Back when The Rabbit Room first went live, part of our mission was to indulge in the pleasure of good and beautiful art. We launched with the understanding that there would always be plenty of sites online where readers could form a community around picking apart and criticizing what they didn’t like about certain music, books and film, but that this wouldn’t be that sort of place. Here at the Rabbit Room, we would focus our energy on the books, music, film and ideas that made us want to gather our friends, sit them down and oblige them to discover the Josh Ritters, Hurt Lockers, and Peace Like A Rivers of the world.
Another unspoken, but pretty obvious reality concerning our DNA can be summarized by slightly modifying that wonderful Buechner quote Eric Peters likes to put before us—“the story of any one of us [here at the Rabbit Room] is in some measure the story of us all—[we’re nerds of varying degrees].”
So I don’t need to draw anyone’s attention to the fact that in one year Peter Jackson is giving the world the first installment of his two film cinematic version of The Hobbit.
He just released the first trailer, and friends, it took the interweb less than two puffs of pipe-weed to start complaining about the suspected inconsistencies, apparent mangling of the book’s storyline, and unnecessary inclusions of characters who don’t belong in The Hobbit.
I presume the majority of these criticisms spring from a genuine love of Tolkien’s book and a reverence for not just the truth and beauty found in its pages, but also for the nostalgia it awakens in us. And I respect that. So it is to that love that I will direct this humble appeal.
I remember, like it was yesterday, sitting in the theater watching The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time and being struck by this thought: “I have never seen anything like this before! How in the world did what’s his name who made this film create such a realistic and dangerous world?”
I had no idea I was entering in to what would become far and away one of the best movie-going experiences of my life. I had no idea this Peter Jackson guy was about to make 90% of the movies I would see afterward so, how should I say this, average looking. I had no idea that a Hobbit could make me cry or a rising king could make me examine my own attitudes about adulthood.
Did Jackson change some things up in those first three films? He sure did. Were all those changes necessary? Probably not. I don’t know. But can anyone accuse Peter Jackson of being careless with Tolkien’s masterpiece? I think not. And can anyone say those movies are anything less than a labor of love from an exceptionally gifted filmmaker? Come on.
To me, The Lord of the Rings films are, in themselves, amazing works of art. And they are the fruit of countless hours invested by hundreds of people each working in the areas of their skill and talent. For me, Peter Jackson has more than earned the right to tell the story of The Hobbit in the way he wants to as a filmmaker.
I don’t presume to know much about what it takes to turn a book into a film—not to mention doing so more than half a century after the books were written. But I imagine that since Jackson is working in such a different format that he has to make certain adjustments to tell the story the best he can. As an artist, he has to trust his visual instincts. And I give Peter Jackson the benefit of the doubt that whatever editorial decisions he made in the first three films that deviated from the book were because he wanted to strengthen (not weaken) the cinematic version of the story he so obviously loves.
So Peter Jackson, I know you don’t need me to say this, but still I want you to know one thing: I’ve got your back. Thanks in advance for making The Hobbit, for taking your sweet time doing it, for loving Tolkien’s books so much and for being such a good steward of the story of Middle Earth.
But so help me, if you fabricate a tawdry love affair between Gandalf and Galadriel, I take back every word.
Russ Ramsey is the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church Cool Springs in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and four children. He grew up in the fields of Indiana and studied at Taylor University and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv, ThM). Russ is the author of the Retelling the Story Series (IVP, 2018) and Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017).