Viggo Mortensen Says Peter Jackson Sacrificed Subtlety for CGI with THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HOBBIT

by     Posted 163 days ago


It’s no secret that The Hobbit films haven’t been as universally praised as director Peter Jackson’s trilogy of Lord of the Rings films, with many pointing to The Hobbit’s propensity for CG over practical effects (and discarding of miniatures altogether) as distracting and, at times, downright ugly.  Though Jackson got his start with gore-filled, practical effects-based horror comedies like Bad Taste and Dead Alive, his recent work has leaned heavily on visual effects.  However, Jackson’s affinity for CG sequences didn’t simply begin with The Hobbit or even King Kong, but with the Lord of the Rings trilogy itself.  Rewatching the films, one can see a growing amount of CGI-enhanced sequences as the series moves on, with Return of the King concluding in the epic VFX-heavy battle of Minas Tirith.

Though some are fans of what Jackson has been doing with cutting-edge technology, others are disappointed in the shift.  A principal castmember from The Lord of the Rings counts himself in the latter group, as Viggo Mortensen recently spoke extensively about what he sees as Jackson sacrificing subtlety for CGI, specifically pointing to the later Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit.  Hit the jump to read on.

the-lord-of-the-rings-the-fellowship-of-the-ringSpeaking with The Guardian, Mortensen reflected on the hectic shooting schedule of The Lord of the Rings and discussed why he thinks The Fellowship of the Ring turned out the best of the three:

Mortensen thinks – rightly – that The Fellowship of the Ring turned out the best of the three, perhaps largely because it was shot in one go. “It was very confusing, we were going at such a pace, and they had so many units shooting, it was really insane. But it’s true that the first script was better organised,” he says. “Also, Peter was always a geek in terms of technology but, once he had the means to do it, and the evolution of the technology really took off, he never looked back. 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.”

the-lord-of-the-rings-viggo-mortensenFor those wondering just how the final two films became more VFX-focused if Jackson shot the entire trilogy at once, Mortensen reiterated what has been covered on the DVD commentaries: much of the last two films were reshot after Fellowship opened:

“Anybody who says they knew it was going to be the success it was, I don’t think it’s really true,” he says. “They didn’t have an inkling until they showed 20 minutes in Cannes, in May of 2001. They were in a lot of trouble, and Peter had spent a lot. Officially, he could say that he was finished in December 2000 – he’d shot all three films in the trilogy – but really the second and third ones were a mess. It was very sloppy – it just wasn’t done at all. It needed massive reshoots, which we did, year after year. But he would have never been given the extra money to do those if the first one hadn’t been a huge success. The second and third ones would have been straight to video.”

peter-jackson-the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journeyThe actor went on to say that he kept expecting Jackson to return to his toned-down roots after the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and was disappointed to see that it didn’t happen:

“I guess Peter became like Ridley Scott – this one-man industry now, with all these people depending on him,” Mortensen adds. “But you can make a choice, I think. I asked Ridley when I worked with him (on 1997’s GI Jane), ‘Why don’t you do another film like The Duellists [Scott’s 1977 debut, from a Joseph Conrad short story]?’ And Peter, I was sure he would do another intimately scaled film like Heavenly Creatures, maybe with this project about New Zealanders in the First World War he wanted to make. But then he did King Kong. And then he did The Lovely Bones – and I thought that would be his smaller movie. But the problem is, he did it on a $90 million budget. That should have been a $15 million movie. The special effects thing, the genie, was out of the bottle, and it has him. And he’s happy, I think…”

Indeed, as Mortensen points out, the issue seems to be that there’s no one telling Jackson to pull back, which accounts for the bloated and over-expensive features that he’s been making as of late.  He’s still an incredibly talented filmmaker (the set pieces in The Desolation of Smaug are fantastic), so I’m personally hoping that he’ll take it down a notch or two once he finishes up with The Hobbit trilogy.  For now, we’ve got one film to go as The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opens in theaters this December.


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  • JBug

    It’s times like these that I’m glad I don’t see how the sausage is made. IMO, FOTR is the worst of the trilogy by far. Two Towers is in my top ten.

    • tarek

      I prefer fellowship.
      The opening is simply magical.

      • CJ

        That prologue is flawless. I still prefer the theatrical version’s opening which cuts straight to Frodo sitting under the tree.

      • fishnets

        FOTR is a true masterpiece. TTT and ROTK are above average action movies.

    • HeSaidSheSaidMv

      Completely disagree. I like that one the best. As someone who hadn’t read the books at that point, I liked being introduced into that world and the way that movie did that. For the record, my least favorite is ROTK.

      • The Flobbit

        ROTK always gets a bad rap because of the endings, but I saw it on the big screen for the second time, and I was struck by a film of immense power and beauty. There is no beating Theoden’s Pelennor speech. The sight of a couple thousand horsemen shouting DEATH! just chills the spine.

        Now I TRULY do not know which one I like best. Fellowship has Bean and Blanchett, but it doesn’t have any glorious battles. Two Towers has, in my opinion, the greatest battle sequence ever committed to celuloid – Helm’s Deep, and the glorious cinematography of Rohan, but it also has that boring business with the Ents. ROTK has those long endings and that dreary bit in Mordor, but on the whole it’s the most powerful of the lot.

