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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
was Jackson justified cutting out Saruman's death scene?

1924
Bree

Jun 20, 2:18am

Post #1 of 20 (4312 views)
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was Jackson justified cutting out Saruman's death scene? Can't Post

I have to say no. That's the one thing I've always hated about the theatrical release of this movie. I know he's in the extended edition, but for the actual movie that was released in theaters, there's just no reason for cutting him out. As someone who didn't read the books before reading the movies, I remember thinking several times throughout the movie, "Where the hell is Saruman?". And then when it was over, I thought, "Wait, so a throwaway line about him being locked in his tower was the last we ever hear from him?".

Incredibly stupid move by Jackson. Saruman really was the main antagonist of the first two movies. Even if Jackson felt it was out of place, we deserved closure for such a huge character. Especially since it's actually a great scene. Christopher Lee does a great job, and gets one final chance to use his booming voice to attack the heros. It's also the only time he's face to face with most of the fellowship. Its the only time he confronts Aragon, Legolas, Gimli, Merry, Pippen, and Theoden. Cutting that was the worst decision in the entire trilogy.


Silmaril
Rohan


Jun 20, 1:12pm

Post #2 of 20 (4227 views)
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Yes, a strange decision... [In reply to] Can't Post

but it does not matter now that we have the SEE.


sevilodorf
Grey Havens


Jul 4, 4:18pm

Post #3 of 20 (3984 views)
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But... [In reply to] Can't Post

Saruman on the spiky wheel of death was also a cop out. Yes, the scene was needed where they all confront him and it is made plain that he is not a threat or is taken care of.... Maybe it should just have been Wormtongue slicing his throat--- it was the end Saruman had in the book after all.

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Eruonen
Valinor


Jul 9, 4:05pm

Post #4 of 20 (3907 views)
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Well, before he fell he had a knife in his back. [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Eruonen
Valinor


Jul 9, 4:06pm

Post #5 of 20 (3907 views)
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Agree, it was not a decision I liked and poor Christopher Lee was not too happy either. [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Kelly of Water's Edge
Rohan

Jul 21, 11:29pm

Post #6 of 20 (3714 views)
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I think the biggest cut [In reply to] Can't Post

was the Scouring in general. It made two important points in the book. First, it brought home the whole reason why the four Hobbits had to join the fight in the first place, and second it showed Frodo that the others were capable of mopping up anything that got through to the Shire, allowing him the peace of mind to sail west. These things were lightly touched on, but not to the extent they would have been had the Scouring been included.

There are one or two other little scenes I would have liked to see (true of all book readers, I'm sure), but that was the big omission to me.


squire
Half-elven


Jul 22, 3:50pm

Post #7 of 20 (3700 views)
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I know what you mean about the Scouring, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

When we talked about this missing segment in the movies early on, people tended to misremember just how much of the first book is filled with scenes that bring the Shire to life, and that build the hobbits' love of their land and people before they leave on their quest. Thus the Scouring becomes a logical and necessary ending to the great epic (as Tolkien himself said he foresaw from the moment he began the book).

But the Jackson films omitted all that Shire character material as unnecessary prologue, and with that the entire Scouring became untenable in the film cycle as well. The audience (like the readership) would need to be really vested in the Shire, not just charmed by a funny party, to want to see the Shire restored by the returning heroes. We can debate Jackson & Co's choices forever, but as far as the Scouring goes, it's only one half of a pair of bookends, and having just one and not the other made no dramatic sense.



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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jul 23, 3:58am

Post #8 of 20 (3632 views)
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Tolkien himself proposed this very edit. [In reply to] Can't Post

In the late 1950s, Tolkien reviewed a proposed film treatment of The Lord of the Rings, and suggested that Gandalf simply tell Saruman that he could stay in Orthanc and rot.

Tolkien also recommended that the filmmakers skip the battle at Helm's Deep entirely.


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 23, 3:19pm

Post #9 of 20 (3528 views)
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Tolkien was not a filmmaker. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
In the late 1950s, Tolkien reviewed a proposed film treatment of The Lord of the Rings, and suggested that Gandalf simply tell Saruman that he could stay in Orthanc and rot.

Tolkien also recommended that the filmmakers skip the battle at Helm's Deep entirely.


That last statement makes me glad that Tolkien never produced any movies. The Battle of the Hornburg was arguably the action highlight of the entire film series.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


squire
Half-elven


Jul 23, 5:56pm

Post #10 of 20 (3423 views)
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Well, he certainly wasn't an Action Filmmaker [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm the first to admit how exciting Jackson's treatment of Helm's Deep was in the second film of the trilogy. But before we expel Tolkien from the critics' circle, we should remember a couple of things.

