Following his announcement at Comic-Con this month that he was considering splitting "The Hobbit" into three films from the originally slated two, director Peter Jackson took to Facebook Monday to confirm that the prequel to "The Lord of the Rings" will now have a third and final installment.
"It is only at the end of a shoot that you finally get the chance to sit down and have a look at the film you have made," wrote Jackson on his Facebook page. "We were really pleased with the way the story was coming together, in particular, the strength of the characters and the cast who have brought them to life. All of which gave rise to a simple question: do we take this chance to tell more of the tale? And the answer from our perspective as the filmmakers, and as fans, was an unreserved ‘yes.'
"So, without further ado and on behalf of New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Wingnut Films, and the entire cast and crew of “The Hobbit” films, I’d like to announce that two films will become three."
The first installment of the now trilogy: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" will be released on December 14 of this year and stars Martin Freeman ("Sherlock") in the titular role of Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit of Middle-earth swept into a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. Along for the ride are returning characters Gandalf (Ian McKellan) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett). The second film in the series "There and Back Again" is due December 13, 2013 with the third film now likely to arrive on screens sometime in December, 2014.
"We know how much of the story of Bilbo Baggins, the Wizard Gandalf, the Dwarves of Erebor, the rise of the Necromancer, and the Battle of Dol Guldur will remain untold if we do not take this chance," continued Jackson in his statement. "The richness of the story of 'The Hobbit,' as well as some of the related material in the appendices of 'The Lord of the Rings,' allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth. ... It has been an unexpected journey indeed, and in the words of Professor Tolkien himself, 'a tale that grew in the telling.'"
Reaction on Facebook was swift with fans divided over the decision. Comments ranged from "This is awesome news," to "You made my day," as well as "This seems extremely unnecessary" and "So lame. Anything to make an extra buck."