        I just don’t know. Same with The Hobbit. Can’t tell which is the better film – the more personal Unexpected Journey, or the dark action of Smaug.

    • the king of comedy

      Well as someone who thinks that plenty of films uso to much CGI, diminishing the quality of the movie and making the movie feel fake, I actually tought that the use of CGI worked beautifully in The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, These movies remain the most epic movies ever made, and the best batles ever seen in a movie are the ones from The Two Towers and Return of The, you were truly invested in this movies, the scale was huge and worked beautifully acompaniewd with amazing music that made everything feel more epic, I`m glad Jackson took that road with The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, and I wish he would trust a little more in the use of practical effects in his new Hobbit movie.

  • Scullibundo

    How do you pick up the threads of an old talent? How do you keep making quality films, when in your heart you begin to understand… there is no going back. There are some narrative flaws that CG cannot mend, some indulgences that go too deep. That have taken hold.

    • Underground Anthem TX

      It’s an interesting topic, because you can look at a director like Martin Scorsese and see he hasn’t lost a step, only gotten better. Granted, he works primarily on non-FX movies, but I think it comes down to storytelling ability. Marty doesn’t, and has never, used CG as a crutch for storytelling. Even early in his career, you can see Jackson doing just that.

      • Scullibundo

        I wouldn’t say that Marty hasn’t lost a step, but I don’t think his waning talent can be attributed to indulgence in CG so much as him being seduced into bigger and bigger productions. He’s certainly not the same director that made Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. His films have lost that sense of intimate focus.

        Don’t get me wrong, he’s still one of the best directors working today, but I’ll wait till SILENCE finally hits to make a call like that.

        I’d say Spielberg is the most consistent – if only because he’s been consistent in both his hits and misteps in every decade.

        70s Spielberg: Duel (Very good), JAWS (Great), Close
        Encounters (Very Good), 1941 (dud)

        80s Spielberg: Raiders (Great), E.T (Great), Temple of Doom
        (okay), Twilight Zone segment (duuuud) Color Purple (mediocre, though I know
        some find it okay), Last Crusade (Very good), Always (recently rewatched,
        decent), Empire of the Sun (Great)

        90s Spielberg: Hook (Very good), Jurassic Park (Very good),
        Schindler’s List (Great), The Lost World (dud), Amistad (dud), Saving Private
        Ryan (Great)

        2000′s Spielberg: A.I (Great), Minority Report (Very good),
        Catch Me If You Can (Very good), The Terminal (dud), War of the Worlds (Very
        good), Munich (Great), Crystal Skull (okay, but generally a dud)

        2010+ Spielberg: War Horse (dud), Tintin (Very good),
        Lincoln (Good)

        Whilst we’re still waiting for him to hit a homer this decade, the Berg represents somebody whose highs and lows have reared their head to the same degree all throughout his career.

      • Underground Anthem TX

        Spielberg is definitely a better comparison, great point! Coincidence, I just watched Munich again the other day, and what a fantastic freaking movie. I always love Dark-Berg (A.I. is so damn underrated, IMO).
        I do have to disagree a bit on Scorsese, who I think runs circles around directors who are half his age, like David O’ Russell. I really like the Leo/Scorsese movies and while they aren’t as revered now as the DeNiro/Scorsese films, in time I think they’ll be looked at as near-equal– if not in cultural impact, surely in quality.
        Great post, man!

      • Scullibundo

        I do have a genuine love for The Aviator – which I would put in Scorsese’s Top 5 and consider the best Leo/Marty collaboration. And yeah, Munich is Spielberg’s most mature and restrained film. A modern masterpiece. Dude was firing on all cylinders for Munich. Hoping we get a bluray release for the 10th Anniversary next year.

      • JBug

        Awesome comment and great list. I especially appreciate the shout out to Hook despite it getting ripped by critics.

      • Michael N.

        Do not fool yourself. It was ripped for a reason.
        It is not just critic who hate that film but audiences as well.
        I am not sure if Spielberg has apologizes for making it like he did with Temple of Doom and Crystal Skull.

      • BigJimSlade

        I remember “Hook” being the first movie I ever walked out of and I was just a teenager. Just went to the arcade and waited for my friends to come out when it was over. They said I didn’t really miss much.

        Spielberg is one of my favorite directors, by “Hook” is his only abortion of a movie. Even his weaker films have redeeming qualities. Other than Julia Robert’s sexy tomboy beanpole body, I can’t think of any.

      • Scullibundo

        Then you’re forgetting one of Williams’ best scores.

      • JBug

        It’s one of my favorites, for sure.

      • Nico

        I feel the same way, minus the liking of Tinkerbell. Damn, Julia annoyed me in that movie. I found nothing enjoyable about Hook.

      • the king of comedy

        I think Spielberg is one of the most gifted storytellers that ever lived, and he has made some masterpieces, but he has also made some horrible movies such as Hook and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, we all know his masterpieces and the movies for wich he`ll be remembered the most, but I think that lately he has made some amazing movies wich are kind of underrated such as Catch me if You Can, Munich and Minority Report, Lincoln is sometimes dimissed for being boring but I think it`s a great movie and Day Lewis performance is incredible, I also think Saving Private Ryan is highly overrated.

