It goes without saying that The Lord of the Rings remains one of the best movie adaptations of all time. Despite their best efforts, few movies can live up to the original source material. Of course, books and movies have come, tell different mediums, and therefore have different rules, techniques, and abilities. So, it’s a bit difficult to compare. However, what you can say is that a movie lived up to the themes, characters, and overall tone of a book.
Few have succeeded. But Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy certainly did.
Peter was open to the various key choices used to successfully adapt JRR Tolkien’s work. And one of them is the reason why the ending of the second film, Les Deux Tours, was drastically changed …
Move after the two turns
People love The Lord of the Rings movies because they are such faithful adaptations of the original works. However, these are not direct adaptations. Things have been moved, enlarged, diminished or completely subtracted. In the case of the end of the second film, some elements have just been moved.
In the books “The Lord of the Rings” by JRR Tolkien, there are many elements that are not the same as their film adaptations. For example, Arwen’s character has a much smaller role, although she appears more in The Appendices of the novels. Nonetheless, Peter Jackson decided to give Arwen an extended role as it made more sense for the movies. The reason why the ending of The Two Towers was not taken directly from its source material is also due to cinematic reasons.
However, it must be said that the end of the book “The Two Towers” is in the movies … it’s just in Return Of The King.
The end of the book “The Two Towers” sees the battle at Helms Deep come to an end, much like the movie, but it continues after that. In fact, it takes Gandalf, Aragorn, and the crew in Isengard to take on Saruman, the big bad from the first two films. This scene was included at the start of the third movie instead, as Peter wanted to end with a cliffhanger.
In fact, the scene with Saruman in The Return of the King was not really part of the theatrical cut of the film, it was only implied. The extended edition, however, features the scene in its entirety.
But the Saruman thing wasn’t the only element of “The Two Towers” that got pushed into the third film.
Frodo, Sam and the giant spider saw the biggest change
Yes, Frodo, Sam and Gollum had their encounter with the giant spider Shelob at the end of “The Two Towers”. As any fan of the show will know, that epic streak has moved to Return of the King.
In the book, Faramir leaves Frodo, Sam, and Gollum free long before the end. They fight against the giant spider and Frodo is even stung and carried away by the orcs. The cliffhanger that leads readers to “The Return of the King” is that Sam finds out that Frodo is simply paralyzed, not dead, and in need of rescue.
The reason Peter Jackson changed the ending by moving those scenes to The King’s Return is twofold, according to the wonderful behind-the-scenes documentaries.
First, the movie was getting too long and had too many endings. Therefore, it worked much better in the next movie. More importantly, the events did not align in time with the rest of what was happening.
In a sense, Peter was even more faithful to Tolkien’s work but not including the Shelob ending in his adaptation of “The Two Towers”.
In the book, there are references to a giant battle taking place in the distance as Frodo escapes from Shelob’s nest. This battle is the Battle of Minas Tirith, which takes place in “The Return of the King” … the book and the movie. However, due to the structure of Tolkien’s chapters, the timeline is not as important as in the movies. Tolkien wrote huge portions of the story in one or two POVs, then moved on to completely different POVs that happened in parallel. Movies, of course, come and go frequently from different points of view.
In order to be true to the story Tolkien was telling, Peter had to move the Shelob sequence to Return of the King as that was what was happening at the same time as one of the centerpieces of the third installment.
Regardless, most would agree that the movies and books are independent. This is a testament to both the incredible talent of Peter Jackson, his writers and his entire directorial team and, of course, the sheer magic of JRR Tolkien’s work.
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