Some ungrounded rumours about Middle-earth spinoff movies or shows have been tossed around ever since December of last year, but nothing substantial has ever come up. But, word has come out that Warner Brothers will be making a big Hobbit/Middle-earth related announcement at their Hall H panel on Saturday morning at the 2015 San-Diego Comic Con (which is not limited to DC movies). The news first broke yesterday on TheOneRing.net's weekly podcast/show, TORn Tuesdays. Jump to 23:43 in the video or read the transcript below (with added emphasis):
Justin [co-host]: Dwalinroom in the chat room says, "all of this is hypothetical here [WB making more Middle-earth films]." Well, from what we've heard, it's not hypothetical and there may be some huge Hobbit-based announcements at [the San-Diego] Comic-Con on Saturday morning. The Hall H Warner Brothers panel is not just for DC universe.
Cliff [co-host]: Affirmative nod - smiling
Justin: We are hearing rumours that there will be a major, major Middle-earth announcement at Comic-Con. We've already heard separately your [Cliff's] sources and my sources and a few other people on theonering.net that, we've all heard independatly of each other, that Warner Bros. is not done making Middle-earth films.
At first glance it seems a little fishy, I'll admit. But anyone who's been following these guys and this site know that they don't make things up out of thin air. With inside sources in the studio(s) they've broken some of the biggest headlines in the Middle-earth movie work over the past decade and a half. Cliff's source in this instance (as he later explains in the video) is in fact on the inside and broke his/her non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to spill the beans. Cliff won't reveal anything else (to protect his source), but for most of the video they talk about the Appendices in LotR so that will probably provide the main inspiration for future additions to the Middle-earth Cinematic Universe (Me-CU), as would be expected.
Such news isn't exactly surprising. With Hollywood's latest excessive trend in rebooting, sequeling, prequeling, and spin-offing every available IP in its toolbox, it's bound to happen to Middle-earth sooner or later. Whether the same production crew or Peter Jackson is to be involved or not is anyone's guess at this point until a future announcement is made (if any is truly coming). However, studios seem to like giving different directors *free* reign in their shared universes lately, so we could get to see different writers and directors play in Middle-earth.
Depending on who you ask, this comes as either exciting news or a horrifying calamity. So many purists have been appalled by Peter Jackson's treatment of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, many just simply want it to end. Yet, future films spin-offs may have an easier time winning fan approval simply because no future film can truly be based on Tolkien's works (unless the Tolkien Estate hands over the rights). It could only be labelled, "inspired by." With proper distinction and recognition that any future films would essentially be original stories set in Middle-earth based on Tolkien's extensive groundwork and notes in the Appendices they may not be held up to such careful, nerdy standards as the main hexalogy.
Personally, I think if future spin-offs are well-done (especially in the writing) and stick close to main themes and ideas found in Tolkien's stories we could be in store for exciting new journeys into the rich world of Middle-earth. To travel with Balin to reclaim Moria, sail with the Faithful from falling Numenor, defend the Shire from evil intruders with the Rangers and see other forgotten tales in Middle-earth come to life is an exciting prospect. In many ways it fulfills Tolkien's own vision for his mythology as he explained to Milton Waldman in 1951:
I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only places in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. Absurd.
For more about the future of the Middle-earth franchise I actually wrote about similar ideas earlier this year in two separate posts:
What's Next For the Middle-earth Franchise?
How Should The Silmarillion be Filmed?
What do you think about future Middle-earth films? Share your thoughts in the comments below!