      • Michael N.

        To say Scorsese hasn’t lost a step would be a lie. Don’t tell with a straight that you think The Wolf of Wall Street amongst others comes anywhere close to Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.
        Like Spielberg he is past his prime.

      • Underground Anthem TX

        Man, I disagree (I gave some points below on why I feel that way). It’s true his later films haven’t had (and possibly won’t) the cultural impact that TD, RB and Goodfellas experienced, but as a technician I think he’s better than ever.

      • the king of comedy

        Maybe as a Technician, but films such as Raging Bull and Taxi Driver felt more intimate than anything he`s ever made lately, the characters on those movies truly became the film (the closest he`s been to get that same feeling lately has been with The Aviator and The Wolf of Wall Street). Goodfellas while not a character centered movie made this Gangster World become the movie, we were amazed by these characters by their lives, the flow and rythm of the movie was intoxicating. Those are definitelly the best movies he has ever made, but that doesn`t mean he hasn`t done some great work in 2000s, Gangs of New York is great altough Diaz and even Dicaprio`s performances and chemestry are flat, but Bill The Butcher is one of Scorsese`s best characters, the best villain in an Scorsese movie and some of the scenes in this movie are among the best Scorsese has ever made, The Aviator was an amazing character study and it captured the glamour of the Golden age of Hollywood, the excitment of flying and the descend into madness of the main character beautifully, the Departed is amazing the movie wich finally won the first acamdy award for an Scorsese movie and is one of the few remakes that has a reason to be, Shutter Island is kind of underrated, one of the true psicological horror movies of the last century even tough it could have been shorter, I have a soft spot for Hugo, a movie you wouldn`t xpect Mr. Scorsese to make but it was a beautiful love letter to cinema, and finally The Wolf of Wall Street, an amazing movie about excces in wich we see Dicaprio`s best performance, but still relying too much in the Goodfellas style.

      • Underground Anthem TX

        Man, HUGO was incredible.

        Nice assessment of Scorsese’s filmography– I pretty much unabashedly love everything he’s made. Films like AFTER HOURS, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD and SHUTTER ISLAND– which all seem to be looked at in a not-so-favorable light for some reason– I think they stack up right next to his others.

        On RB, remember when that came out it got very contrasting reviews, it wasn’t universally loved. I feel that, culturally, time is a big factor with his a lot of his films being appreciated. GOODFELLAS is still my personal favorite as well, but it’s most likely nostalgia and the impression it left on me as a young age. It could easily be argued that at least 5 different films of his could be considered his “best”.

        The guy really hasn’t made a bad film, IMO, and if one looks at his career objectively and the technical feats of his later films, I think it’s pretty obvious he’s improved as a director from the 70′s and 80′s.

      • the king of comedy

        Well I`m a huge Scorsese fan as well, I think that as what happens with many major directors, some of his films don`t get the recognition they deserved because they are constantly compared to the masterpieces they have made instead of beign recognized for their own merits. I do believe he`s never made a bad movie and some of his movies that deserve more recognition are all of the movies from 2000`s, Mean Streets, Alice Doesn`t Live Here Anymore, The King of Comedy, The Last Temptation of Crhist, Kundun. The Age of Inocence and Casino, that being said I still would rank Goodfellas as my favorite movie and Raging Bull and Taxi Driver on my top 10.

      • GrimReaper07

        Spielberg’s as good as he’s ever been. War Horse and Tintin weren’t up to his standards but Munich and Lincoln were.

      • the king of comedy

        Well I think the biggest step Scorsese made into CGI was Hugo, wich won the Academy Award for best visual effects and he made it work beautifully in that movie, directors must understand that the use of CGI must work in the beneffit of the movie and not the movie be just some display of CGI (Scorsese also used CGI that you didn`t even notice in movies such as Shutter Island and The Wolf of Wall Street), that being said, Scorsese is not in his prime, he`s the best living filmaker working today but I don`t think he`ll ever do a Raging Bull (AFI`s Nº 4 best american movie of all time), Taxi Driver (the greatest first-person character study ever commited to film) and Goodfellas (wich is my favorite film) again, But still, he continues doing some great work and I hope we can see plenty of his movies in future years, and I love his collaborations with Di Caprio, whose best performances were seen in The Aviator and The Wolf of Wall Street, but still he`s not De Niro.

  • Jamie

    Preach it, Viggo!!!

    • TwiceBorn

      Viggo is the man!

  • Drake

    I can definitely understand what he was saying about Two Towers and Return of the King – I just don’t think the movies were degraded by all the special effects. Whereas, The Hobbit… Agreed with what he said there. Don’t see honesty like this, in situations like this very often. You tell em Viggo!

  • Michael N.

    Viggo makes some good arguments.
    In a way The Hobbit films reminds me of the Star Wars prequels.
    Like with George Lucas, Peter Jackson has to much money and power along with people only telling him what he wants to hear.

