Warner Brothers and New Line are looking to return to Middle Earth.
During today’s quarterly earnings call, Warner Brothers Discovery chief David Zaslav stated that the studio has entered into a deal with Embracer Group, the gaming company which owns the film and television rights to J R R Tolkien’s landmark fantasy books The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, to develop more films set in the author’s iconic Middle Earth fantasy realm.
In a joint statement, Warner Brothers studio chiefs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy suggested that this new project would not be a remake of Jackson’s previous six films –
Twenty years ago, New Line took an unprecedented leap of faith to realize the incredible stories, characters and world of The Lord of the Rings on the big screen. The result was a landmark series of films that have been embraced by generations of fans. But for all the scope and detail lovingly packed into the two trilogies, the vast, complex and dazzling universe dreamed up by J.R.R. Tolkien remains largely unexplored on film. The opportunity to invite fans deeper into the cinematic world of Middle-earth is an honor, and we are excited to partner with Middle-earth Enterprises and Embracer on this adventure.
The film rights package is made up of just Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings books. Originally purchased from Tolkien by United Artists in 1968, producer Saul Zaentz acquired them from the studio in 1976. Zaentz’s The Saul Zaentz Company teamed with Warner subsidiary New Line for the Jackson films. Embracer Group purchased the rights, under the name Middle Earth Enterprises, from The Saul Zaentz Company last year.
The film rights to the books mirror the television rights that Emracer Group sold to Amazon for their Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power series that launched last fall. That series is telling a tale set thousands of years before the era of The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings centering on the creation of the evil One Ring and the war that followed.
Not included in the rights that Embracer Group controls are Tolkien’s writings that centered on the earliest parts of Middle Earth’s history as detailed in The Silmarillion, The Book of Unfinished Tales and other writings. Those rights still reside with the Tolkien estate, which has shown reluctance in relinquishing them, although they have allowed a few elements from those books to be utilized in the Amazon Rings Of Power series on a vase by case basis negotiated by the Estate and the show’s producers.
But even with these restrictions, there is still a lot of story material to be mined. In the appendices is a timeline for the history of Middle Earth, giving context to much of the past events that are eluded to and referenced in the The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. They include exploring the life of the ranger and future king Aragorn before he meets hobbit Frodo Baggins and friends in The Fellowship Of The Rings, a look at how the War of the Ring was waged in the north of Middle Earth while Frodo was traveling south to destroy the evil One Ring
While these stories would not include the fan favorite hobbit characters, they could partly involve some of the other Middle Earth characters already seen on film like elf royalty Galadriel or Thranduil or locations already familiar to audiences like the dwarvish realms of Moria or the Kingdom Under the Mountain.
Currently, Warners is in production on an animated Middle Earth feature titled The Lord Of The Rings: The War Of The Rohirrim. The film will center on Helm Hammerhand, the ninth and last king of the first line of kings in the country of Rohan in Middle Earth. Helm Hammerhand’s reign was notable for continued warring with the Dunlendings, a group of men who would ultimately align with Saruman during the War of the Ring. The conflict during Hammerhand’s time escalated to a point where the Dunlendings, along with their allies the Corsairs of Umbar and the Easterlings, would lay seige to the fortress known as the Hornberg, the same fortress that would weather a similar attack from Saurman’s orc army in Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers.
It remains to be seen if Warners tries to tread the same storytelling ground that Amazon’s Rings Of Power does, though it is doubtful that they would. It just makes better sense for the two projects chart separate courses for the areas of Tolkien’s world they wish to explore.