All three Hobbit films have now come and gone, but there's still no official word on what film Peter Jackson might direct next.
He's been busy recently with the Great War Exhibition, and is no doubt currently finishing up work on the Extended Edition Blu ray/DVD release of the third Hobbit movie, The Battle of the Five Armies. But I had presumed we'd know what his next film was going to be by this point in 2015, and it feels like an announcement is imminent.
Recently I've been working my way through the incredibly thorough special features on the extended editions of the first two Hobbit films, and the Peter Jackson that comes across in the consistently excellent behind-the-scenes documentaries has only strengthened my affection for the filmmaker, an affection I recently articulated at length in here.
The documentaries repeatedly reveal Jackson to be an instinctive, flexible filmmaker with a sense of mischievousness that can only come from being a lifelong movie obsessive. Although he's never seemed especially comfortable explaining himself on camera, an infectious, manic glint surfaces in his eye whenever he gets talking about the really cool stuff. He is a titan of industry who is still 100 per cent in-touch with what made him love films in the first place.
Everyone else involved is doing a great job of course too (especially the Weta creature designers, who are all total geniuses), but Jackson's deep blue film nerdery is a clear driving force that can be easily discerned in the finished films.
Although they were catnip to fans and each made a billion dollars at the box office, few would argue with the assertion that Kiwis in general had a far less charitable response to The Hobbit films than they did to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's a response undoubtedly informed on some level by the discord that led up to the shooting of the films, but on the whole New Zealanders seem more ready to rag on Jackson than ever before, and that often manifested in a dismissive attitude towards the recent films.
Nobody is wrong for disliking a movie, but it seemed to me like tall poppy syndrome was kicking in, big time.
I think it's important to see The Hobbit films for what they are - movies that exist to honour and extend the world Jackson and his collaborators built in The Lord of the Rings. The original trilogy is one of the major turning points in modern cinema and enjoys an almost mythical status in the pop culture canon. Follow-up films were never going dazzle in the same way. You can't re-invent the same wheel twice.
They are accomplished and creative fantasy adventure movies in their own right, but The Hobbit films can also be justified solely as a gift/ode to the enduring enormous global fandom that sprung up around the Lord of the Rings movies.
Plus as far as I'm concerned, considering everything Peter Jackson has done for this country's global standing and its nascent sense of slowly-forming collective self-worth, he could make nothing but family-friendly Tolkien films for the next 50 years and I'd still regard him as the most impactful New Zealander who ever lived and one of the great genius filmmakers of all-time.
Just in case it wasn't already obvious (although I think it is), I am an unapologetic Peter Jackson apologist. And I spend more time than is probably advisable thinking about what films he might, could or should make.
Two and a half years ago, I wrote a blog entry in which I looked forward to the juncture in Jackson's career that he currently faces and speculated about various potential projects he might tackle.
My views have naturally evolved since then, and several other potential Jackson projects have emerged in the interim, so with his next film still undecided (or unannounced), I thought I'd take the opportunity to offer up some further unsolicited career advice/demands.
One of the more intriguing projects to be linked with Jackson and his Frantastic partner in life and art concerns the true story of David Reimer, a Canadian boy who was forcibly raised as a girl thanks to a Kiwi doctor.
Jackson stated recently that he wants to tell some true New Zealand stories, and the David Reimer story could qualify thanks to its Kiwi connection. Plus it presents a central role that could potentially be enhanced by CGI-augmented make-up, and you just know such a thing would intrigue PJ.
But he may of course have some other dark corner of New Zealand history in mind. Either way, the inclination to return to a more grounded milieu after four years back in the fantasy trenches is all too understandable. And I personally would like to see Peter flex his darker filmmaking instincts.
The natural desire to direct a drama next would seem to downplay the possibility of Jackson getting around to directing the second Tintin film anytime soon, but he re-stated his commitment to that project in the interview referenced above.
The purported source material for the sequel - two-parter The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun - is probably the most PJ-friendly Tintin story ever published, and the prospect of seeing a Jackson-mounted adaptation is enticing indeed. But again, it doesn't feel like the right time to explore yet another previously-established cinematic world.
When it was revealed via hacked emails that Sony was considering targeting Jackson to direct their upcoming Cleopatra film, it caused me to completely re-think my long-held presumption that Jackson generates all his own projects.
My misperception was probably driven by the filmmaker's pronounced and unprecedented degree of independence from the Hollywood machine, but it seems obvious now that of course Jackson's name would be on these lists. The idea that the studios actually court him to make films 'for hire' throws up all sorts of eye-opening possibilities.
A Peter Jackson-helmed Cleopatra film isn't particularly exciting, but a Peter Jackson Star Wars film is. So is a Peter Jackson Alien film. And so is a Peter Jackson remake of Smokey and the Bandit. All long shots and bad ideas probably, but I'm just saying, it's nice to know he's in the mix. The notion of Jackson directing a script he didn't also write is also intriguing in itself.
According to this interview from July last year, The Dam Busters was the film that got shelved when Jackson stepped in to direct The Hobbit after Guillermo Del Toro left the project. So it might be all ready to go. And as he further explains in that interview, there is a Kiwi connection to the events, so this could also potentially qualify as a 'New Zealand Story'.
Whether the dedicated wingnut ends up producing or directing The Dam Busters if it even happens at all, Jackson clearly has a significant cinematic itch to scratch in arena of wartime aviation - just check out the awesome cricket-centric opening flying scene from his and Fran Walsh's original 1996 King Kong script. I look forward to seeing whatever films result from this passion.
It was pretty exciting when Peter secured the rights to Naomi Novik's Temeraire books about dragons in the Napoleonic Wars, but in a post-Smaug world, it's less exciting and less likely than ever to become a movie.
And I have to admit I was a little crestfallen when it was announced that Universal was going ahead with a new King Kong film that ignores Jackson's movie, which I maintain is underrated.
But as conscious as I am of Jackson's probable desire to stay away from fantasy for a while, I continue to obsess over my dream fantasy project for the filmmaker, which I first mentioned a few months ago: A mounting of one of the many unmade Ray Harryhausen projects detailed by the master stop-motion animator in the final chapter of his amazing professional autobiography, An Animated Life.
There are all sorts of crazy fantasy ideas in there that Jackson and his pals could absolutely go nuts for. People of the Mist, The Labrinthodon and War Eagles are just a few titles from the treasure trove of tantalysing ideas that Harryhausen never got around to realising on screen. War Eagles!
So to answer the question posed in the title of this blog entry, it is my contention that Peter Jackson should do whatever he wants now. He's earned it.
* Do you like any of these potential films? What do you think Peter Jackson should do now? Comment below!