    • MJ

      Yea, and Radagast is indeed like a somewhat less annoying version of Jar Jar Binks.

      • The Flobbit

        Umm Jar Jar Binks make Radagast look like Vito Corleone. Jar Jar haunts my nightmares. I actually think Radagast is kind of cool.

      • MoviesAreForever88

        I can assure you there is nothing cool about an incompetent, shit-faced (literally), nitwit who is supposed to be representing one of the five wizards, who are as close to Gods as you can get, in middle earth. Even Gandalf rolls his eyes every time he sees him because his actions, delivery and entire presence is straight up cringeworthy and annoying.

        He is the most unlikable character in the hobbit films (and that says a hell of a lot).

        And while Jar Jar is definitely a bit more extreme, there is no denying that the two have an enormous amount in common.

      • the king of comedy

        He`s kind of lame but Jar Jar is posibly the most hasted character ever put to a film.

      • MoviesAreForever88

        Ha! Believe it or not, ever since I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I’ve always compared Radagast to Jar Jar.

        It scary (and sad) just how much the two have in common.

  • Underground Anthem TX

    FOTR is what got me interested again in fantasy movies/ storytelling– I’ve never really been a fan of the genre, except for LEGEND and WILLOW.

    I rented FOTR and thought it was awesome. Saw TT and ROTK at the theater, and I just couldn’t explain why they didn’t grab me like the first. Weird, but Viggo’s recounting of the production sure does explain a lot.

  • Grayden

    Here’s the thing, while Viggo has a strong point about TT and RotK, I think Jackson got shoehorned with the Hobbit. He basically had to take over on a project he didn’t start that was well into pre-production. Perhaps his reliance on CG this time is merely because he was thrown onto the studio’s timeframe and didn’t have his pre-production time he had with LotR. All the CG was necessary because they didn’t have time to do miniatures or build sets. I dunno. Devil’s advocate, but Viggo is still dead on.

    • Underground Anthem TX

      From what I recall (and if any hardcore LOTR fans are reading this please feel free to correct me):
      Jackson prepped the new Hobbit movies initially, then decided he didn’t want to do them and handed it off to GDT, who then handed it back to Jackson, who then started again from scratch?
      It’s a strange thing because he returned either out of loyalty or obligation (and I guess it could be argued they go hand-in-hand), but like you said, it kind of appears his heart ain’t in this one.

      • Joshua Nealey

        From what I can recall, I don’t believe he was involved other than as a producer – possibly writer – at the beginning.

        The film kept getting delayed due to MGM’s financial problems, then because of the strikes and GDT made the decision to leave the film so he could focus on his other films. But tons of money had been spent on production so far, despite the film not even being greenlit.

        Jackson and Fran began looking for a new director and while they were trying to cast the film no one (agents/actors) was taking them seriously because they didn’t have a director on board, so finally Peter broke down and decided to direct the films.

        He did not want to direct The Hobbit, at all, from what he’s said in the behind-the-scenes footage. He doesn’t blatantly say that, but you can clearly see he was much more interested in working on other films.

        I think this is why the film suffer, not to mention the awful CGI as Viggo pointed out.

        The LOTR trilogy was excellent and it’s because they spent more time on the story, there was more to pull from and most importantly they used more real sets/costumes. The Hobbit films look like a video game 80% of the time and honestly, the dwarves don’t work at all, none of them.

        I’m also surprised that I don’t like Martin Freeman in this role, he’s just annoying.

      • Werefon

        No. GDT prepared everything in pre-production but was never given green light to start shooting. He waited for months but when he didnt get Green Light he understood that studio wants Jackson and left.

        Then, Jackson came on board and was given green light. He just re-designed few stuff to his own taste and boom.

  • DEADP00L

    Had it not been for FOTR I would never have gotten into fantasy movies. I do agree with V.M on his take on the special effects and the handling of The Hobbit. It’s the Star Wars prequels all over again: too much emphasis on effects with little to none raw roots and soulful power.

    It always bothered me for example how horrible the special effects aged in ROTK Vs a movie produced about 15 years before it: Jurrassic Park. Yet knowing how JP was made I can see why JP would age well and continues to, while TLOR-TT and ROTK will continue to suffer.

    At the end of the day Jackson only hurt what he worked on the more he relied on special effects. The Hobbit will be a victim to this as well I just don’t see it aging well at all.

  • [A]

    I agree 100% with Viggo.

  • Stefan Bonomo

    While I can kind of understand what people are saying about too much CG, I’m just sick of people saying this film was nothing but CG. You can see that Jackson is using as many real sets and as much practical effects as he can. True, he may be using a lot, but people say this and they assume that means Jackson is half-assing these films, when in fact, he’s working just as hard on this trilogy as he did on the originals.

    I think people are being a bit too harsh on Jackson, and should remember that every single scene in this film is just a CG background, like the Star Wars Episodes II & III.

    • DEADP00L

      Which were HORRIBLE.

