It is becoming increasingly obvious that Peter Jackson is beginning to take the same path as George Lucas had before him.
Viggo mortensen in an interview with the Telegraph gives his spin on Peter Jackson’s dependance to technology. “In the first movie, yes, there’s Rivendell, and Mordor, but there’s sort of an organic quality to it, actors acting with each other, and real landscapes; it’s grittier. The second movie already started ballooning, for my taste, and then by the third one, there were a lot of special effects. It was grandiose, and all that, but whatever was subtle, in the first movie, gradually got lost in the second and third. Now with The Hobbit, one and two, it’s like that to the power of 10.”
Mortensen is not wrong like gollum and his precious, Jackson similarly has fallen in love with technology to an extreme extent. There was a huge practical element to his Lord of the Rings series. Jackson like Ridley Scott at first was seen to be a world builder. Epic sets built for epic scale on the one hand.
On another hand, his original techniques were similar to Lucas. Many of his sets were this model scale. Little beautifully detailed scale models on a table. Then filmed and used practically for the film.
It takes longer and much more manpower has to be invested in these projects. That is an obvious stumbling block. But Lucas and Jackson moved away from their practical pioneering roots to a more CGI driven future. The attraction was obvious to see. The payoff has not.
The similar storyline of Lucas starting with a franchise. Been held up as a pioneer. Only to tarnish his legacy by depending too much on CGI to prop up his films.
Why did Jackson make the same mistake?
The link between the two starts at Rick McCallum. He was the producer for Lucas originally before he lent his expertise to Peter Jackson. He showed him how the new prequel trilogy was made.
Jackson similar to Lucas one could argue bought into the idea of being seen as a pioneer. As a result, could see themselves as the ones to push the boundaries and not the ones to lean on old practical values.
Jackson pushed for the higher frame rate of 48 fps. It helps builds beautiful worlds. But his characters end up lost. Similar to Lucas’s films.
The world of green screen simply can’t replicate the practical reality. Consider Ridley Scott. Like Lucas he is a world builder for decades like Lucas. Yet he manages a balance between pratical and CGI. He is one of the few that still builds sets. They help a world actors can exist in instead of imagining in.
Same can be said for J.J. Abrams. On his appointment of director of the Force Awakens, Abrams made clear he favoured a more balanced practical / CGI world for Star Wars. It was welcomed by fans and it paid off in the film.
Special effects shouldn’t be dismissed. They offer many distinct advantages that clearly Jackson and Lucas could see. But it isn’t a one size fits all solution. A careful combination of special effects and practical effects should still be favoured.