The live-action film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit – a novel that precedes events in the author’s touchstone fantasy genre work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy – was once going to be a two-movie project, with Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim) calling the shots. One thing led to another, and instead the adaptation has become the second of two Peter Jackson Middle-earth cinematic trilogies, far more massive in both its scale and breadth than anyone would have originally anticipated – unnecessarily so, many will also tell you.

Anyway, the range in fans’ opinions concerning that matter aside, Jackson’s embellished telling of the story is nearly done, with the third and final Hobbit movie arriving this December. In recent weeks, there’ve been rumors that the film might be getting a different name than its previously-ordained title, which is The Hobbit: There and Back Again; while the fantasy epic will not be subtitled Into the Fire, as the rumor mill suggested, it’s now officially undergone a title change to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

Battle of the Five Armies has come up in conversations as a potential Hobbit 3 subtitle before, seeing how the eponymous battle – something Jackson and his filmmaking collaborators have been teasing for a while now – is, without a doubt, going to be the center-price of the final chapter in Jackson’s take on Bilbo Baggins’ great adventure.

The writer/director confirmed as much when he officially announced the final Hobbit installment’s title on his Facebook page. Jackson also went into detail about the reasoning behind said move, while touching on additional Hobbit-related news (like the second Hobbit film, The Desolation of Smaug, getting Jackson’s now customary “extended cut” treatment). Here is the full statement that the Oscar-winning filmmaker posted:

Inside Information…

Our journey to make The Hobbit Trilogy has been in some ways like Bilbo’s own, with hidden paths revealing their secrets to us as we’ve gone along. “There and Back Again” felt like the right name for the second of a two film telling of the quest to reclaim Erebor, when Bilbo’s arrival there, and departure, were both contained within the second film. But with three movies, it suddenly felt misplaced—after all, Bilbo has already arrived “there” in the “Desolation of Smaug”.

When we did the premiere trip late last year, I had a quiet conversation with the studio about the idea of revisiting the title. We decided to keep an open mind until a cut of the film was ready to look at. We reached that point last week, and after viewing the movie, we all agreed there is now one title that feels completely appropriate.

And so: “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” it is.

As Professor Tolkien intended, “There and Back Again” encompasses Bilbo’s entire adventure, so don’t be surprised if you see it used on a future box-set of all three movies.

Before then however, we have a film to finish, and much to share with you. It’s been a nice quiet time for us—Jabez and I happily editing away in a dark cave in Wellington—but those halcyon days are quickly coming to an end. It will soon be time to step into the light. Expect to see and hear much about The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in the coming months.

And there’s also The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Cut, which we’re in the process of finishing, with over 25 mins of new scenes, all scored with original music composed by Howard Shore.

It’ll be a fun year!

Jackson’s last Hobbit film will, no doubt, include plenty of sword-clashing, arrow-flying, action for your dollar, but there’s also a whole lot of story material that needs tying up here too; besides the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) having left his treasure-filled nest to wreak havoc on Laketown, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) has yet to actually retake the Lonely Mountain for his people. Additionally, Bard the Bowman’s (Luke Evans) quest for redemption needs closure, as does the relationship between the elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and the dwarf Kili (Aiden Turner).

Between all that and more – partly setting up developments that transpire in the Lord of the Rings films – Battle of the Five Armies needs to carve out screen-time for Bilbo (Martin Freeman), so that his story may actually be brought to a proper concluding point. For these reasons, it’s possible that the last Hobbit installment will actually feel a little less over-stuffed than its predecessors, since the focus should be more on paying-off narrative threads instead of introducing even more.

Either way, we ought to be getting an early taste of Battle of the Five Armies in the months ahead, as a teaser trailer should be arriving with one of this year’s summer blockbusters – now that an unfinished cut of the film has been put together, as Jackson also mentioned in his FB announcement. In the meantime, feel free to let us know your thoughts about the final Hobbit movie’s new title (as well as your expectations for the film in general).

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opens in U.S. theaters on December 17th, 2014.

Source: Peter Jackson