    • The Flobbit

      Watch the behind the scenes that Jackson puts out. I believe Weta made something like 3000 unique weapons for the movie, designing thousands of prosthetics, costumes, wigs, and props. They built the entire set of Laketown. They filmed the barrels on a New Zealand river. The interior of Rivendell, ENTIRE set of Hobbiton, and Thranduil’s hall in Mirkwood, Beorn’s house, large portions of Mirkwood forest, ALL BUILT FOR REAL ON SETS.

  • Conor

    It was appropriate for the Lord of the Rings, but The Hobbit has been mired in CGI and, more grievously, story alterations.

  • MJ

    The Hobbit films are severely bloated. Should have been two 2-hour movies at most, not three 3.5 hour movies.

    The Two Towers will always be my favorite LOTR film. They are all incredibly great movies through. It’s like comparing NY Strip to Ribeye to T-bone.

  • Steven

    It seems like everybody loves to talk crap about Jackson these days.

    I’m not too happy with certain CGI choices in The Hobbit films but if people can’t see the beauty and heart in those films they’re truly missing out.

    • Conor

      Jackson is a visionary pillar of film’s modernity, but The Hobbit could have had even greater beauty and heart as two films with less CGI and a greater adherence to its founding narrative.

    • Hugo

      These days? I was blasting the first Hobbit film the second I walked out of the theater. That was a year and a half ago.

      • DEADP00L

        I got kicked out of 6 forums for doing the same thing. It was ridiculous how touche people were.

  • Felicia

    Finally, someone admitting that Jackson is doing to his baby what Lucas did to his.

    • Conor

      More MGM desperately trying not to go back to bankrupted irrelevancy than Jackson, I think. The trilogy decision likely wasn’t a choice.

      • Scullibundo

        I’m sorry, but this is complete bullshit. The problem with these Hobbit films is that they’re bloated with self-indulgent fan service that detract from the story. It’s certainly not in MGM or WB’s interest to have each film run three hours long to accomodate plot threads that bog the film down. They could get far more showings in with a 2 hour film.

        PJ needs to be removed from the editing rooms.

      • Scullibundo

        I’m sorry, but this is complete bullshit. The problem with these Hobbit films is that they’re bloated with self-indulgent fan service that detract from the story. It’s certainly not in MGM or WB’s interest to have each film run three hours long to accomodate plot threads that bog the film down. They could get far more showings in with a 2 hour film.

        PJ needs to be removed from the editing rooms.

    • MJ

      The difference being that at least Jackson and his team didn’t fuk up the casting. No bad actors makes these movies at least watchable, unlike the first two SW prequels. Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen just plain sucked.

      • Stefan Bonomo

        Exactly, no matter what people may say, they can’t argue that the cast and acting in The Hobbit films are excellent.

      • Felicia

        Yes, excellent acting from a incoherent script that drones on and gives only three out of twenty-plus characters an arc that audiences feel attached to.

        Orson Welles reading a script from Michael Bay is not going to be that great.

      • MJ

        But you still might listen to that and get some enjoyment out of it if Orson Wells read it. Whereas, if Kim Khardasian read the script….you get the idea.

  • MJ

    The number one problem though that Jackson has here is that The Hobbit novel is simply greatly outclassed by The Lord of the Rings novel.

    There is just no getting around this.

    • yrulaughing418

      and that The Hobbit novel only contains enough material for a 2 hour movie, rather than a 9 hour movie

      • Grayden

        We’re getting three somewhat-adult films from source material designed for kids. Not something that is easy to adapt to begin with, much less completely shift tonally to fit the new demographics you’re selling it to.

  • alk

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who started seeing the difference in Two Towers and “Return of the King.” “Fellowship of the Ring” always felt like the most wholesome and emotionally compelling out of the trilogy. As entertaining as “Two Towers” and “Return of the King” were, I never again felt the weight and emotion I had felt in all of “Fellowship of the Ring.”
    And now the Hobbit is just a repeat of the latter movies, except how more has actually ruined the integrity of the story. I enjoyed The Hobbit and Desolation of Smaug, because I enjoyed the books, and because PJ makes them visually interesting to watch. Beyond rollercoaster rides though, they are completely soulless and without any emotional weight to them. Martin Freeman’s Bilbo and the rest of the dwarves are some of the most ridiculous stereotypes of characters, and all one dimensional. The Graphic novel of “The Hobbit” had more compelling character arcs and development, and all the dwarves looked the same!!! Egh.

    • MJ

      The Two Towers had every bit as much heart for me as Fellowship. It’s my personal favorite of the series, with Fellowship being second. The Battle of Helms Deep is probably my single favorite set of scenes in movie history.

      I agree though that ROTK had a bit less heart and perhaps a bit more special effects than needed.

      It’s a bit of a cop-out though to say Fellowship is better because it had less special effects in that in that first part of the LOTR novel, there’s less stuff going on that would warrant more special effects. The two later books had more characters and events that required the effects. So of course then, you would need more special effects in the latter two movies — duh!

      So I don’t necessarily buy into what Viggo is saying for the LOTR films…but I certainly agree with him on applying those points to these CGI-bloated Hobbit films.

  • pedro

    And it was supposed to be directed by Guillermo del Toro, the only man in the world still using practical fx

    • Agent777

      Pacific Rim? No he is a whore for CGI.

