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Middle-earth will return to our screens again


Recently, my colleague Daniel Helen argued that more films set in Middle-earth were highly unlikely. I disagree. And here’s why.

The Lord of the Rings film series has been an astounding commercial success: with $3bn in box-office tickets and a further $3bn in merchandise, when added together with The Hobbit they have netted a combined total over $10bn. That’s $10,000,000,000. To put it into context, that’s roughly equivalent to the GDP of Mongolia. That’s a fairly good return on the $250 million investment on the original Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

Not only are we living at a time when large franchises dominate cinema – typified by the Marvel Cinematic Universe – but we are also at a time when reboots and remakes are abound. Planet of the Apes, Godzilla and Spider-man (twice) have all been rebooted in recent years whilst the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale has proven that a reboot can revitalise a series to critical and commercial acclaim. Warner Bros. – owner of New Line Cinema who holds the production rights to Tolkien’s franchises – has rebooted Superman with Man of Steel and is set to reboot Batman (again) with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Often, people somehow think that The Lord of the Rings is immune to this possibility due to The Return of the King‘s 11 Academy Awards, its high critical acclaim, and financial success. The 1957 film Ben-Hur – at the time of its release the second-highest grossing film of all time after Gone with the Wind – received 12 Oscar nominations, winning 11, and is set to be remade in a film due out next year. Let us not forget that before Jackson there had already been two radio series on the BBC and one in the USA, multiple video games, and an animated film released in 1978. Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings was already a remake: if it’s been remade once it can be remade again.

In The Hobbit, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Mockingjay and Twilight: Breaking Dawn the film studio has split up the book into multiple parts in order to extend the franchise. Not only will the success of the Tolkien film franchise mean that movie executives will look to resurrect the franchise, but also look to new intellectual property such as The Appendices or The Silmarillion (once they are become available). Born of Hope and The Hunt for Gollum prove that there is sufficient scope within The Appendices to create other films in their own right.

To a certain extent, The Silmarillion is a red herring in this debate. Regardless of whether Christopher Tolkien (or future literary executors of the Estate) sell the rights, or when the copyright expires at some distant point in the future, The Silmarillion will be made. Tolkien is a proven money-maker and although we might not see it in our lifetime movie execs will not forget the most successful film trilogy of all time – the temptation to delve into The Lord of the Rings‘s prequel’s prequel will be tantalising and irresistible. The Silmarillion could not be made as a single film, of course – that would be as ridiculously unwieldy as making a film of the Bible – but like the Bible individual stories will be dramatised. Obvious candidates for this include the story of Beren and Lúthien, The Children of Húrin, and the Fall of Gondolin. An epic live-action fantasy TV series – in the mould of Game of Thrones or The Chronicles of Narnia series on the BBC in the 1980s – would surely prove to be be an excellent vehicle for chronicling the First Age. The Silmarillion will happen but it’s just a matter of time.

There are also a variety of possibilities of how The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings could be remade. They could be turned into a Pixar-style CGI film aimed at children, they could be turned into a very adult hack’n’slash (by which I mean graphic blood and gore) or even a comedy adventure. Certainly another director would want to emphasise different elements of the stories and – particularly with The Hobbit – feel that there is scope for refashioning the format of the book (e.g. only one film). You only need to look animated films of the late 70s, the Finnish adaptation Hobitit, and the proposed adaptations by The Beatles and John Boorman to realise how many different potential adaptations exist.

When you put aside all emotion about the books and the films you realise that franchises are dominating cinema whilst remakes and reboots are increasingly common. The film industry is fundamentally a money-making business. The Lord of the Rings constitutes the highest-grossing film trilogy ever based on the best-selling and most-loved book of all time. Start counting down the days now as another Middle-earth film is only a matter of time. I can’t wait.

About the Author: Shaun Gunner

Shaun is the current Chair of The Tolkien Society. Elected in 2013, Shaun regularly speaks about adaptations of Tolkien’s works whilst passionately believing the Society needs to reach out to new audiences. In his spare time can be found in the cinema, playing video games and Lego, or on Twitter.

  • duncan2001

    There may well be new film adaptations of Tolkien’s works, and the example of a more family oriented and faithful adaptation of The Hobbit in a decade or so sounds like a good idea.

    But the idea of Lord of Rings becoming another movie comic book universe with endless spin-offs sounds pretty hellish. We’ve already got a taste in the recent Hobbit films what happens when studio money and a fan-fiction writing approach starts to dominate the adaptation ahead of respecting the qualities of the original. Chances are that any Appendices ‘inspired’ films would be trashy and shallow imitations. I hope that the Tolkien Society is more interested in promoting the literature ahead of studios’ desire to squeeze every dollar out of the rights that they can.

