‘The Lord of the Rings’: why Peter Jackson changed the ending of Tolkien’s novel for his famous movie trilogy

In adapting the fantasy work into three feature films, the New Zealand filmmaker had to make decisions, including ignoring Saruman’s return to devastate the Shire down the stretch. But he himself explained it on his day.

Almost as beloved as the enormous literary work of which it is an adaptation, the trilogy The Lord of the rings directed by Peter Jackson and released between 2001 and 2003 has the honor of being one of the most applauded film versions in the history of cinema. With a budget of 281 million dollars for the three films and a total collection of 2,991 million worldwide, the famous fantasy trilogy is one of the highest grossing in history, but, in addition, the third film, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Kingwould win the Oscar for Best Picture along with 10 more awards, the eleven to which it had been nominated in that edition.

Nevertheless, not everything around The Lord of the rings it is perfect. It is well known that the result of the adaptation was not particularly well received by the son of the British fantasy author, Christopher Tolkien, who on his day, coinciding with the premiere of the first film of the trilogy of The Hobbit also directed by Jackson, revealed that he had refused to meet with the director and referred to The Lord of the rings as follows: “They trashed the book to make an action movie for 15-25 year olds”. Likewise, it is also known that the shooting of the battle of Helm’s Deep in the second film almost ruined the entire trilogy, since Jackson and the producers had some differences regarding the budget.

Regardless of the opinion of the Tolkien Estate, fans of Tolkien’s work were generally delighted with the film adaptation, although the perfect adaptation does not exist. In fact, Peter Jackson decided to do without an important chapter of the final stretch of the novel in its version for the big screen: In the extended version of The return of the King Saruman’s (Christopher Lee) death sequence occurs at the 11th minute of the film, but it wasn’t always like that. In fact, Jackson allowed himself a significant departure from JRR Tolkien’s text and would justify it later.

We differ from the books in that Saruman’s death occurs in a sequence called “The Cleansing of the Shire”, which takes place after the events of Frodo and the Ring. It’s a 70-page denouement, which for me is the possible anticlimax of the novel, and it’s not my favorite part. We decided in 1998, when writing the scripts, not to include The Cleansing of the Shire.

“We had Saruman die in Isengard, which is completely different from the book, but we wanted to get the character out of the way, and that was the easiest way to do it,” Jackson explained of his decision to combine two elements from the book.

Curiously, Saruman’s death, although filmed, did not appear in the film version of The Return of the KingY leaving the public perplexed as to the fate of the evil magician, something that Peter Jackson also justified in statements to star log: “We know that the public has seen the Ents take Isengard, that Saruman is a prisoner in the tower, and that the Battle of Helm’s Deep was won. We concluded that most people would naturally understand that Saruman was defeated. It didn’t matter if he was dead or not. So we could be directly interested in the story.”

“The scene with Saruman is seven minutes long and we had to cut [para la versión cinematográfica] an hour of film,” the director continued. “When you have a 4 hour and 15 minute film, you’re in trouble. It’s not a good way to release a movie, so it’s critical to reduce the length of the movie to something the audience can handle without a pain in the butt.”

We felt that starting ‘Return of the King’ seven minutes after Saruman’s death was wrapping up the events of ‘The Two Towers’, which made the start of the film precarious and prevented its events from being pushed forward.

According to Jackson, they realized that Saruman, who was not involved in the events that were addressed in the third film, should have disappeared in the previous film: “They got rid of Saruman and now they face the great evil.”

And that was, ultimately, how Saruman’s death was not included in the version released in theaters in 2003, although fortunately we can enjoy it in the extended version.

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‘The Lord of the Rings’: why Peter Jackson changed the ending of Tolkien’s novel for his famous movie trilogy