      • pedro

        Actually pacific rim has a lot more practical stuff than meets the eye (pun intended). The girl cant be real, all that hotness must be also a matte painting and maybe some cgi

      • MJ

        You are 100% correct. Pacific Rim actually had a lot of real set pieces that would typically be done in CGI by most directors.

      • Mormonfraud

        You are probably one of those hipster douchebags who wanted to see men in cheesy rubber suits playing both the monsters and the robots.

  • Jason 3x

    I agree, i thought they were gonna actually film The Hobbit outside and not on a green screen in a studio.

    • Steven

      Theres plenty of real landscape shots in the first Hobbit movie.

      Did you expect them to go to the real Rivendale and the mountain with the real rock monsters.

    • The Flobbit

      Mountain Shots
      Forest shots
      Prancing Pony
      River scene
      Master’s House
      Bard’s House
      Thranduil’s Hall
      Beorn’s House
      Portions of Mirkwood
      Portions of Erebor…

  • MoviesAreForever88

    I dont agree with Viggo at all when it comes to The Lord of the Rings films. I feel that series is one of the best uses and mixtures of all film techniques to date…and to be honest, I dont see how they could have done anything differently.
    Every use of live action or miniatures was implemented before turning to CG. That’s the way it should be…with real locations, big set pieces and miniatures being used before turning to CG.
    Sure, the last two films had some visual effects heavy shots in it…but the stakes drastically grow as the films move along and it’s a full scale war with orcs and men for Christ’s sake, so CG is inevitable. It’s how you use it that matters…which, in the case of The Lord of the Rings, is perfection.
    The New Zealand army, an entire stunt team, as well as thousands of residents and their horses, were all used for just about every single wide shot (in both Helms Deep and Minas Tirith) and those shots were composited with miniatures, real locations and sets pieces, as well. So, its not like live action wasn’t being implemented. Viggo knows this.

    However, on the flip side, I couldn’t agree more with Viggo when it comes to The Hobbit films. They are this generation’s star wars prequels, in every regard. They are the perfect example of lazy filmmaking with horrible, cheesy writing and a horrible overuse of CG in areas where live action could have been (and should have been) used. The films are totally disconnected emotionally because nothing is real. Nothing feels organic or tangible or real….because it isn’t. The characters aren’t relatable, nor are they likable. The stakes aren’t high because you (or at least I) don’t care for anyone in the ways that I should. Its the equivalent to watching a very expensive video-game. They just aren’t good films.
    I also agree that Peter needs to come back to his roots because he is becoming a slave to the technology that he is helping to pioneer….much like George Lucas and James Cameron before him. I’m all for experimenting new techniques…but only if it doesn’t compromise the integrity of the film.

    • Agent777

      Clearly you didn’t read the books. Most of the best parts of ROTK were cut and replaced with filler scenes and cheesy tickle fights. Denthor acting like a goof ball and running a marathon while set on fire. Fellowship was raw, ROTK was silly.

      • MoviesAreForever88

        Actually, I have read the books, several times over…and, like every novel, adjustments need to be made to better suit the big screen. In fact, in that regard, when you take those books into consideration and the way they are written, it becomes even more amazing that the films turned out as amazing as they did. That is a LOT of book to adapt. Besides, I’m only ever going to judge the film on its own merits…I don’t ever sit there and compare it to the novel, and visa versa.

        And while denethor running off the ledge is far fetched, yes, it hardly plays off as silly in the film. It’s not like we tracked with him all 200 yards until he jumped off the cliff. It was merely a lead-in back to the battle.
        No, what is silly is Bombur riding his barrel down the river, only to be flipped over onto land and roll down the hillside in a perfect path, rolling over Orc after Orc after Orc, only to flip over the river, where the rest of the orcs are, and continue running them over with his barrel…and then end up popping his arms and legs out of the barrel and start fighting with it still wrapped around his body. Or how about the entire party of dwarves falling thousands of feet, while doing barrel rolls, down into the goblin caves. Apparently the laws of gravity no longer apply.

        That is silliness.

      • MJ

        I agree 100%

      • MJ

        I have read the LOTR three times, and with all due respect, you are completely full of shit regarding the tweaks made for the movies — which improve upon the story in most cases, unlike the Hobbit films.

        Let me guess — you are one of these purists that wanted to see the silly Tom Bombadill in the movies, aren’t you?

    • MJ

      Well said!!!

  • scott

    That’s the truth. The difference between LOTR and The Hobbit is that some of the CGI is hidden if you feel me. I mean obviously the ghosts and the Legolas riding the elephants and Sling SHot Boulders are all CGI but it looks real. My issue with the Hobbit trilogy so far is that it is all completely shot in CGI to me that it almost looks animated in a way. I mean everyone is all colorful and shiny to me kind of reminds me of Beowulf except more real looking. But I just felt that LOTR was driven completely by absolutely perfect acting and costume and these Hobbit movies are driven completely by lets make everything computer based but that’s just me

  • Ancalagon

    Well, leave it to Viggo to nicely sum up my thoughts regarding the LOTR/Hobbit and CGI situation. Especially agree with his comments regarding FOTR; best in the trilogy by head and shoulders, IMO.

