It sounds a little harsh, but it wouldn’t be too unfair to say that Peter Jackson’s career has failed to recapture the levels of acclaim and momentum that he enjoyed two decades ago, after his success with The Lord of the Rings had elevated him into rarefied air as one of the biggest and most recognizable directors in Hollywood.
He was on a hot streak for a while when his King Kong remake gained praise from critics and hauled in over $560 million at the box office, while he secured an Academy Award nomination after Neill Blompkamp’s District 9 made the shortlist for Best Picture, with Jackson’s name all over the marketing for the acclaimed sci-fi.
He then stepped back behind the camera for The Lovely Bones, only to see the literary drama sink at the box office and suffer from poor reviews, while you get the distinct impression that his heart was never truly in The Hobbit trilogy, and he only stepped up to direct after Guillermo del Toro dropped out just a few months before the 266-day shoot was set to begin.
Jackson’s last theatrical credit to date was as a producer on Mortal Engines, a blockbuster take on the YA novel of the same name. The filmmaker’s longtime storyboard artist Christian Rivers made his feature directorial debut on the project, with a script from The Lord of the Rings trio of Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, which is an impressive pedigree.
Unfortunately, however, Rivers proved to be out of his depth in trying to balance scale and spectacle, and Mortal Engines ended up as one of the biggest box office bombs in history, losing Universal anywhere up to $175 million. However, it’s undergone something of a resurgence on Netflix and is currently the ninth most-watched title on the platform around the world, although we’ve got the sneaking suspicion that at least some of that has to do with Bridgerton‘s Regé-Jean Page being part of the cast.