Well, this certainly is an unexpected journey for the Lord of the Rings franchise: Warner Bros. Pictures, along with Swedish video game company Embracer Group, will be bringing the intricate and richly detailed fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien back to the big screen.

During an earnings call Thursday, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav announced that a deal has been brokered to make “multiple” films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. The new Lord of the Rings films will be developed through WB’s New Line Cinema label, which produced Peter Jackson’s highly lauded Lord of the Rings film trilogy in the early 2000s, and his less extolled three-part adaptation of The Hobbit in the 2010s.

Embracer Group, through its wholly owned operative subsidiary Freemode, entered into an agreement last August to acquire Middle-earth Enterprises. As implied by its name, Middle-earth Enterprises owns a sizable chunk of Tolkien’s iconic IP, as well as the worldwide rights to motion pictures, video games, board games, merchandising, theme parks, and stage productions related to to Tolkien’s literary works — and that doesn’t just mean The Lord of the Rings trilogy or The Hobbit. Other Middle-earth-related stories authorized by the Tolkien Estate and Harper Collins that have yet to be explored on-screen are now free to be adapted by Warner Bros.

“We’re thrilled to embark on this new collaborative journey with New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures, bringing the incomparable world of J.R.R. Tolkien back to the big screen in new and exciting ways,” said Lee Guinchard, CEO of Freemode, in a statement. “We plan to honor the past, look to the future, and adhere to the strongest level of quality and production values,” Guinchard added, acknowledging how cherished the works of Tolkien are to thousands of fans across the globe.

It is still unclear which filmmakers will be attached to helm the new Lord of the Rings films, but in a statement to Variety, Jackson and his main Lord of the Rings collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens noted that they’ve been kept in the loop and that they look forward to speaking more with Warner Bros. Pictures and Embracer Group/Freemode to “hear their vision for the franchise moving forward.” In their statement announcing the acquisition of Middle-earth Enterprises last August, Embracer Group noted that they were interested in producing movies that centered on Aragorn, Arwen, Éowyn, Galladriel, Gandalf, Gollum, and other popular LOTR characters.

What The New Lord of the Rings Movies Might Be About

Some works that could get a book-to-screen adaptation include Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, which is a beloved collection of Middle-earth myths and stories, posthumously published by his late son, Christopher, the lesser-known Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, and The History of Middle-earth. The 12-book compendium, also posthumously published by Christopher, not only traces the development of Tolkien’s main works, but also greatly expands upon Middle-earth lore, diving deeper into the thousand-year war between the Elves and the evil spirit Morgoth, and his lieutenant of darkness, Sauron.

There’s also IP to be mined from the next five titles of Lord of the Rings video games that are currently in production between Embracer Group/Freemode and third-party partners, which are slated to be released in the next 24 months. First up is LOTR: Gollum, which is scheduled to launch in April 2023.

Much of Tolkien’s texts have never wound up being fully fleshed-out on-screen, either in Jackson’s two film trilogies, or Amazon Prime Video’s multimillion-dollar The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power prequel spinoff series. Due to intellectual property limitations, Amazon only has the rights to The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, the appendices, and The Hobbit.

Do We Need More Lord of the Rings?

Do hardcore “Tolkien Heads” really need more new Lord of the Rings content on the small (or big) screen? It’s hard to say, as every fan has, historically, appeared to engage with Tolkien book-to-screen adaptations in widely disparate ways.

Looking at professional critic reviews and audience scores on the Tomatometer, along with streaming numbers and box office charts, provide a muddled answer. Indeed, while The Hobbit trilogy (starring Martin Freeman as a younger Bilbo Baggins, and Benedict Cumberbatch as the greedy, sassy dragon Smaug) was received tepidly by both critics and audiences, it made beaucoup bucks at the box office, grossing nearly $3 billion worldwide — not unlike Jackson’s celebrated Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. And while several viewers of The Rings of Power were disgruntled by the lavish show’s significant boost in racial and ethnic diversity compared to past LOTR project casts, the negativity couldn’t overshadow the show’s popularity. The Rings of Power went on to become the most viewed show on Amazon Prime Video to-date.

But despite The Rings of Power’s success (and even more LOTR projects on the way like Warner Bros. Animation’s anime-style movie, The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim) these various attempts to recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle of Jackson’s first Lord of the Rings might just be fruitless. There was a magical sort of alchemy to Jackson’s adaptation that has proven impossible to replicate, even with Jackson’s own Hobbit prequels. Warner Bros. Pictures and Embracer Group/Freemode may develop the next Lord of the Rings trilogy that holds up visually and still receives widespread fanfare to this day, but the collaborators may also wind up developing another project that gets shrugged off as another unnecessary addition to the franchise.

Lord of the Rings fans will just have to hang tight and see what happens next to their precious.

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