  • Agent777

    I completely agree. The fight at the end of Fellowship is superior to all the battles in ROTK. No one ever needed to see the Army of the Dead swarm Minas Tirith like Scrubbing Bubbles.

    • MJ

      Maybe Brian Tolkein should rewrite that part of his dad’s novel then as well.

      “”The Dead are following,” said Legolas. “I see shapes of Men and of horses, and pale banners like shreds of cloud, and spears like winter-thickets on a misty night. The Dead are following.”

      – this is right from the fracking LOTR novel, Einstein.

      And if you don’t like this, then note:

      “According to a magazine article, Peter Jackson hated the Army of the Dead; he thought it was too unbelievable. He kept it in the script, though, because he did not wish to disappoint diehard fans of the book trilogy”

  • Redjester

    I have to agree with Viggo. There’s a point where the CGI is simply too much, and all of Jackson’s films since Fellowship have surpassed that threshold on many occasion.

  • twojawas

    Ironically, when the LOTR films were released they stood in direct contrast to Lucas’ CG bloated prequels. And at the time, people were saying how the ‘real’ settings were one reason that LOTR was so much better than the prequels. I’m surprised that PJ has forgotten such recent history and fallen into the same trap. On a sidenote, I wonder if this is why Guillermo del Toro excused himself from directing the new films.

  • Agent777

    A toast, to practical effects, to blowing shit up for real, building big ass models, and putting stuntmen in handmade costumes.

    • The Flobbit

      A toast, to CGI, allowing filmmakers to put their visions onscreen cheaper, easier, and allowing incredible stories that could never be told practically…to be told.

      • MJ

        “cheap” – yea, agreed

      • The Flobbit

        Oh, good, you are agreed that using CGI is cheaper, and therefore more accessible to indie and low-budget filmmakers.
        Wanna know why Peter Jackson is doing CGI orcs? Because today, one facial prosthetic can cost over 10,000 dollars, and can only be used ONCE. So much more efficient and logical to use motion capture.


    The quality of film relies on many different factors, script obviously being number one, but how the technology and special effects are used are another.

    The issue here in the end will always and forever be the script. LOTR had much stronger stories and where they did tend to fall flat (personally) was when they left Frodo and Sam and focused on the big battles and the rest of the Fellowships story-lines. Frodo and Sam walking doesnt make much of a story, but I enjoyed LOTR when the focus was on them and the ring itself.

    The Hobbit is bloated to an extreme! I kept finding myself saying, okay this is cool, but whats the point of showing this. Personally I’m very nervous with how “The Battle of the Five Armies” will play out. On the extended version of Return of the King they discuss how the scene with Sauron was deleted because it was weird to kill off film 2′s villian in the opening of film 3, yet I feel like thats whats going to happen in The Hobbit film 3.

    Story is key and the visuals need to support the story you are telling. King Kong works because those visuals are needed to create skull Island, 1930′s New York and a massive 80ft Gorrilla. How the effects are used and even generated play a huge effect.

    When you watch the production diaries to The Hobbit you will notice how so much is shot on stages. In the end the audience will always be able to tell when something is shot on location versus against green screen. It makes it feel cheap when 99-100% of the shot is artificial. JOHN CARTER has just as much CGI as The Hobbit, however most of JOHN CARTER was shot on location, or on practical sets with minimal set extensions, where as scene after scene of The Hobbit is shot on fully CGI stages. Dawn of the Apes uses the same FX company, same technology and even some of the same actors, but most most shot entirely on location and looks so much better than The Hobbit. I even dare to say that Transformers has better visuals becuase, Micahel Bay will film live action plates and add in the characters as oppose to entirely 100% CGI shots.

    Also the use of digital cinematography still feels flat to me. Best use of digital cinematography as of yet to me is SKYFALL. Color correction and color grading, although used to help enhance the image, can sometimes make it even more artificial looking.

    Jackson needs to focus more on capturing live action plates and add in small effects as oppose to filming five people on a green screen and then turning it in to 100,000 people fighting on mountain side next to a castle. Practical will always beat fully CGI….take note J.J.

  • Thomas R

    I would rather have dodgy looking practical effects, where there is something actually tangible there, then the best looking CGI that you can make.

  • hunaif

    it is not ugly with cgi it is awesome

  • The Flobbit

    I don’t give a DAMN what any of you say.
    I will try not to reply to any comments.
    I don’t care what Viggo thinks.

    I love all the Lord of the Rings movies, and I love The Hobbit films. I think Peter Jackson is an amazingly talented director, and if the CGI is bad or too much, it’s because of Weta being rented out to other people like Avatar and Planet of the Apes. Peter Jackson is pushing the vanguard of technology, and unlike what many think, many THOUSANDS of props are made for The Hobbit movies. If there’s more shooting on green screen, it’s because shooting on location is now really, really, really expensive. I think Viggo (one of my favourite actors) badmouthing the movies that made him famous is a rather dickish move.

