Jackson Very Terrible Try to Make Better

It’s that time again, where I watch the entire filmography of the director of the film I’ve been assigned for Cinema 52. Unlike Tony Scott or Robert Zemeckis, however, the director of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring can’t seem to ever release just one cut of his films. So, not only am I cramming twelve movies into one exhausting weekend, but specifically the longest available version of each film. That’s right, it’s not just the complete Peter Jackson… it’s COMPLETER JACKSON. Let’s do this.

THE LOVELY BONES (2009)

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IS THIS A PAINFULLY LONG PETER? Holy shit, it’s only 132 minutes! You’re doing it, Peter! You’re making bearable films again!

THE PLOT:
I spoke too soon about the “bearable” thing.

Why is that cartoon character leering at that little girl?

So 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is murdered by neighborhood creep caricature George Harvey (Stanley Tucci). She helpfully tells us this will occur at the very beginning of the movie so we can avoid the pesky tension of waiting twenty more minutes for it to happen. Once she’s dead, it’s time for your standard “catch the murderer” mystery thriller, right?

Oh, God. No, seriously, I think I spotted God.

Yes, Susie is stuck in some screwy non-denominational afterlife that has artsy ties to what goes on around her family. And thanks to vague supernatural rules that exist because feelings, she can influence her family to solve her murder and catch the Tucci. Think Ghost meets What Dreams May Come, but even more cluttered and unwatchable.

And occasionally featuring levels from Super Mario Galaxy.

I’ve heard both in print and via word-of-mouth that this is a particularly terrible adaptation of what is purportedly a pretty great book, but I don’t know, I think I’m already lost at the “isn’t it lovely how this murdered girl finds peace while Scooby-Dooing the town pedo out of hiding thanks to silly pseudo-religious magic?” angle. Once again, Peter Jackson has adapted a book on a subject that just doesn’t interest me, though I’m curious if, like The Fellowship of the Ring, I’d end up enjoying the source material. Hey, doesn’t a terrible adaptation drive book sales just as much as a good one?

THE STYLE:
This was clearly an attempt by Peter Jackson to take another crack at something like Heavenly Creatures. He’d made a bunch of popcorn flicks, and it was time to get serious again, so why not try another disturbing, deeply emotional film that uses special effects to explore what’s in the mind of the protagonist?

Oh, it’s cute boys. Her mind lake is full of cute boys.

The Lovely Bones just couldn’t be a spiritual sequel to Heavenly Creatures for a few reasons. First, it’s not based on a true story, so it feels less like an attempt to get into a real person’s head and more like throwing childhood imagery at the screen for a couple hours. Second, it’s supernatural rather than imaginary, so in addition to looking cool, it has actual rules and consequences, and if those aren’t handled well, the audience doesn’t give a shit. Third, and this has been pointed out by Aragorn himself, its budget is huge, so the effects aren’t particularly impressive because they all live inside of a computer.

THE EFFECTS:
Behold, an old refrigerator rolling into a garbage pit, an effect never before brought to the big screen due to the incredibly expensive and borderline impossible task of trying to do it for real!

Eat your heart out, Lucas! Suck it, Spielberg!

Yep, that’s a CGI fridge, for reasons I couldn’t begin to explain. That can’t be cheap, right? At least not cheaper than kicking a Coldspot into a ditch? I guess it’s better to throw money at a scene than send a Paramount intern to the dump. Anyway, this is the problem with many of the effects in The Lovely Bones: I’d be impressed if they weren’t obviously digital.

I don’t remember this level in Super Mario Galaxy.

Pictured above is a scene where a gazebo collapses into itself. It’s uncanny valley as fuck, and the whole time I could hear early ’90s-era Peter Jackson saying, “Okay, we’re gonna dig a pit under the gazebo, and we’re gonna rig the son of a bitch with wires and hydraulics, and it’s going to crunch up into a ball and look cool as shit. Everybody ready?” But no, green screen, get the computer guys to do it, on to the next thing. Why not go practical on something like that? Or take this beautiful shot of a full-scale ship in a bottle:

Not pictured: Pirates of the Caribbean 6: Put A Cork In It.

It’s a breathtaking image conceptually, but the effects are only so-so. Why not go back to the “bigatures” used in The Fellowship of the Ring and build bottle ships three times their normal size? Come on, Pete! Smash things for real!

FINAL THOUGHTS:
This movie lost me in so many ways. Fake and pointless CGI, wishy-washy spiritual crap, Mark Wahlberg… the list goes on. Peter Jackson took a chance on changing up his subject matter, but he played it safe in nearly every other department. I’m definitely not alone in my disappointment with this film, and it’s no surprise that Pete went back to what worked a decade ago: Hobbit crap. Oh boy.

UP NEXT: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Extended Edition (2012)