Peter Jackson has been on a film restoration kick, but don't expect him to turn his new cutting-edge tools on his most famous works.
On Monday, the Oscar-winning filmmaker announced that he is restoring and polishing the four low-budget horror movies he made in the late '80s and early '90s, which he collectively dubs his "Naughty Years." The decision to touch up up the gory, practical effects-dominated splatter flicks was inspired by his work on They Shall Not Grow Old, the documentary Jackson made by restoring, digitally coloring, and assembling behind-the-scenes footage of British soldiers during World War I. That film has earned critical acclaim on the festival circuit, with particular praise for the digital work done by Jackson's WETA Workshop effects studio.
But while restoring and punching up old film stock is seen as an act of cinematic love, tinkering with more modern movies is less common and far less universally praised; one preserves history, the other changes it. So even with WETA's digital pipeline and ever-advancing visual effects technology at his disposal for any and all restorations, Jackson won't be touching the effects on his biggest blockbusters.
That includes The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which began to hit big screens in 2001, which is a few lifetimes in the visual effects world. In short, he won't be pulling a George Lucas, who spent years updating the effects in his original Star Wars movies.
"Not that the effects in Lord of the Rings are perfect, everything starts to look a bit dusty and shaky as time goes on, and as technology improves, it's inevitable that the effects start to look a bit dodgy in places," Jackson told SYFY WIRE. "But I think life goes on. I don't even watch my films, let alone want to fiddle with them."
That means no motion-captured Gollum, as he was in the Hobbit movies. No more fluid creature animations. No added details thanks to faster processing speeds. It's true that there have been plenty of re-releases of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in a variety of box sets with extra behind-the-scenes footage added regularly. That'll likely continue to happen, as well. But Jackson admits that as for the finished films themselves, he's largely left them at their premieres.
"I haven't seen Lord of the Rings since it came out — I've seen bits and pieces on TV, if it's suddenly on and I watch it for a few minutes and turn it off," Jackson said. "It's not that I don't like them; I'm proud of them and they're exactly the films I wanted to make. But it's like, I've seen it, I've done it, I've lived it. It's time to get on with my life and do something else. I'm happy that other people like them, but I'm not one to go backward."
As for his future, Jackson's got a slate as open as the New Zealand outback. He was speaking in support of Mortal Engines, the futuristic cities-on-wheels blockbuster that he co-wrote and produced, which hits theaters on Friday. When the calendar turns to 2019, however, it's back to the drawing board (or writing desk) with long-time writing and producing partners Fran Walsh (who is also his wife) and Philippa Boyens.
"What we will be doing in the next six months will be doing some script work, because we have no scripts at the moment, we have no film to make," Jackson explained. "We have a few ideas, and a few options. I don't know which one [we'll work on] or whether they'll be something completely new. But most of next year will be spent with Phillipa and Fran, plowing through a screenplay of some description that I'm yet to really be sure about."
As for whether it might be the long-awaited sequel to the Tintin movie he produced for Steven Spielberg, Jackson offered a small morsel of confirmation.
"That's certainly one that's on the agenda," Jackson said, "at some point soon, yeah."