Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films are some of the most adored, influential and acclaimed fantasy films of all time. When they were released in the early 2000s, Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary tale became a landmark cinematic event, as they connected with audiences on a mass scale, dominated the awards circuits and became some of the highest grossing movies of the decade. They were the must-see movies of 2001, 2002 and 2003, and they still maintain a tremendous legacy even 20 years after their conclusion with The Return of the King.
That incredible reputation is even despite the trilogy of connected films based on The Hobbit, which were released a decade later and proved divisive among fans. While the Hobbit movies were not nearly as impactful or beloved as The Lord of the Rings, they were still astronomical successes at the box office, with each of them grossing over $900 million worldwide – and An Unexpected Journey crossing the billion dollar mark.
With that incredible box office performance, it was clear that building off Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies was a solid bet. Now, a decade after The Hobbit, it’s time to revisit that world once again. While The Lord of the Rings did return to screens with the Rings of Power series on Amazon Prime a few years ago, that show is a new imagining of Middle-Earth that exists in a completely disconnected world from Jackson’s films. However, Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema will be releasing The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim in Dec. 2024, marking the return to Jackson’s vision of Middle-Earth. Here’s how the new movie will revive the cinematic Lord of the Rings franchise.
A Prequel to the Lord of the Rings Films
Like the Hobbit movies, The War of the Rohirrim will be a prequel to the Lord of the Rings films. However, instead of following a known character from those original films and leading directly into them, The War of the Rohirrim will tell a story from several hundred years prior. Specifically, The War of the Rohirrim is centered on the tale of Helm Hammerhand, the ninth King of Rohan, who ruled 260 years prior to the events of The Lord of the Rings. With that, the film will be set in and entirely focused on the Kingdom of Rohan, home to the horse-riding Rohirrim whom Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf befriend and fight alongside beginning in The Two Towers.
The climactic battle of The Two Towers is the Battle of the Hornburg (also known as the Battle of Helm’s Deep), in which the little Rohirrim army that remains faces off with the legions of Uruk-hai commanded by the wizard Saruman of Isengard. The keep that the Rohirrim defend is Helm’s Deep, which takes its name from Helm Hammerhand himself.
The War of the Rohirrim will center on a war between Helm’s kingdom and the wild Dunlendings that are committed to its destruction, likely explaining why the keep was named after him in the process. The titular Rohirrim King – who will be voiced by the esteemed actor and recent Succession star, Brian Cox – is one of the most brutal characters that Tolkien created, as he was known for killing his enemies with his bare hands, hence the nickname of “Hammerhand.”
It’s unlikely that The War of the Rohirrim will directly connect to the events and story of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in any major way. The story of Helm Hammerhand is fairly self-contained, and the film will likely serve to expand the overall scope of what kinds of stories can be told within the existing Lord of the Rings film franchise. It will also broaden the way in which those stories can be told, as it will be an animated film from the Japanese studio Sola Entertainment, which is using hand-drawn animation that takes visual inspiration from traditional anime films as well as Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
A Similar Approach with Returning Cast
From what we know of The War of the Rohirrim so far, it’s clear that the film is thoroughly intended to evoke the same atmosphere of Jackson’s films. Though Jackson is not involved with the film himself, Philippa Boyens – who co-wrote both the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies with Jackson and Fran Walsh – was brought on board as a creative consultant. Additionally, Phoebe Gittins (Boyens’ daughter) co-wrote the screenplay alongside Arty Papageorgiou. The animation is also being crafted to maintain a visual continuity with Jackson’s films, which is easy to see in the handful of concept art that has been officially released online.
That’s not where the connections to Jackson’s films stop. While the voice cast for The War of the Rohirrim will largely consist of new additions to the Lord of the Rings franchise, the overall film will be narrated by the character of Éowyn, who played a key part in both The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Miranda Otto, who played the character in both films, is reprising her role in The War of the Rohirrim, joining the small club of actors who have continued to play their roles in other films after The Lord of the Rings – including Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Elijah Wood and a few more.
By framing the film with a narration from Otto’s Éowyn, The War of the Rohirrim will be clearly defined as an extension of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. The continuity between them will be thoroughly established, thereby tying The War of the Rohirrim much closer to those films than The Rings of Power.
War of the Rohirrim Is Just the Beginning
Even though The War of the Rohirrim is a self-contained one-off story that will not likely receive any sequels or spin-offs of its own, its release will still mark the beginning of a new age for Lord of the Rings movies. That is because Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema have recently expressed a renewed interest in continuing and expanding the franchise on the big screen. WB is hoping to revive the Lord of the Rings film series begun by Jackson by delving further into Tolkien’s extensive lore for new stories to be told on the big screen. In that way, the studio believes that The Lord of the Rings can be its equivalent to Star Wars, which is frequently jumping around its timeline and telling new spin-off stories.
While no new films have been announced for release after The War of the Rohirrim just yet – and the anime film was even in production before this new endeavor from Warner Bros. Discovery – that seems likely to change before the film’s release. If WB is looking to get fans excited about this new era of Lord of the Rings movies, then the studio needs to announce the development of other specific projects for fans to get excited about.
We expect that the announcement of new titles set in the expanding universe of Jackson’s films (either live-action or animated) will likely come sometime this year, as it would add to the building anticipation for The War of the Rohirrim.