If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you may know that there could be a new Lord of the Rings movie on the horizon. No, not the new Lord of the Rings: War of the Rohirrim movie, but another one. First reported by Variety, the head of Warner Bros. (the production company which owns the rights to The Lord of the Rings) is keen to expand the Middle-earth cinematic universe after the previous fantasy movies have been so profitable in the past.
If the idea of that makes you shiver, it probably should. The thought of Middle-earth being trawled for every possible piece of content that can conceivably be turned into a fantasy movie or TV series isn’t a particularly nice one. With the original Lord of the Rings movies, The Hobbit trilogy, The Rings of Power, and the upcoming War of the Rohirrim, there is already enough Middle-earth entertainment media to last an Elven lifetime.
But, believe it or not, there is one aspect of Lord of the Rings that could conceivably be explored further. What’s more, it would see the return of beloved Lord of the Rings characters, without either being forced and canon-breaking, or relying on gratuitous cameos. Of course, I’m thinking about the hunt for Gollum.
The hunt for Gollum takes place between the start of Frodo’s time as a Ring-bearer, which begins on the night of Bilbo’s 111th birthday, and Gandalf’s return to the Shire 17 years later. During those 17 years, Gandalf travels across Middle-earth looking to confirm his suspicions about Bilbo’s magic ring in order to discover the truth of the danger that could be residing in the Shire. On his travels, Gandalf enlists Aragorn (who, at the time, was known as a Ranger of the North called Strider) to help him track down Gollum, believing that Gollum could share vital information about the One Ring.
In Tolkien’s story, Strider successfully captures Gollum, who himself is hunting for Bilbo to reclaim the Ring. Gollum is subsequently interrogated by Gandalf and Aragorn, confirming their worst fears.
On the face of it, it’s a small and simple bit of lore that needs no further explanation. And that’s right: it doesn’t. However, if there is to be a further Lord of the Rings adventure movie, with returning Lord of the Rings characters, this could be a suitable avenue for further exploration. Even in Tolkien’s own description of events, 17 years worth of adventures are condensed into a few pages, and there’s plenty of detail that’s left out of Gandalf’s conversation with Frodo where he relays the hunt for Gollum.
It’s in those unseen details where there’s the most potential for new stories, rather than simply rehashing old ones. The hunt for Gollum across the landscapes of Middle-earth in a time where Orcs and darkness are resurgent is practically begging to be adapted to the big screen (or, a limited series). It’s impossible to believe that neither Strider or Gandalf’s plans were perfectly smooth, and Gollum has proved himself to be an intelligent and slippery adversary.
If you want to see battles with Orcs, gorgeous scenery, and a new side to old characters, this is the way to do it. The beauty is, you can add to the established canon without contradicting it, because there’s so much that’s left unsaid by Tolkien.
And, what’s even more compelling is the fact that this type of spin-off movie has already been tested, and succeeded, before. The Star Wars movie Rogue One established how the Death Star plans were found by the Rebellion, in much the same way that an adaptation of the hunt for Gollum could add depth to how Gandalf and Strider uncovered the information about Sauron’s master ring.
This is the rare instance where there is the potential to create something that can appeal to studios, casual fans, and hardcore devotees alike. There is one more untold Middle-earth story here, buried in Tolkien’s lore, and it’s ripe for adaptation.