It’s been a very long (and unexpected) journey for director Peter Jackson – who, over ten years after his first Lord of the Rings franchise installment, was brought back to direct two Hobbit movies, only to see the job expand to an entire trilogy. The filmmaker wasn’t even supposed to sit in the director’s chair for The Hobbit adaptation, stepping in to replace Guillermo del Toro when MGM’s bankruptcy disrupted the planned production schedule.

At first, moviegoers were skeptical when Warner Bros. announced that the second entry in the Hobbit film series would be split into two piecesThe Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again (now: The Battle of the Five Armies); yet, some still believe that regardless of The Hobbit‘s relatively short page length, Jackson would have needed to rush through a lot of important material – if he had been limited to only a pair of Hobbit films. Criticism of the choice resurfaced when The Desolation of Smaug released (read our review) – and audiences expressed dissatisfaction with the movie’s cliff-hanger ending. Now, with only five short months until the final Middle-earth saga entry is released, the director is reflecting on his six-entry series – promising that the last entry is well-worth the wait.

In The Hobbit press conference at San Diego Comic-Con 2014, Jackson went so far as to state that The Battle of the Five Armies is actually his favorite film of the new trilogy – promising a “thrilling” conclusion to his time in Middle-earth:

By the time we are done with this film, I think it will be the most emotional, the most tense of the three – I think it’s my favorite of the three. Seriously, it’s got a nice thrill and a pace to it. It’s something that, when you get to the end of it, it’s going to feel like the right time to hand over the future of the ring. I was always very much aware of it being a six film set. There was always a sense that one day, long after all this is over, if it’s going to exist in the world it will be as this six film series – that’s how future generations are going to think of them. It starts with The Unexpected Journey and ends with Return of the King.

Beyond just touting the upcoming entry, it’s good to hear that Jackson feels as though The Battle of the Five Armies will adequately bridge the gap between the conclusion of his Hobbit trilogy and The Fellowship of the Ring – and that the entire series will work as a single narrative (albeit one that is broken into six distinct chapters). To that end, the filmmaker also reiterated that, while many moviegoers would love to see him continue exploring Middle-earth by way of The Silmarillion (written by Tolkien and his son Christopher), it’s highly unlikely that he, or anyone in Hollywood, will get a chance to tell more Tolkien stories on the big screen.

Warner Bros. only owns the rights to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings novels – whereas the rest of the writer’s work (including The Silmarillion) remains under the control of his family. Given the frosty relationship between Hollywood and the Tolkien estate, who have publicly decried Jackson’s adaptations, it will be a very long time (if ever) that any of that material is adapted for screen.

Regardless of what may or may not be in store for the franchise in the future (Jackson even teased about someone else remaking the films within his lifetime), it’s exciting to hear that the filmmaker believes he’s brought The Hobbit storyline to a satisfying conclusion. After all, The Hobbit films have been underwhelming to some fans – smaller in scale and unable to recapture what made the original film trilogy a pop culture phenomenon.

Hopefully, Jackson isn’t exaggerating when he claims The Battle of the Five Armies is his favorite installment in the new trilogy and, of course, he makes no mention of how he’d rank the movie within the entirety of the six-part series. Still, if the director truly delivers a thrilling and emotional conclusion to The Hobbit storyline, it’s possible that, once all the dust has settled and fans can look at the entire trilogy (not to mention sexology) as a whole, they’ll find more enjoyment and value in the prequel chapters than they might have originally.

MORE: The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Comic-Con 2014 Poster

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies hits theaters on December 17th, 2014.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates on The Hobbit series as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.