The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ends with a climactic battle outside the Black Gate of Mordor, all as a distraction for Frodo and Sam to make their way to Mount Doom. During this battle, Aragorn originally faced down Sauron, with much of the footage even being shot. However, director Peter Jackson later decided to remove it from the movie.
These days, The Lord of the Rings trilogy comes with a huge amount of behind-the-scenes material, which is just as entertaining as the movies themselves. Among Peter Jackon’s numerous interviews, it’s revealed the script originally had Aragorn have a heroic moment fighting Sauron. While it does sound pretty epic, there was a reason their fight never made the final cut.
In the deleted footage, a bright light shines upon Aragorn and his army, and a ghostly figure steps out of Mordor. This figure was Annatar, an angelic form of Sauron used to deceive and seduce people. However, Aragorn sees through this deception, and Sauron becomes the hulking figure seen in the opening of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Their weapons are drawn, and these two rivals have their final showdown. Although, the fight is mostly Aragorn’s blade deflecting off of Sauron’s hulking armor.
When watching back this footage, Jackson felt that the moment took away from the true battle, which was Frodo and Sam throwing the Ring into the depths of Mount Doom. Jackson stated, “It was not what Tolkien imagined. And we realized it was actually totally demeaning to what Aragorn was doing.” Aragorn’s heroics at the moment wasn’t from a confrontation with Sauron but instead from him putting his life on the line to spare whatever time Frodo and Sam needed.
The Sauron vs. Aragorn Fight Was Replaced With CGI
The production team still wanted Aragorn to have some sort of heroic fight, so the fight footage was edited to replace Sauron with a large-armored CGI troll. Without knowing about the original plan, it’s easy to watch the scene and believe that was the original fight all along, as it fits so seamlessly into the battle. Even the shot of a bright light shining upon Aragorn and his army made it into Return of the King, except it now cuts to Sauron’s eye looking directly at Aragorn, which again fits seamlessly.
The trilogy’s dedication to sticking to the books and honoring what Tolkien originally wanted is what makes the movies so special. While there are plenty of artistic changes made to convert the huge story into a watchable movie, the core concepts are all kept the same. In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Sauron never fights Aragorn, and in fact, Sauron’s appearance is never fully described. And so forcing in a needless duel would be a disservice to the author.
While an Aragorn and Sauron fight may have been an epic moment, most fans will agree that the reasons for leaving it out are valid. Most movies typically have the final duel between the hero and villain, but that’s not what The Lord of the Rings is really about. As the real journey is two unlikely Hobbits saving the world from evil; not by strength but by their courage.