When the Lord of the Rings first came out in 2003, many casual moviegoers complained at what seemed like a never-ending stream of extra endings – the screen fades to black, but just as you’re about to get up form your cinema seat, you’re subjected to yet another scene to further wrap things up.
Now I should point out that I’m the kind of person who is sad to see the credits roll even after watching all three extended editions back to back. Still, the idea that the last film “has too many endings” is completely ridiculous. This is an epic trilogy that spans multiple story-lines, and as such, it is only logical to tie up each strand.
To demonstrate what I mean, I have analysed (okay, maybe that’s going a bit far) each of the supposed additional “endings”, showing how “complete” the series would be if they had just wrapped it up there.
1) The Ring is Destroyed – This is probably the most stupid place to expect an ending. The One Ring has just been destroyed, and Frodo and Sam are stuck on a rocky outcrop surrounded by lava on the slopes of the recently-erupted Mount Doom. Fade to black.
Of course, we don’t know whether our heroes will live or die, and yet I have seen a number of people who assume that the film is over and they can take a wizz, and are shocked that the film didn’t end there. But this would be the most ludicrous ending ever.
For a series with so many rich character arcs, I find it bizarre that people would think that the film would just end, without giving so much as a thought to the other characters.
2) The Eagle Rescue – This is marginally more logical, but not by a lot. The eagles carry off Frodo and Sam from the vicinity of a spewing volcano, presumably saving them from certain death.
Yet this is still fairly ridiculous. It leaves out the rest of the characters, and is far too simple an ending for such an epic adventure movie.
3) The Roll-Call of Cheese – Given the ethereal nature of the scene, looking as if Frodo has just awoken in heaven (or Valinor), I’m not surprised that people thought this could be the end of the film. We see all the (surviving) Fellowship members, letting us know that all is well.
Yet it still leaves one glaring issue. What film are we watching? That’s right, Return of the KING. Did this really slip people’s minds. Seriously? The whole trilogy has been leading up to Aragorn becoming the new King of Gondor.
He has gone through the trilogy, being heralded as the heir to the throne of Gondor, and a massive threat to both Sauron and Saruman. In fact, the whole point of Denethor’s character was to be a stroppy teenager who wouldn’t give up the throne to him.
Yet by the end of the film, people were willing to let that slip. And let’s be honest, while we all love the whole “incredibly-powerful-dark-lord-defeated-by-a-hobbit” story-line, Aragorn’s the one we really care about. He’s rough, tough and chops off uruk-hai heads by the dozen. And his sword is way more bad-ass than Frodo’s little glow-stick.
4) The Coronation of King Elessar – Okay, it’s beginning to get a little tricky to justify this film going any further. The coronation scene wrapped up Aragorn’s peasant-to-king story arc, including his relationship with Arwen, whlie also giving the hobbits a final hurrah for their efforts in snuffing out the bad guy (although Merry and Pippin are clearly getting way more credit than deserved).
The image fades to a map of Middle Earth, which looks like it will be a kind of animated affair as part of the credits. But no.
While it wouldn’t be a bad idea to end the film there, I think it makes sense to see the hobbits return to the Shire. I mean, this is the homeland that they were fighting for in the first place. Much of the motivation for embarking on the quest is to save Hobbiton.
Frodo hasn’t been that far from home, so doesn’t understand the scale of the threat that Sauron poses. Initially, his only desire is to take the Ring outside of the Shire in order to defend his home. Thus, it is only natural that the hobbits return to see the home they have fought to save.
5) The Wedding of Sam and Rosie – This seems like a perfect ending to the series. Sam has long wanted to ask out the barmaid Rosie Cotton, and even talks of marrying her when he’s stuck on the slopes of Mount Doom with Frodo.
It seems like the last thread left in the story has come to a conclusion. Plus everyone loves a movie that ends with a wedding. We even get a hint that Pippin’s going to get it on with that weirdly attractive hobbit woman. But of course, the story goes on.
I’m not really surprised that the film didn’t end there. We kind of know that the film is bound to end on Frodo, yet the focus is not on him in this scene, so it’s hardly shocking that this wasn’t the last scene of the film.
6) Back in Bag End – This is a bit dumb, but somehow I’ve still watched the film with people who thought this was the ending. Frodo finishes writing his (and Bilbo’s) book, and we half expect to see that thing in old Disney movies where the book closes at the end of the film.
But the whole nature of this scene means that it is incomplete. Frodo literally starts by asking, “How do you pick up the threads of an old life?” stating, “There is no going back.” These are huge unanswered questions that practically beg for an additional scene for clarification.
7) The Grey Havens – Perhaps this is the most logical (and beautiful) of endings. Gandalf and Frodo depart into “The West” (which always reminds me of The Village People), and everyone cries as they see their friend leave (although come to think of it, if I were Frodo and I’d just saved all of Middle-Earth, I’d want a bigger send-off).
There is very little justification for prolonging the film any further beyond this scene. Frodo literally leaves on a boat, disappearing of into the sunset. Everything’s wrapped up.
But of course, this is Peter Jackson, who thought the Hobbit could have been just that little bit longer (roughly two movies longer). So hell, lets just have one more shot of Sam.