    I think that yes, The Hobbit movies are inherently flawed, but the casting is tremendous, the action is stellar, the costumes and props are great, and heck, when I watch them I am transported to a gorgeous, dangerous land called Middle Earth. And to liken The Hobbit to the Star Wars Prequels is utterly insulting: Lucas shot his films so shoddily, casted so terrible, scripted so poorly, and dropped the ball with so much sh-tty CGI, one-dimensional characters he wasn’t even trying. Jackson tries. He is doing something amazing and difficult: shooting 3 giant, epic fantasy movies back to back, and that is something nobody but Jackson can do. Yes, he’s not done it perfectly. But I will take any Jackson movie ANYDAY over these generic superhero/Transformer/Star Trek crapfests that we’re forced to live through.

    That’s my personal two cents. I look forward to The Battle of the Five Armies.

    • Lance

      But the bloat. Why can’t he trim the bloat? He has become such a self-indulgent filmmaker…

      • The Flobbit

        I am so sick and tired of the bloat argument. Tolkien’s books are so full of bloat: chapters on the lineage of the Noldor and the Teleri, vs the Moriquendi and the Taliquendi, chapters on Bilbo floating serenely down a river with bobbing barrels, chapters of round mountain stone men helping the Rohirrim.

        Tolkien has bloat. Jackson has bloat. I love their work in spite of it.

    • Pk

      Fantastically put. Couldn’t have said it better myself

    • MJ

      This from the Live Action Cinderella fanboy.

      (Remember to bring Mom along to that.)

      • The Flobbit

        Wow. I said I was looking forward to a well-cast movie and now I am thrown in with the preteen fairy tale lot? When did “fanboy” ever enter into the equation?

      • The Flobbit

        Wow. I said I was looking forward to a well-cast movie and now I am thrown in with the preteen fairy tale lot? When did “fanboy” ever enter into the equation?

    • the king of comedy

      I agree that Mortenssen shouldn`t talk like this about The Lord of The Ring movies (movies for wich he`s most known for to audiences nowadays), I agree that much CGI can ruin a movie and make everything feel fake but the CGI was used beautifully in The Lord of The Rings movies, displaying the most epic scenes we`ve ever seen in movie history, and even tough the use of CGI was less effective in The Hobbit movies and the movies themselves aren`t as good as TLOTR trilogy, it`s still fun to go back to Middle Earth, for some more of that epic feeling that many films tried to recreate but none could.

  • MatthewS

    Really Viggo???. :(

  • Joseph M

    I liked the Hobbit; beautifully made and a decent sense of pace and clarity with a horde of likeable characters. Smaug was definitely the slow second act in the overall story arc. Too many long, padded gaps between actual plot advancement. I fear the Tolkienists were right; it should have been 2 films instead of stretching the material to a more profit-friendly trilogy.

  • fishnets

    He’s right on the money about CGI overkill but lets not get terrible Hobbit script and cash grab stretching off the hook. The movies play like a really bad fanfic, especially abominable love triangle between overly airbrushed Elves and pretty boy dwarf (who didn’t need airbrushing to look pretty). Add to that endless and tedious action for the sake of action that didn’t move the plot forward (barrell chase) or that also ruined a great character (molten gold nonsense turned Smaug from formidable cunning to dumbass buffooon).
    Moreover, the cast is beyond bland. I don’t care how awesome some of actors are individually in other projects, but here, they have absolutely no chemistry, their characters are cardboard cutouts and they get about 10% of character screen time cause 90% of screen time are their CGI stunt doubles. These movies don’t use human stuntmen anymore since no human could possibly perform video game-ish action that goes into these flicks.
    Hobbit movies are as bad as transformers movies and only LOTR legacy prevents critics and some fans from admitting the truth. They are worst kind of style over substance, all SFX action and no character/emotion popcorm film-making. Huge downgrade from trilogy that had cinematic relevance. This crap won’t be remembered 2 years from now because it has no rewatchable quality whatsoever and SFX already looks fake.

    • Daniel Ronczkowski

      Relating to Star Wars 7, I think JJ is going to be very practical when it comes to CGI and all that stuff.

      • fishnets

        That’s very likely considering the deserved backlash that improperly used CGI is getting.

  • GrimReaper07

    This seems a bit harsh but to be honest he’s absolutely right.

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  • Lexavi80

    That’s why I love Viggo!

  • guest

    He’s right about the Hobbit movies, but LOTR was the perfect mix of CGI, practical effects and storytelling.

  • Del_Varner

    This is a typical problem. Writers need an editor. Look what happened to Clancey’s novels–they kept getting longer and longer. Look at Martin’s Game of Thrones.

  • Akio Morte

    “I guess Peter became like Ridley Scott – this one-man industry now, with all these people depending on him,”
    I would have went with George Lucas.

  • Agent777

    Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was excellent though, and the Trolls and the Great Goblin are obviously great characters to do in CGI. The “problem” is that the CGI keeps getting upped. So while Smaug was amazing, just plain amazing, we don’t need all the action scenes that just add spectacle for the sake of spectacle.

    But then again, Tolkein even wrote the books around set pieces, so PJ does have a precedent… and that’s when you just love them for what they are.

    CGI or no PJ and crew put more work and heart into these films than most, and if you view them as being “like the Star Wars prequels” I am very sorry for you.

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