To Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings the movie trilogy came out right around the time movie studios decided everything had to be a big franchise that lasted forever. From that point of view, it’s a little surprising that Warner Bros. Discovery didn’t milk Tolkien’s work any more than they already did. That’s about to change, however, as the company just announced that it has two new Lord of the Rings movies in the works (you can read the full press release here here).

The first is tentatively titled The Lord of the Rings: The Hunt for Gollum, and is directed by Andy Serkis – you may remember him for his remarkable portrayal of Gollum in previous Jackson films. The fact that Serkis is on board and working from a script by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (who co-wrote the previous Middle-earth films with Jackson) makes me feel a little better that this isn’t just a blatant rip-off of money. Peter Jackson, along with Walsh and Boyens, are also set to produce. Serkis previously served as second director on The Hobbit films and also directed the 2022 films. Venom: Let There Be Carnage.

Given the film’s working title, you won’t be surprised to learn that Serkis once again stars as the titular Gollum. While part of me was interested to see how another actor might take on the character, Serkis has so defined Gollum for the big screen that it’s almost impossible to cast anyone else in the role. As for what the film will cover, there’s no official word yet – but then again, the title suggests it’ll take place between the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings while 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 that 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 relevant events from Tolkien’s LOTR Appendices. And, of course, on Amazon The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power the series debuts in 2022. And before The Hunt for Gollum arrives, we’ll see another intriguing project: an anime-style film called War of the Rohirrim. This movie arrives this December and covers the events of Rohan several hundred years ago Lord of the Rings.

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