    • Thanks for your comments – I (and the Tolkien Society) have no agenda to promote the studios. These were just my views on a debate swirling around in Tolkien circles right now.

  • Mike Crognale

    The latest series of the Hobbit was wretched. That alone will kill any future films.

    • cool dude

      I greatly disagree
      the hobbit was only a prequel
      it doesn’t affect in my view a franchise
      the only crappy thing that they used CGI a lot and the CGI even Sucked at times
      when lotr was around they hired real people real armours and weapons
      now I see a cartoon character swing a sword
      even a PS4 has better graphics than that

  • eevileye13

    I would love a one movie, faithfully adapted Hobbit. No extra characters or love triangles, please 😉

    • Chicken McPhee

      Look into some fanedits. It exists and it’s pretty glorious. 3 hours.

      • Mark

        Can you give me a good example for a fanedit?

        • Chicken McPhee

          Prometheus: Giftbearer wasn’t too bad.
          JRR Tolkien’s Hobbit fanedit is pretty good.

          • Mark

            Thanks I’ll check them out.

          • Chicken McPhee

            By all means. Also, it may not count as a fan-edit since it’s a 1:1 fan restoration, but any of Harmy’s Star Wars Despecialized editions are VERY MUCH worth the watch.

    • Karl Pettersen

      I agree. Would like a 90 minutes 1980s style adventure film. Think Willow for the schematics and build up.

  • John Soper

    I agree 100%. Middle Earth is a great place to visit, revisit, revisit and revisit again. The possibilities are endless. I too am counting the days, until we hear an announcement, of the next Middle Earth Project.

    • Jon Targaryen

      It would be brilliant, but I don’t think the possibility of it happening is very high, considering Christopher’s view towards all the Jackson Middle Earth films. I do not understand something though – will the rights pass to Christopher’s children once he…. passes? Or what will happen?

      • John Soper

        The One Ring reported that Royd Tolkien had a cameo appearance in The Desolation of Smaug, extended edition. He appeared in the scene where Gandalf was describing the tombs where the dead were buried. So, Royd must have went to New Zealand to speak with Peter about something. I’m sure that the discussion went much better than the dwarves fared with the elves in Mirkwood.

        • Jon Targaryen

          I suppose. but it’s not like Royd is one of Christopher’s children or anything, he is a great-grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien. In other words, I don’t think, should Christopher pass, Jackson will get to create additional Middle Earth films. Right now, GoT covers that missing piece, but one day, it won’t be able to do so any longer – Middle Earth will be needed again.

        • Richard Grant

          Royd Tolkien also had a cameo in Return of the King as an Ithilien Ranger at Osgiliath. According to Peter Jackson at the time, Royd was one of the few members of the Tolkien family who was supportive of the films, and just wanted to visit the set.
          His cameo in The Hobbit was again likely because he is on good terms with Jackson and a fan of the films, rather than suggesting any potential future projects.

      • Daniel O. Danielsen

        Under UK copyright law, the copyright expires 70 years after the authors’ death. LOTR and The Hobbit will then become Public Domain in 2043 I believe, while in all likelihood Christopher Tolkien is considered an author of the Silmarillion and as such that work will only become available 70 years after HIS passing.

        • Jon Targaryen

          Thanks for answering my question. And if this law changes, would it only affect new novels, or existing ones as well?

      • Jon Targaryen

        If Christopher passes; yes, there will still be 70 years until people can freely make movies, but what if his children sell the license to Jackson, do you know what would happen?

        • Lakas Tumira™ 中国狗屎

          Is Peter Jackson immortal?

          • Jon Targaryen

            No, genius. It would help if the original comment were still there. I understand that the original comment said that there would not be another movie until at least 70 years after Christopher’s death. And, I asked whether his children could and would sell the license to Jackson. It seems that the Tolkien Estate have mixed views towards Jackson, so it may be that whoever is in the line of succession in regards to the rights would be willing to license Jackson.

          • Kobold

            They could sell the rights, but they most likely won’t. Adam Tolkien, Christopher’s youngest son, would be in charge after his father passes and he has a similar view on the movies as him.

          • jackg79

            He does now.. but just wait until he pisses off Daddy, and he wants his own Green gold to go spooge on nice lambos, houses, horses, women, casinos, piles of coke booze and other fun things in life. He WILL sell the Simillarion at some point… even if it is after dear old dad shits the bed.

