Why the new Hobbit movie is really Peter Jackson's last visit to Middle-earth

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Dec 3, 2014, 10:52 AM EST (Updated)

We're just over two weeks away from the Dec. 17 release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Peter Jackson's final trip to Middle-earth. But is it truly the end?

Jackson has been working in the world created by J.R.R. Tolkien for the better part of 18 years, first on his now-classic The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the somewhat less classic three parts of The Hobbit -- a project he initially handed off to Guillermo del Toro to direct before getting behind the camera again himself. You would think he'd want a break from hobbits and elves and dwarves for a while, right?

Maybe. But the truth is that there is actually still quite a large amount of Middle-earth material penned by Tolkien -- including The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin (both completed by his son) and even more odds and ends in the appendices of the original books -- which could, in theory, be the basis of future films.

Ian McKellen seems to think this could be possible. He told the BBC:

"I was told by Peter, in 2001 that that was the end, that it was all over. Here we are 13 years later. So I don’t believe necessarily that this is the end of the journey."

It seems, however, that this is the end -- thanks to the Tolkien estate. Here's Peter Jackson:

"J.R.R. Tolkien sold the film rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in the 1960s. The Silmarillion wasn’t written yet. It wasn’t even written in his lifetime. It was written by him and, partly, his son finished it after his death and published it after the professor had died. So, the film rights are with them, and the estate doesn’t have any interest in discussing film rights with anybody. So that’s the situation there. They’re not as untangled as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit."

Jackson has never said whether he'd actually be up for filming any of the other Tolkien books, but the truth is that the Tolkien family has not been happy at all with his adaptation of the late professor's work -- refusing even to meet with the filmmaker -- and don't seem all too pleased with Hollywood in general, which makes the idea of more movies set in Middle-earth highly unlikely.

But ... is that kind of OK? Are six movies, containing approximately 20 hours or so of story, enough? Any studio out there knows that a return trip to the world created by Tolkien would probably be a license to print money, but perhaps it's time to let the saga rest -- at least for a little while.