantuan follow-ups to Lord of the Rings when for years he planned to only co-write and produce the films. I've always wondered if his decision to direct The Hobbit himself derailed any films he was planning on directing himself.

Although far from an outright flop, his previous film The Lovely Bones represented the first real critical and commercial disappointment in Jackson's contemporary ouvre, while also marking his return to the more dramatic tone of his global break-out hit, 1994's Heavenly Creatures.

Jackson and his collaborators (most notably life and creative partner Fran Walsh) are clearly drawn to this more serious kind of storytelling (albeit with fantasy elements, if only metaphorical), and they've more than earned the right to mount these kinds of films. But the fanboy in me wishes Jackson would stick to what he does best - infusing big crazy genre films with personality; wit and reverence for the greats.

However, I must prepare myself for the possibility that following what will no doubt be three very successful Hobbit films, Jackson may well swing back in this more serious direction. There's definitely no shortage of source material in this vein in the literary world. Is anyone out there excited to see another 'drama' from Jackson?

Despite the idea proving very popular with many fans, Jackson insists the chance of him mounting a film of Tolkien's post-humously published Middle Earth tome The Silmarillion are incredibly remote and not only because of the Tolkien family retaining the rights to the work.

The reticence Jackson displayed in originally hiring someone else to direct The Hobbit would surely preclude a further venture into Tolkien-land, but the idea of three Hobbit films seemed almost as unlikely at many points in its arduous trek to the big screen, so it's probably foolish to fully discount any possibility.

I love that Jackson has expressed a complete lack of interest in making a superhero movie - God knows we have enough people vying for those jobs, and the superhero genre now feels like it has very few suprises left. Jackson's genre leanings have a much more classic sensibility, and that's what makes him most exciting to me.

It was very encouraging when Jackson secured the rights to Naomi Novik's Temeraire novels in 2006, but there has been nary a peep about the project since. The book series seems tailor-made for Jackson's sensibilities - it's an alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars featuring giant battles between intelligent dragons.

I would love to see what PJ does with such a story, but with the dragon Smaug playing such a central role in The Hobbit (Smaug's appearance is very tantalisingly teased in the first film), it's hard not to imagine that Jackson may be all dragoned out at this point.

I'd also love to see Jackson make a follow-up to his underrated 2005 King Kong movie. It's completely wishful thinking of course and seems ridiculously unlikely, but I would pay good money to see Peter Jackson's Son of Kong.

A highly interesting piece of Jackson ephemera is his and Walsh's original King Kong remake script from 1996, which was more or less completely thrown out by the time they got around to making the film almost ten years later. There's an awesomely nasty sense of humour at play in the discarded script that I missed in the final film and I love to see Jackson back amongst fantastical monsters in a historical setting.

One of my favourite movies of the last ten years was Sam Raimi's 2009 horror film Drag Me To Hell. Following the big budget excesses of the Spider-Man trilogy, Drag Me To Hell represented a recharging of the Raimi's creative juices - a smaller film that harkened back to his early work. It was an incredibly enjoyable genre exercise, and the best film Raimi had made in years.

I love the idea of Jackson making a similar move for his Hobbit follow-up - a smaller, more personal film that speaks directly to his filmmaking inspirations. A Bad Taste sequel/remake would suffice. There's so much of that universe waiting to be explored. Does anyone else think this is a good idea?

My stated affection for Jackson's classical genre sensibilities hasn't stopped me from fantasizing about him making a film set in a contemporary environment. Which he hasn't really done since Meet The Feebles, and that barely counts.

I love the idea of seeing the strain of black humour that runs through Jackson's more playful works applied to a modern day setting in an original story. Something with monsters or aliens would be nice. The Jackson-produced District 9 (Best movie of the last ten years. FACT.) contains some very Jackson-esque humour and benefits greatly from being an original story, as opposed to an adaptation. It would be awesome to see Jackson go down this kind of path.

And while we're talking about it, the collaboration between Jackson and Blomkamp was such a creative marriage made in heaven, it would be fantastic to see Jackson shepherd some more young filmmakers along these lines. He's certainly got the clout to produce other people's movies, I just wish he'd do it more.

In 2008, it was announced that Jackson would produce a remake of 1955 World War II classic The Dam Busters, which was to be directed by Weta staple Christian Rivers (who won a special effects Oscar for his work on King Kong). The project seemed a natural fit for a war plane-obsessed 'wingnut' like Peter Jackson, but nothing has come to pass as yet, despite a bunch of replica planes having apparently already been built for the project.

I spoke to Rivers briefly on the red carpet at the Wellington premiere of The Hobbit, and he told me they are still planning to make the film but that it's on hold at the moment due to script issues. I hope it happens eventually - there's such a wealth of creativity at Weta, it seems crazy that we haven't seen a film come out of that talent pool yet.

Getting back to what Peter Jackson himself should direct next, I love the idea of him making some sort of big budget horror film along the lines of what Stanley Kubrick achieved with The Shining. Guillermo Del Toro has expressed a desire to mount a large scale adult horror film as well, but Jackson's one of the few directors with the clout to get such a project off the ground. How great would it be to see the dark undercurrent that runs through all of Jackson's films come to the fore in a big nasty horror film?

Following the insane success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Jackson found himself in a position major directors only occasionally reach - he could pretty much do whatever he wanted. He used that freedom to fulfill his long-held dream of mounting a King Kong remake - a very personal vision of a well-known story. I thought that was a fine use of his power.

All signs point to him being in a similar position again after the release of the third Hobbit film in mid-2014. I look forward to seeing how he wields the power this time around.

What do you think Peter Jackson should do next? Are there any of his films you'd like to see sequelized? Are there any books you'd like to see him adapt? Comment below!

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