C K Dexter Haven: It’s true that including the Scouring would make the ending over long, but it’s also true that ending the movie within five minutes of the destruction of the Ring just wouldn’t work. All the signs point to the movie ending something like 20 minutes after the Ring is destroyed.
True, a very brief wrap-up would be the standard operating procedure for a conventional two hour action movie. But LOTR is none of those things – it’s a unconventional nine hour (eleven hour with the EEs) epic war movie with a not-so-happy ending.
The audience won’t mind a long ending given the sheer number of characters and how attached they’ve become to them. Indeed, given how much the audience has invested in the characters, it’s the short ending that would seem anti-climactic.
Also, you can’t turn the audience’s emotions on a dime. Going straight from “Hooray we won!” to “Oh poor Frodo!” in five minutes isn’t feasible. To end that movie that quickly, you’d have to cut the Grey Havens, which would totally change the meaning of the story.
The biggest reason the ending will go on longer than five minutes is the sheer amount of story that has to be covered, even with the Scouring removed. You need to hit the following points:
-The wedding of Aragorn and Arwen
-The wedding of Faramir and Eowyn (this may only be in the EE)
-The Fellowship saying farewell. You don’t need the lengthy process described in the book, but you need something to wrap up Legolas & Gimli.
-A brief scene of the Hobbits returning to the Shire.
-Sam getting married. We know we’ll see this because Rose was set up in FOTR.
-Frodo suffering (and perhaps finishing Bilbo’s book, though again that may be an EE thing)
-The Grey Havens (which we know for a fact is in)
Considering the overall Grey Havens sequence will be at least five minutes, you’re looking at the credits coming some 15 to 25 minutes after the Ring is destroyed.
ummm… yeahh…: The current speculation about Saruman and Wormtongue is that …
Wormtongue still kills Saruman, but at Orthanc.