Peter Jackson's final Hobbit movie trilogy installment, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, releases in U.S. theaters today, making it six J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy adaptations for Jackson in total. And while he's reportedly being eyed for certain studio projects (such as Warner Bros.' Ready Player One), the filmmaker says he's already set to work on scripts that are far more small-scale than his recent work.
Jackson, since he completed the Lord of the Rings trilogy in 2003, has filmed a big-budget King Kong remake and the Lovely Bones adaptation (with a relatively moderate price tag of $65 million), in addition to his massively-budgeted Hobbit films. Back in the 1980s and early '90s, though, the New Zealand filmmaker specialized in low-budget, darkly quirky and otherwise generally odd horror/comedy fare such as Dead Alive (a.k.a. Braindead) and Meet the Feebles.
The filmmaker then changed pace and tried his hand at something more prestigious with the unsettling (and, eventually, Oscar-nominated) true story-based 1994 drama, Heavenly Creatures. Jackson told Variety that he and longtime partner/screenwriting collaborator, Fran Walsh, are now adapting "several true stories about his native country," that ought to be more in the vein of Heavenly Creatures than their output from the past fifteen years or so. As he put it:
“We really feel a bigger urge now to not continue with another Hollywood blockbuster for a while, but to go back and tell some New Zealand stories."
That sounds like a pretty good idea, all things considered. Jackson, no doubt, could use a break after churning out three Hobbit films - each as immense in scale and scope as any other tentpole nowadays - in as many years, and many filmgoers would surely be game to see him work on something a bit more intimate and less spectacle-heavy in design. Plus, if he does let his big-budget moviemaking batteries recharge for a bit, that means he'll be all the more ready to deliver something impressive, should he decide to step back into that arena in the future.
Battle of the Five Armies will, most likely, be the last Jackson-directed Middle-earth adventure that reaches the big screen, since the Tolkien estate owns the film rights to most of the rest of the late author's work (including, his hefty account of Middle-earth history, in The Silmarillion)... and it's no secret that they've never been very big fans of Jackson's Tolkien adaptations. However, should an opportunity to revisit Middle-earth arrive in the future, Jackson admits he'll likely be tempted to take it.
“If I had to start tomorrow, I would say no, because I definitely would appreciate a break to clear my head and get my little New Zealand stories done, which is where my passion and my heart is heading now. But ask me in two or three years, and I’d probably say yes. It would be hard to see another filmmaker go into this world, because I certainly have an emotional ownership of it.”
As mentioned before, though, right now it looks as though Jackson has made his last trip to Middle-earth on the big screen. And with other projects already waiting for his attention - such as the Tintin sequel that Jackson was once planning to direct as his followup to the Hobbit trilogy - it should be all the easier for the filmmaker to keep busy, now that he's done turning Tolkien's literature into big-budget cinematic epics.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is now playing in theaters.
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