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Simply the Worst: Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones”

Simply the Worst: Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones"

Legend has it that the morning after he first saw the original King Kong, a young Peter Jackson bought a Super 8 camera, in front of which he could fidget his toy monsters. At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Jackson told Steven Spielberg and an audience of 6,500 dedicated fans that upon seeing Jurassic Park he immediately went out and bought a computer. It was Jackson’s first interaction with the sort of technology that would eventually compel him to adapt The Lovely Bones, a movie that so woefully misappropriates the cutting edge of digital wizardry that it’s likely to inspire young filmmakers to buy a lamp and learn shadow puppets.

Peter Jackson is certainly a gifted filmmaker of rare ambition, possessing a vision both extraordinary and generous. His unyielding belief in the gifts and potential which contemporary filmmakers are afforded by digital technology seems to confirm André Bazin’s declaration that “film is an idealistic phenomenon.” Bazin’s claim anticipated his theory that the cinema was pioneered by inventors rather than artists, men who saw the cinema as a potential means through which to capture reality as opposed to a tool for more fanciful expression. Jackson arrived on the scene some 40 years after Bazin’s death and has never assumed quite so technical an approach to his craft, but The Lovely Bones suggests that he unwittingly shares the quixotic zeal of those who first pioneered and misappropriated the medium. Yet for Jackson, reality is no longer the goal—not because he’s recognized the futility of trying to capture it, but rather because he’s convinced he should be aiming much higher. Read David Ehrlich’s entry in Reverse Shot’s “Simply the Worst” symposium.

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