While the first "Hobbit" film turned in huge business at the box office, Peter Jackson faced some harsh criticism from fans and reviewers with his return to Middle Earth.
And as much as he would have liked to course-correct, there wasn't much wiggle room going into the second installment. "There wasn’t really any ability to respond too much because we had already shot everything pretty much, apart from the 10 weeks of pick-ups we did this year, which, half of that was the third movie," he says. "By the time we were done with pick-ups I was just getting in my groove."
Some things have changed this year, though. There's less chest-pumping about high frame rates — in fact Jackson and company apparently aren't eager to bring up 48 frames per second this time around, though it will be offered at select screenings. And the story is bigger, with more interweaving plot threads to give audiences a break periodically from Bilbo and the dwarfs.
"The good thing with the middle film is that you don’t have to set things up, you can just drop into the story assuming that no one is going to see this film that didn’t see the first one," he says. "Unfortunately, [despite] the romance of the big screen, the 3-D and everything else, the ultimate life of these movies is going to be one on Blu-rays, download and hopefully for years to come. That is where they are going to find their ultimate resting place. So you are telling a continuous story. It's three movies but it is telling one narrative arc and you are trying to make each film work individually. This is the part in the middle where you pick up your foot and put it the gas pedal."
With the latest installment, Jackson is well aware some viewers might find its cliffhanger ending a bit unsatisfying, with a full year to wait for the conclusion. "We did have a discussion about it. It was just a chance that was very rare where you do films back-to-back, three films back-to-back, to be able to end on a cliffhanger," he says. "I remember when I was 17, 19 years old, I remember the big 'Empire Strikes Back' cliffhanger. It was, like, three years before the next one came out. We’re being pretty generous with one year."