    • Maxim_Uchiha

      Are you still counting?

      • John Soper

        Yes I am still counting the days Maxim… It’s a given, we will be running to the theaters and dvd stores for more Middle Earth..

        • Maxim_Uchiha

          Hahahah of course i can’t wait for the next Middle Earth project!!!

  • Great article Mr. Gunner. Yes, it truly just is a matter of time. How eager are the studio executives to continue or reboot the franchise? That’s the real question. Perhaps we’ll even find out later this year. If we don’t get some kind of new screen adaptation soon we’ll probably at least see things like special re-releases of all six Jackson films and some kind of museum/theme park in the near future.

  • Andy_M

    Topics like Sherlock Homes and Jane Eyre have been filmed so often that we’ve lost count, and I’m sure the present big screen incarnation of Sherlock isn’t going to be the last. I have no doubt that at some point in the future somebody will have a go at LotR and the Hobbit and maybe seek to redress some of Jackson’s mistakes while at the same time introducing their own and the whole debate will start over. But I think that Peter Jackson has had such a large impact that nobody will tackle this gargantuan task or attempt to measure with him for at least 15 years. Before Jackson, when you went to the artroom at Tolkien events you saw a wide vareity of interpretations of the characters. Since Jackson all Aragorn’s look somewhat like Jackson’s Aragorn and all Boromirs look somewhat like Jackson’s Boromir. Until we see that variety return and the present films gradually release their grip on our imagination, I think none will dare tread this path.

  • Matt Gutting

    I really hope they leave the Silmarillion alone. (But then again, I wish they had left the other books alone. I like the movies as movies, but not so much as adaptations of the books.) They won’t. I’m not looking forward to it.

  • Gearóid

    There should be a place for the books and films to co-exist but be independent and stand on their own. I really like the different interpretations of the books by different artists, it gives variety to the imagination, but nothing beats someone’s own personal picture of events while reading.
    I would like to see an epic animation of The Lord of The Rings, high quality not in the vein of Disney or Pixar. A T.V. Series that would do the scale and scope justice as I feel that the films decline after the first one and never got over the brownish grass in TT and ROTK, I just basically felt meh to the effort of the last one.
    Ted Nasmith inspired animation or similar artists I have always dreamed about and hope somthing like that comes to fruition.

  • Alex McLeish

    I feel the need to wash my hands after reading that.

  • Beanie’s&TopButtonTees

    Would be a long movie, potential TV series maybe, but id love to see a version that follows the exact book. Include the deathly harrows, Tom Bombadil, Sauramun and Wormtongue’s visit to the shire and how the hobbits drew them out and all the stuff left out of the movies.
    Then they can re-do the hobbit properly to tell the story, not a Peter Jackson muscle flex made up story loosely based on the book.

  • LOTR_Nerd_3791

    I’d love a Tom Bombadil movie.

    • Claude

      Absolutely. Tom Bombadil. Let’s get the Neil Gaiman team together with a Johnny Depp team and see what happens with whatever script Alan Moore presents however he presents it. It will be the capstone of Middle Earth triumphant’s arch.

  • Fogdown

    No, not LOTR, not again, not so soon. Thing is, it was as well done as it possibly could have been, given that previously the trilogy was considered unfilmable. The Hobbit, however is a disgrace, no wonder the Family are generally negative of further adaptions.
    But I believe they are making a mistake. What I think they should do is take one of the stories from the S., and go into a deal with a lesser studio, to make a single movie of it. I think that there would be no shortage of backers, and the film could be made in EXACTLY the manner that the family would be happy with. It can’t be Disney, or WB, for obvious reasons, but there are others. They could do B and L, a great love story, adventure story, and it’s got a dog in it. And a wolf.

    • Mr marshy

      What if legendary made the movie, I think that was the studio that made the dark night series


    They should just make a War of the Rings film.

  • Cheri Stalter

    I would run to the box office! I do so hope I see more of Middle Earth in my lifetime!

  • Glen Morris

    i understand that the films are not entirely true to the novels but they are immensly enjoyable in their own right and have exposed millions of adults and children to this wonderful fantasy world. why not just say p jackson has done a great job with his adaptation but if you want the pure essence of tolkien then read the books. i for one look forward to another film as it is something that my wife kids and myself enjoy watching together and explodes in my kids imagination. stop spending so much energy hating and live and let live eh?

