Film-Related & Film Reviews 2001-2003

Lord Of The Cuts

Source: Spiegel

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© New Line Productions Inc.
The theatrical cut of The Return of the King does not include some scenes which were filmed and contain important plot points. The actors of the trilogy are puzzled as to why the director of the film, Peter Jackson, has kept back more than an hour's worth of material from the cinema-going public.

Viggo Mortensen ought to be happy. He is playing the title character of a film for the first time in his career. The Return of the King bestows his character Aragorn with the most heroic moments from throughout the whole of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, the 44-year old actor who plays the heir to the throne of Gondor, Aragorn, appears to be dissatisfied with the film. "Practically half my scenes were cut from the film. Scenes which show important moments in Aragorn's development into the King of Gondor are missing from the theatrical cut of The Return of the King."

Viggo Mortensen is right about this. Aragorn is practically reduced to being a supporting character in the story due to the relentless pace of the storyline of the third part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, Viggo Mortensen can count himself lucky to have the amount of screen time that he does in comparison to Christopher Lee. Christopher Lee's character Saruman was actually intended to meet a spectacular end in a seven minute sequence in The Two Towers. Peter Jackson planned to insert this scene at the start of The Return of the King when it became clear that the pace of it would not fit into The Two Towers. However, Peter Jackson then decided to cut this scene out completely. Cinemagoers will never discover what happens to the villain of the first two films. An internet petition from Christopher Lee fans did not have any effect.

However, there is a place for the missing scenes in The Return of the King: "I believe that the extended versions of the films are more satisfying," says Viggo Mortensen. Fans prize the extended versions of the films higher than the theatrical cuts which are around thirty minutes shorter than the extended versions. Is the theatrical cut of The Return of the King, which millions have rushed to see and has garnered millions in ticket sales for cinema owners, therefore only an abbreviated version? It seems unlikely that the studio forced the director to make cuts to the theatrical version of The Return of the King after the overwhelming success of the first two films in the trilogy. Did they hold back scenes from the theatrical cut because they want to be able to increase the marketing potential of the extended version?

Peter Jackson refutes such assumptions from journalists: "The theatrical cuts of the films are the definitive versions. If I had packed more scenes into The Return of the King, it would have diluted the emotional effect. The extended versions are only aimed at fans who want to see as much material as possible."

Nonetheless the director seems to be quite openly underestimating the quality of the script. The Fellowship of the Ring was a more satisfying film in the extended version because it included additional scenes which gave the film a more balanced rhythm and which increased our understanding of the characters. In The Two Towers Peter Jackson made cuts which deprived the film of some important scenes in its theatrical version. Particularly important amongst these scenes is one in the ruins of Osgiliath where Faramir's relationship with his brother Boromir and his father Denethor is explained. "This scene is one of my favourite scenes from the second part of the trilogy," says Viggo Mortensen, "which is not even included in the theatrical cut of the film. Only having seen this scene can you understand the nature of Faramir's character and his role in the whole story."

The cuts in the third part of The Return of the King are very noticeable. Christopher Lee is not the only actor who had cuts made to his part. Those people who do not know the book will not understand why Faramir and Eowyn are suddenly exchanging loving looks at Aragorn's coronation. Yet the missing sequence has been filmed: both are brought to the Houses of Healing suffering from wounds, are healed by Aragorn, and discover their feelings for one another.

The extended cut of The Return of the King is going to answer other questions about other unclear plot points as well: What is it with the magic ball which has such a toxic attraction for Pippin? Why did Denethor go mad? Even the battle before the gates of Mordor will have a quite different emotional impact on viewers : this is because Jackson filmed a scene in which an ambassador of Sauron presents the 'allies' with the clothing of the apparently dead hobbits Frodo and Sam. From this the 'allies' assume that the ringbearer's quest has failed. The battle at the gates of Mordor then becomes a symbolic blooming of the spirit of human resistance.

Would including this scene really have "affected the dynamic of the film" as Peter Jackson supposes? Jackson, who cut these scenes from the theatrical version, seems to want to do justice to two different sensibilities here. On the one hand he is trying to be true to the essence of the story, and on the other hand he wants to film great action scenes. "I want to film battles the like of which no-one will ever have seen before" is one of his declared goals. The visual fireworks which he sets off leave even Viggo Mortensen silent: "These films are so powerful visually, that you can forgive them for leaving the missing scenes out."
Last edited: 28 March 2010 09:50:07
© Spiegel.