Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Lord Of The Rings: A Hunt For Gollum Movie Already Exists & You Can Watch It For Free

Editor's note: After this article's publication, "The Hunt for Gollum" was removed from YouTube for copyright infringement by Warner Brothers. Several hours later, it was available again for fans to watch.

During a recent earnings call, David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discover, provided a surprising update in the world of Middle-earth cinema. The studio had officially signed off on not one but two projects, one of which would be called "The Lord of the Rings: The Hunt for Gollum." Andy Serkis will be directing, and Peter Jackson (who has made intriguing statements about returning to the franchise in recent history) is signed on to produce the film.

The real surprise here, though, is that you can already watch a movie called "The Hunt for Gollum" — and it's free. That's right. In 2009, a fan film was made that traced the events that almost certainly will be the subject of Warner Bros.' new film. When we say "fan film," though, we aren't talking about a weekend project shot in someone's backyard with homemade costumes. This is a legit passion project, created by Independent Online Cinema and subtitled "An Independent Film Inspired by The Lord of the Rings." It is shot in high def and features a cast of talented aspiring actors. It has an official soundtrack, stunning scenery (it was filmed in various locations across the United Kingdom), and, above all, a well-demonstrated respect for Tolkien's lore. Oh, and it is 40 minutes long and has over 13 million views on YouTube.

To be clear, this is a fan film. It even opens with a disclaimer that it is a non-profit project unaffiliated with any major studio or the Tolkien Estate. There shouldn't be any conflict with the new project condoned by the Middle-earth business powers that be.

Even so, it doesn't change the fact that "Hunt for Gollum" isn't a new adaptation idea. It's been a successful and viewable experience for a decade and a half.

What is The Hunt for Gollum fan film about?

The fan-film version of "The Hunt for Gollum" takes place in the years leading up to "The Fellowship of the Ring." It opens with an obligatory narrative exposition during an overlay of epic Middle-earth landscapes before panning up to a title shot. In the 40 minutes that follow, there is some primitive CGI (remember, we're talking about a minimally funded project created 15 years ago), but it's a tasteful project and leaves most of the work to the imagination.

The story starts with Gandalf (Patrick O'Connor) and Aragorn (Adrian Webster) discussing unfinished business with Gollum, who is on the loose and looking for his Precious. Aragorn commits to hunting Gollum down before he can cause further damage and proceeds to track the wretched creature, capture him, and then carry him all the way to Mirkwood. There, Gandalf interrogates him and finds out that he has already been captured by Sauron and spilled the beans about his history with the One Ring and "Baggins."

The story largely comes directly out of "The Lord of the Rings" books, where Gandalf and Aragorn tag team telling the Council of Elrond about their hunt for Gollum and its dire consequences. In true adaptive fashion, the film makes several creative additions and adjustments. Aragorn meets a fellow ranger, confronts orcs, tussles with a Nazgûl, and has a flashback featuring Arwen. Several of these appear to be homages to Peter Jackson's trilogy, and the influence of those films is obvious throughout. Aragorn even sports a non-canonical beard — a Jacksonian feature that is not Tolkien-approved.

The big question moving forward is whether Warner Bros. can put together a movie that both traces the hunt for Gollum and actually improves on the fan film experience.

What can the new Warner Bros. movie do to make the hunt for Gollum better?

Certain improvements to the "Hunt for Gollum" blueprint provided by Independent Online Cinema are to be expected. A big-budget production backed by a major motion picture studio will have more money and resources at its disposal. CGI has also come a long way since 2009. Having Peter Jackson and Andy Serkis intimately involved also ensures a certain degree of star power and veteran Middle-earth movie-making expertise.

Obvious factors aside, though, there are some critical points that the newer version of the movie must hit on if it is going to be a success. The first is creating a high-quality story. The search for Gollum is interesting in context, but turning it into a full-length film will require filling in some gaps. The story in Tolkien's writings is brief, and it primarily involves an endless travel sequence with an annoyed Aragorn driving a miserable Gollum toward Mirkwood. Creating interesting dialogue will be a challenge — although Middle-earth alumni Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (who is already helping with WB's War of the Rohirrim anime) are also involved, which is encouraging. Still, there will need to be a significant amount of additional story added to fill out the hunt for Gollum narrative — and if we learned anything from "The Hobbit" trilogy, adding and elaborating on extracurricular storylines surrounding Tolkien's original writings is fraught with peril and can quickly attract condemnation from the Oxford professor's devoted fandom.

If Jackson, Serkis, and Company want to pull this off, they need to nail every aspect of the adaptation. Above all, they need to remain respectful of the source material and make that clear throughout every second of the movie.