  • Rob

    All I want to see is more more more, seen hobbit films like hundred times and lord of rings a hundred times. I love how they were done and want more. Just do it!!! It makes me imagine all the time. The best stuff I’ve ever seen. We only live once, why not just make another 10 or 20 films. Damn I want more so much and it’s frustrating waiting. Christopher please just make a deal. I respect your dad in his work, but even if you never liked them, just think how many did. Please please please. I am a proud canadian :))

    • cool dude

      tolkein isn’t Canadian he is british xD
      but I disagree on the 20 films part
      it just doesn’t feel right you know?
      we need 200 films
      now that’s better

    • Mr marshy

      There should be a middle earth tv show with the biggest budget ever, and little cgi, and the whole world watches it

  • Ramiro Teodósio

    The LoTR triology is dated on the 3rd age and The Hobbit on the end of the 2nd age, I think some people may be expecting something before that, like how did it all started, the war of wrath for example, I think it would be great, with the right person directing it of course, because most of the people that saw only the movies probably don’t understand how did it all came to be. I’m just expressing my opinion.

  • Jon Ingleson

    The adaptations so far have been utter nonsense. How about adapting those properly first?

  • Jon Ingleson

    The adaptations so far have been utter nonsense. How about adapting those properly first? Please God, no more Peter Jackson

  • heartofoshun

    I don’t want The Silmarillion unless I can write the screenplay. Too badly burned by The Hobbit.

  • Claude

    Tom Bombadil

  • Jaric Fontaine

    LOTR is a masterpiece. Yet, with so many great fantasy books out there with wonderfully built universes for us to delve into why do they keep having to rehash the same material?

    • cool dude

      they could even make atleast another story not a remade one that would be better

  • Kiwi

    OMG! One more move, lord of the rings continued of the frodo left!

  • Edson Monteiro

    LOTR should not be remade if anything filling in the gaps (story of the elves for example). The Hobbit though a great series felt rushed and missing parts are quite obvious but not yet sure of a remake. I’ve just recently finished all Tolkien books don’t understand why he separated from Peter but he should continue with his vision of middle earth. Whatever the mistakes he made I can’t see anyone following his work that has kept audiences waiting for sequels on the edge of their chair. The last 4 star wars have nothing on the originals I feel it’s for that same reason. Thank you!

    • cool dude

      I don’t want any lotr remake at all
      the movie is just too good to be remade and be good again
      maybe silmarills
      maybe all of what happened until the lotr events
      maybe what happened after the lotr events

  • Azim Esmail

    I’d love a Legolas spinoff. Maybe starting where the last Hobbit left off, with him being sent to find Aragorn.

    • spacemonk

      Yes, I’d like a single movie connecting the end of the Hobbit trilogy to the start of LotR trilogy, especially showing the turning of Saruman, etc.

  • Azim Esmail

    People need to realize that film adaptations are not meant to be exactly like the books. They’re meant to be a different telling of the same story. If it was exactly like the books, there’d be nothing to surprise us.

  • C. De Palma

    While not exactly a huge fan of The Hobbit films (there were too many additions even beyond the Appendices that made me cringe), I found them to be entertaining entry points into Middle-earth. What do I mean by “entry points”? I mean they are decent enough movies to allow someone who is unfamiliar with the world to become intrigued in such a way that they extend that curiosity to the original source.

    It’s what happened with me and The Lord of the Rings. I was more or less a stranger to Tolkien’s world, and the films just happened to spark that interest to actually read the book. (It was meant to all be one epic novel, but due to financial constraints, Tolkien was forced to publish three separate pieces).

    That interest has stirred in me a serious love for Tolkien and now I own The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings (in its intended format, all one book), Unfinished Tales, Children of Hurin, The Hobbit, and The Tolkien Reader.

    So while future adaptions may not be completely faithful, they could increase the popularity surrounding Tolkien’s mythos, thereby nudging more people toward his literature. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, in my opinion, was as faithful as it could have possibly have been. The Hobbit could have done the same, but unfortunately, Jackson became grotesquely obsessed with special effects, and seemingly showed more interest in making money rather than making a relatively honest adaptation.

    I would want a different creative team behind future installments (though Weta Workshop and Weta Digital should still have a role, but then that would be odd considering that Peter Jackson owns Weta). But I’m not against them, especially given what they could do and what they have done in exposing Tolkien’s masterful work further than ever before.

  • Anthony Ward

    make another set of prequels set before the war for the one ring. so all the lead upto the war described/shown in the first LOTR movie. Or if thats not an option a standalone aragorn film/series would be awesome. he does a lot of crap in his life that would make good cinema.

