I'm a fan of The Lord of the Rings — the movies, not the books — and not obsessively so. I saw each of the three movies the weekend they were released, followed by the director's cuts back-to-back in a marathon session seven years ago. But the tale didn't begin with Fellowship of the Ring, and neither did the marathon: we started with Rankin's animated movie, The Hobbit, which I'd seen many times as a child. It's a fun movie and the best in an overall poor series of animated adaptations of JRR Tolkien's books.
It seems the only way we'll have the complete tale in a single medium, animated or live action, is to target the anomalous entry in the above marathon for replacement. Peter Jackson is happy to oblige beginning December 14, 2012, with the first of the two movies, the first being The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
This is not technically a prequel, as it was written before Fellowship, but it is indeed set many decades before that 2001 film. Some things remain constant, however: just as the previous trilogy is greatly enhanced by RiffTrax, so too has The Hobbit already begun attracting its satirists:
Like the literal trailer and its lyrics? You can get the song on iTunes for only 99 cents! Good grief.
I eagerly await this return to Middle-Earth and all the good humor it portends.