A new Lord of the Rings film, The Hunt for Gollum, will hit theaters in 2026

Andy Serkis will direct and star in the first live-action LOTR film since 2014.

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy came out right around the time movie studios decided everything needed to be a big franchise that exists in perpetuity. From that perspective, it’s a little surprising that Warner Bros. Discovery hasn’t milked Tolkien’s work more than they already have. That’ll change soon, though, as the company just announced that there are two new Lord of the Rings films in the works (you can read the full press release here).

The first is tentatively titled Lord of the Rings: The Hunt for Gollum, and it’s being directed by Andy Serkis — you may remember him for his landmark performance as Gollum in Jackson’s prior movies. The fact that Serkis is on board, and working from a script by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (who co-wrote the prior Middle-earth movies along with Jackson) has me feeling a bit better about this not being simply a crass cash grab. Peter Jackson, along with Walsh and Boyens, are set to produce as well. Serkis previously served as second unit director on The Hobbit films and also directed 2022’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage.

Given the working title of the film, you won’t be surprised to learn that Serkis is also starring again as the titular Gollum. While part of me was interested to see how another actor might take on the character, Serkis so defined Gollum for the big screen that it’s almost impossible to put anyone else in the role. As for what the movie will cover, there’s no official word yet — but again, the title indicates it’ll take place between the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as Gandalf and Aragorn search Middle-earth for Gollum, trying to learn more about the ring that Bilbo and then Frodo possessed.

Given Hollywood’s insatiable thirst for Content based on Popular Franchises, it’s a little surprising something like this didn’t happen sooner. Jackson and company followed up the original trilogy of films nine years later with the bloated and overly CGI-reliant film series based on The Hobbit and corresponding events from Tolkien’s LOTR appendices. And, of course, Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series debuted in 2022. And before The Hunt for Gollum arrives, we’ll see another intriguing project: an anime-style film called The War of the Rohirrim. That movie arrives this December and covers events in Rohan a few hundred years before The Lord of the Rings.

As a massive Lord of the Rings fan, I’m both skeptical and excited by this announcement. The sad reality of the entertainment world is that projects like this are going to happen no matter what; there’s too much money wrapped up in things like Lord of the Rings to not try and extract more. But Serkis seems like an excellent choice to direct this movie, and hopefully they’ll find a tight, self-contained story that works as a standalone film. The mess that was made in the Hobbit films has me wary, but even in those movies I found plenty of things to enjoy — and this feels like a good opportunity to chart a positive course forward for more movies in Middle-earth.