The Hunt for Gollum: Do we need another LOTR film?

Andy Serkis as Gollum
Andy Serkis as Gollum Copyright New Line Cinema
Copyright New Line Cinema
By Jonny Walfisz
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Andy Serkis is set to star and direct 'The Hunt for Gollum', a new Lord of the Rings film produced by Peter Jackson. But do we need to go back to the Shire?

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It’s official, Peter Jackson is returning to Middle Earth. Warner Bros Discovery announced this week that the studio is working with the director to produce a new film in the Lord of the Rings series.

The film, The Hunt for Gollum, will be directed by and star Andy Serkis, whose motion-capture performance of the pitiful hobbit-turned-monster was one of the defining features of the original trilogy.

Jackson is set to produce the Serkis vehicle and Warner Bros expects the film to be released in 2026. Warner Bros CEO David Zaslav has said that the film is in “the early stages of script development” with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens taking on the writing duties.

Jackson, Walsh and Boyens wrote the entire original Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as the Hobbit trilogy. “It is an honour and a privilege to travel back to Middle-earth with our good friend and collaborator, Andy Serkis, who has unfinished business with that stinker – Gollum!” the trio of writers said.

Serkis added in a statement: “Yesssss, Precious. The time has come once more to venture into the unknown with my dear friends, the extraordinary and incomparable guardians of Middle-earth, Peter, Fran and Philippa … it’s just all too delicious …”

This is the first time that Jackson and co have entered the world of JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth since the final instalment of the Hobbit trilogy The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was released in 2014.

It’s the result of a deal between Warner Bros and Embracer Group, a Swedish video game and media company that owns the majority of the rights around Tolkien’s original books. Embracer Group bought those rights in 2022 and then created a deal with Warner Bros in 2023 to produce multiple films around the trilogy and expanded universe media.

Warner Bros has also announced that they are producing an animated prequel project called The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim, that will star Brian Cox and Miranda Otto and is set for release by the end of 2024.

Frodo, Gollum and Sam in the original trilogy
Frodo, Gollum and Sam in the original trilogyNew Line Cinema

All of this is completely separate to the complicated rights deal Amazon made to produce its 2022 series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Amazon secured the television rights directly from the Tolkien Estate. Because Amazon only acquired the rights to the trilogy and the Hobbit, the show – which explored Middle Earth from thousands of years before the films’ plots – had to draw exclusively on the appendices of those four Tolkien books without straying into material from his extensive collection of literature about those periods.

Jackson’s original Lord of the Rings trilogy released from 2001-2003 still stands up as one of the most remarkable achievements in cinema history. He brought a previously believed unfilmable trilogy of books to the big screen and translated fans’ awe for the series to a cinematic audience.

The films were critical and commercial successes as one of the highest-grossing film series of all time, they also won 17 Academy Awards with final part The Return of the King winning 11, tying it with Ben-Hur and Titanic as the most decorated films in the awards’ history.

However, Jackson couldn’t convert that success into a second auspicious run when he adapted the prequel book The Hobbit into another trilogy between 2012-2014.

Originally meant to be directed by Guillermo del Toro who would have undoubtedly given the series a sense of his personal flair, after the Mexican filmmaker departed the project in 2010, Jackson was brought in last minute to put the films together.

Uninspired: The Rings of Power
Uninspired: The Rings of PowerAmazon

The result was a trilogy that stretched out the 300-page children’s book to a nine-plus hour running time and brought neither the breadth of scale nor the intricate flourish of the original trilogy. While they still succeeded financially, the critical response was and remains muted.

Similarly, the attempt by Amazon to bring the universe to television screens with The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power was similarly unimpressive. Despite being the most expensive TV series ever made, the slick production quality couldn’t hide drab characters and an unfocused plot.

Increasingly it seems like Jackson’s original trilogy was one of those lightning in a bottle moments. The Kiwi director pulled off a phenomenal feat to perfectly achieve his artistic vision and turn a classic of literature into an equally towering classic of cinema. If this prequel film about Gollum is able to achieve even 10% of that sublime brilliance, it will be an achievement neither Jackson nor the powerhouse of Amazon could manage on previous forays into the Shire.

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