One, he was commenting on a single-film treatment, not a three-film treatment. Helm's Deep and the entire Rohan-Isengard adventure in Book III is much harder to digest if one is compressing The Lord of the Rings to a film of less than three hours' length. Tolkien himself was more aware than anyone else that the Rohan sub-plot wrote itself as he expanded his horizons in mid-composition, and that, in his initial outlines of Frodo's quest, that part of the epic did not exist any more than the numerous other expansions of his original 300-odd page sequel to The Hobbit. So it's easy to see how, as he assigned priorities to a foreshortened treatment, he might remind the filmmakers that Helm's Deep is in the end much more disposable than the siege of Minas Tirith and Frodo's journey to Mount Doom.

Secondly, and just as interestingly to me, Tolkien was not an "action" writer. Fights and wars are not the primary mode of his book. He could very easily propose a film that treated with his primary themes: history, fate, the nature of Power, free will, good v. evil, duty in the face of defeat, etc., all in the context of a secondary world of extraordinary beauty, detail, and diversity, because that's what he thought was worth filming. His strongest positive reaction to the Zimmerman project in the late 1950s was to their location work and design sketches: the look of a real Middle-earth, not the scale and intensity of the intermittent and infrequent battle scenes.

We might complain that we would never go see such a film, but then we might ask why we like just such a book. Tolkien was not a filmmaker, obviously, but to say his storytelling, thematic, and visual instincts about filming his own book were completely misplaced is to privilege Jackson's one magnificent but action-centered version over a universe of other possible, and arguably just as beautiful and powerful, approaches to putting Tolkien's book on film.



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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 23, 6:02pm

Post #11 of 20 (3401 views)
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LotR s a single film. [In reply to] Can't Post

Granted, a done-in-one adaptation of The Lord of the Rings would need to make radical cuts to the story unless it was at least six hours long (or even double that). I"m not sure that it would even be worth making.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jul 25, 6:25am

Post #12 of 20 (3282 views)
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His long letter on "the canons of narrative art" is well worth reading. [In reply to] Can't Post

He was not a filmmaker, but he was not insensitive to cinema, as for example when he noted that "the failure of poor films is often precisely in exaggeration, and in the intrusion of unwanted matter owing to not perceiving where the core of the original lies". It could just be that you and Tolkien like different sorts of films. (I would love to know what movies Tolkien had seen!)


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 25, 1:38pm

Post #13 of 20 (3258 views)
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Different films, different needs. [In reply to] Can't Post

As was noted, Tolkien was making suggestions for a proposed single-film adaptation for The Lord of the Rings that might not have run as much as two hours. That is a very different proposition from Peter Jackson's film trilogy. Even Jackson felt a need to condense some sequences and cut others altogether, though he was able to keep most of the action beats from the book.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jul 26, 12:32am

Post #14 of 20 (3201 views)
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How long would a 1950s LOTR film have been? [In reply to] Can't Post

You raise a good point there.

But many 1950s prestige pictures in all genres ran more than two hours. Scrolling through a list of the top-grossing films of the ten years preceding and following the publication of The Lord of the Rings (so no Gone With the Wind (1939)), I see many that are at least 2 hr. 30 min. And sticking just to English-language films (omitting, e.g., Seven Samurai (1954)), I quickly found these titles that ran three hours or more—curiously, all were released after Tolkien’s book appeared:

Around the World in 80 Days (1956) 183 min.
Giant (1956) 201 min.
War and Peace (1956) 208 min.
Ben-Hur (1959) 212 mins.
The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) 180 min.
The Alamo (1960) 202 min.
Exodus (1960) 208 min.
Pepe (1960) 180 min.
Spartacus (1960) 184 min.
El Cid (1961) 182 min.
Judgement at Nuremberg (1961) 186 min.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 227 min.
Cleopatra (1963) 248 min.
It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) 210 min.
The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) 188 min.
Dr. Zhivago (1965) 180 min.
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) 225 min.

So while nothing like Peter Jackson’s trilogy would have been contemplated (there were some multi-part epics in Japan then, but nothing of serious quality in the U.S.), I think it’s pretty likely that a circa 1960 film of LotR would have been pretty hefty.

(It's also interesting to me that two of these films, which both appeared in the same year, had screenplays by the same writer.)


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 26, 1:23am

Post #15 of 20 (3187 views)
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LotR at 3 hours or more. [In reply to] Can't Post

The point was that any single-film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings would have to make serious compromises unless it was absurdly long (6 hours? 12 hours?).

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


Darkstone
Immortal


Jul 27, 8:48am

Post #16 of 20 (3082 views)
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Depends on when during its run it was shown. [In reply to] Can't Post

The longest version of many of the listed films was shown in first-run roadshows, in selected cities, at premium ticket prices. The film could be cut by a reel or two for showing in secondary cities, and cut again, and so on, and so forth, until by the time the film got into general release running time could have been cut by as much as an hour. For example, the initial roadshow length of Cleopatra (1963) was 248 minutes, then was whittled down until it finished in general release at 192 minutes. Until the advent of digital restoration some films did have some edited footage restored, but it was often of inferior quality. Unfortunately for many films we only have the general release version as the edited footage was often lost or discarded.