  • Gene

    A spinoff tv show …sure..Remaking LOTR? No person in their right mind will touch it. Jackson made perfection, anything else will be trash. It’s the same reason why SW epi 4-6 will never be redone. And to go through the emotional journey of the ring again just with different people? It makes no sense.

    • Planetary

      “Jackson made perfection,”

      No, he didn’t. Not even close. He got plenty of characters wrong (Merry, Pippen and Gimli as comic relief. Aragorn and Legolas as best buds, and don’t get me started on what he did to Radagast). And that’s just the top of the list of things that were “off” or just wrong. What he did get right was the imagery. And too often people mistake him getting that right with getting everything else right.

      I’d rather see the BBC do a long form mini-series more in line with the actual books, even if it means scaled down FX. I’d rather listen to the BBC’s audio version of Lord Of The Rings than watch Jackson’s version. I do enjoy Jackson’s version, but it’s not my first go to when it comes to adaptations of the material.

      • Liberals and Communists trigge

        Imagery? Pretty sure Tolkien said no plate armor allowed.

      • cool dude

        as you see
        I myself prefer merry and pippen and gimli being a comic releif
        and Aragorn and legolas being best buds
        imagine that in the movie that Aragorn and legolas look at each other in disgust and hatred
        I liked it when the elves went to help at helms deep
        its ok to change stuff
        but not too much stuff

    • GAC

      I think that the original Star Wars trilogy will be remade someday. Probably not soon since the saga has the potential to keep the story going in a way that isn’t as easy an option for the Tolkien material, but there are already younger generations who see A New Hope as being too slow, too small.

      That may be sacrilegious to those of us who adore the originals, but the film industry would love to play the same cards again and make a whole new galaxy of money. And it doesn’t have to turn out badly.

      I really like Peter Jackson’s LotR films, but the definitive document is the book and as good as the films are, there is plenty of room for a different director to make something distinct yet still worthwhile.

  • Rocco DiMartini

    I thought Peter Jackson’s movies were already children’s movies?

    • cool dude

      go back to GOT if you think being adult is watching people boning and killing each other at the same time 12yr old GOT masturbating machine
      LOTR’s got more style than your faggy “lets make a character people love then kill it” because now anyone can guess who will die right
      if lotr got a show it will be on the same level as the walking dead probably

  • John Fox

    Perhaps someone like JJ Abrams can persuade Christopher Tolkien to change his mind one day about the rights to the Silmarillion especially if he has joint production responsibility.

    • David

      Keep Abrams far away from LOTR. He will ruin it.

      • cool dude

        he recreated star wars episode iv in the force awakens basically

  • I wouldn’t mind seeing The Silmarillion first, then The Hobbit next, but named “There and Back Again” instead, then Lord of the Rings simply named that.

    Making a TV show can be very expansive. Game of Thrones would’ve honestly been better with more episodes than 10 each season. And would’ve followed the books closer due to it having enough time.

  • Will Harvey

    If New Line got the rights to the Silmarillion and made a LOTR trilogy with extensive lore never mentioned in the original books or films, it would be even better than Jackson’s.

    • cool dude

      I don’t think a remaster is a good idea for LOTR
      because the actors and the dialogue were excellent
      they wont be able to recreate it in a better way

  • Aylex

    Very clickbaity title.

  • Ben Fuller

    It is extremely unlikely there will be remakes or new middle earth movies. So much bad blood and while the movies were enjoyable Jackson but here’s them to make his idea of Lord of the rings. And while the books were to big to use everything in he changed a lot of needless things.

    The only movie I can see being adequate would be an adaption of middle earth: shadows of mordor as I don’t think that is anything to do with tolkien estate.

  • Joe Potter

    I do know that a sequal to the lord of the rings was actually started by Tolkien but abandoned because it was impossible to live upto the expectations of the hobbit and the lord of the rings. I read this awhile ago. But a prequal for the first age is a must. The story of the one rings origin and the battle that led to the death of the lord of mordor the nameless one. Such a great opportunity to dive into the world of middle earth again. I hope it will ve in my lifetime.

  • Ben Crossley

    Remake the lord of the rings.
    I would love to get the horror writer Stephen King onboard for a remake to write the horror dialogue–Stephen King could do a great job on the Balrog as a dark magician.

    Let’s get some great comedy writers onboard too, to write the comic dialouge–F**k Phillipa Boyens & Peter Jackson, they cant write for toffee. Would love to see the lord of the rings achieve it’s potential on the big screen.

  • Katie Miller

    No. Just no. I will not be watching this. The old actors and story are too close to my heart, and are exactly how I wanted them. It doesn’t need to remade, especially not by Amazon.