******************************************
"The Crack of Doom is a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. A precise hit will start a chain reaction which should destroy Barad-dûr."
-The Briefing of Elrond





Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jul 28, 10:35am

Post #17 of 20 (2922 views)
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Wasn't it the experience of Cleopatra, however [In reply to] Can't Post

Which nearly bankrupted the studio which made it which stopped movies like this been made? Which does beg the question of how much money the producers would be willing to spend on such a production and how much it would have to earn to be counted a success!


Darkstone
Immortal


Jul 28, 9:04pm

Post #18 of 20 (2865 views)
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Well [In reply to] Can't Post

Cleopatra was actually the highest grossing film of 1963. Where it lost money was in insane cost over-runs because of massive incompetence by the studio. It was a sign of the internal rot that had destroyed the studio system. Studios were no longer capable of making these sort of movies in-house. So studios became corporations that financed independent producers who could.

And then came Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate (1980), but that's another story.

******************************************
"The Crack of Doom is a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. A precise hit will start a chain reaction which should destroy Barad-dûr."
-The Briefing of Elrond





Chen G.
Rivendell

Jul 29, 9:41pm

Post #19 of 20 (2629 views)
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Sixites epics [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
many 1950s prestige pictures in all genres ran more than two hours. Scrolling through a list of the top-grossing films of the ten years preceding and following the publication of The Lord of the Rings (so no Gone With the Wind (1939)), I see many that are at least 2 hr. 30 min.


Well, the late fifties through the mid sixties were the era of the epics: films which intended to draw people to the cinema with their lavishness, as a countermeasure to the rise of television.

I should say that, as a fan of the epic genre, I recently watched a lot of those old epics and I have issues with just about every single one of them. They're often cheesy, largely bland from a photographical standpoint (The Ten Commandments), occasionally unfocused (Ben Hur). Even the most modern of the lot, Lawrence of Arabia, struggles with characterization issues in its second half. Thank god The Lord of the Rings wasn't made at that time, or with its aesthetics in mind.

We fans of The Lord of the Rings really owe a huge debt of gratitude for Mel Gibson's Braveheart: it reinvented the epic genre with modern camerawork, realistic violence, and it balanced the cheesiness of the genre with a blend of a grim tone and effective interjections of humor. Jackson explicitly cited it an inspiration for his The Lord of the Rings and indeed his films have a lot more in common with that film (and maybe with Leone's revisionist Westerns) than they do with the epics of the sixties. Jackson's style of photography in particular could not be more removed from those.

Oh, and as far as running times, it should be said that those films often included an isolated overture, an intermission and entr'acte. It terms of actual screentime, most of them are about the same length as the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring.

As for the willingness and technical capabilities to make The Lord of the Rings at the time: Stanley Kubrick, hot off of his A Space Odyssey (which, at two hours and twenty minutes, is slower than the four hours of Cleopatra) was addressed with the project and said it couldn't be done.


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Jul 29, 9:48pm)


Darkstone
Immortal


Jul 30, 3:43am

Post #20 of 20 (2575 views)
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Well [In reply to] Can't Post

I recall watching a roadshow of “How the West Was Won” (1962) in Dallas that had an Overture, Intermission, Entre Act, and Walkout music. It also had a souvenir program which I unfortunately lost decades ago. I attended on a weekend because typically a roadshow feature would show twice on Wednesdays and the weekend, but show just once the on the rest of the weekdays. I also recall attending a premiere at Radio Music Hall later that year with overture, intermission, etc., plus the Rockettes did a live prologue. Live musical prologues were often put on in theaters before the film began, from the mid 1920s mostly ending in early 1950s, but the Radio Music Hall kept them until 1979. With prologue, feature, and incidental music (roadshows rarely showed trailers, cartoons, newsreels, or other shorts) a showing could last up to 4 hours.

As for LOTR being “unfilmable”, back when The Beatles were interested in starring in LOTR they asked Stanley Kubrick to direct. He turned them down saying the book was "unfilmable". The reason he gave was because it was too complex. And one would think he should know since all his films, except for the first two and 2001, were adaptations of novels. (2001 was adapted from a short story.) However, I think rather that LOTR would be unfilmable *in Kubrick’s style*. In adapting a story for film he looked for five or six dramatic “chunks”, then he strung them together with threads taken from the work. Needless to say LOTR has quite a few more dramatic “chunks” than most novels.

In contrast, David Lean had no such compunctions when The Beatles approached him. He agreed to talk about working on the film after he had completed Ryan's Daughter, but by the time he had finished the movie the deal (along with The Beatles) was dead.

******************************************
"The Crack of Doom is a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. A precise hit will start a chain reaction which should destroy Barad-dûr."
-The Briefing of Elrond




 
 

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