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This film, in my opinion, is, despite it's flaws (which I maintain are
*few*), an utter masterpiece and a great and glorious piece of art.
What Mr. Bakshi has done here is to create an utterly beautiful film and has shown his immense talent and versatility as a director of animated films. He does not receive 1/100th of the credit he deserves for literally saving the art of animation for an adult audience. If it were not for Mr. Bakshi, I don't believe animation would have survived the Disney onslaught. What is more, with The Lord of the Rings, he has not only created a beautiful animated film, but he has created an entirely new art form - unfortunately one that never quite made it off the ground.
Most people will complain about the use of rotoscoping in the film (the use of live action images which are used as background images and often animated over using various techniques from what appears to be small amounts of tinting to full blown animation). But I feel that the people who complain about it simply cannot accept an art form which is out of the norm. No, this is not Disney animation. No it's not live action. No, it's not "cheating" - what it is is a new, fascinating, and absolutely wonderful art form. Something so fresh, and so new that it feels completely at home in such a fantastic tale as "The Lord of the Rings". Bakshi's pioneering use of this technique brings the subtleties of Middle Earth to life is a very dark and mysterious way, in particular, the darker of Tolkien's creatures, particularly the Nazgul, are realized in a way that traditional animation or live action have not been able to accomplish.
Peter S. Beagle's screenplay (based very little, as I understand it, on an early draft by Chris Conkling) is a very loyal adaptation of Tolkien's works. Where possible he uses dialogue directly out of the novel and it feels at home in the world which Bakshi has created. There are many cuts that were made to fit the first book and 3/4 into a single 2 hour 15 minute film, but there are very few changes to the storyline. There are a few holes which it would have been nice to have filled: The reforging of Narsil, the gifts of Galadriel, the Huorns at the battle of the Hornburg, but, again, with the time limitations he had (already the longest animated feature in history), these are certainly understandable (though it makes one wonder how they could have been explained in a sequel).
Also there is the delightful (one of my favorites) score by Leonard Rosenman (who also scored Barry Lyndon and Star Trek IV (the score for which is clearly based on his LotR work)). It is bombastic and audacious and, dare I say, perfect. It stands on it's own as an orchestral triumph, but when coupled with the images of the film, it enters a whole new world of symphonic perfection. So far from the typical Hollywoodland fare that it turns many people off.
The voice actors are wonderful. Of particular note is John Hurt as Aragorn who just oozes the essence of Strider.
The character design is also wonderfully unique, though not often to everyone's taste. But remember that it is the duty of the director of an adaptation to show you what he/she imagines, not what you might have imagined, and so Aragorn is realized with a distinctive Native American feel and Boromir appears in Viking inspired garb. This is perhaps not what you imagined, but I can only applaud Mr. Bakshi for showing us what he "saw". It also might be noted that he spent a significant amount of time with Priscilla Tolkien in developing the character outfits for the film.
One farther word - the Flight to the Ford sequence, in my opinion, is one of the most subtlety beautiful sequences ever to be caught on celluloid. Bakshi is not afraid to slow down the pace for a moment, and his mastery is clearly shown by the incredible tension is able to build. Bakshi's artistic ability and Tolkien's incredible work fuse in this sequence to a glorious peak which has yet to be equaled.
The recent DVD release (2001) by Warner Brothers, is sorely lacking. While we can offer our eternal thanks that the film is finally available in widescreen format, the package is woefully short of extras. How glorious it would have been to have had a director's commentary, been able to see the 20 minutes of extra footage that were removed for the theatrical release. Another delightful addition could have been the assembled the live action footage which was later animated over. Also present in the DVD release is the utterly horrible voiceover at the end of the film which is a departure from the simple voiceover which occurred in the very final frames of the film. This version is plastered and poorly rendered right over the musical climax of the score.
Of course, the greatest tragedy of all is that the sequel was never made. We will never be able to see Bakshi's interpretation of Gondor, of Shelob, of Faramir, of the Cracks of Doom, of Eowyn's battle with the Witch King or Gandalf's confrontation with him. We will never be graced with Bakshi's image of Denethor or the Palatir or the Paths of the Dead. It is a shame beyond all shames that we will, in the end, have to accept Peter Jackson's glitz and glitter Hollywood, action film version of these later events in Tolkien's masterpiece, but, I suppose even that is better than having no cinematic version at all.
More than twenty years before Peter Jackson's visionary adaptation of
The Lord Of The Rings, there was this 1978 animated effort from
director Ralph Bakshi. An ambitious and reasonably faithful version of
the story, this has sadly been rather over-shadowed by the Jackson
trilogy. Indeed, many reviewers here on the IMDb (mainly those who saw
the newer version first) seem to be fiercely unkind to this version....
but if one applies a little common sense, and takes into consideration
the time when it was made and the technical possibilities that existed
at that time, then they will realise that this is a pretty good film.
Indeed, it was shortly after seeing this animated movie back in the
early '80s that I sought out Tolkien's book and immediately became a
lifelong fan of these richly detailed Middle Earth adventures. So, in
some respects, I owe this film a degree of acknowledgement as the film
which shaped my literary tastes forever.
Sauron, the Dark Lord of Middle Earth, forges an all-powerful ring that gives him incredible power. Following a great battle during which Sauron is defeated, the ring falls into possession of a king named Isildur . but instead of destroying it he foolishly chooses to keep it. For centuries the ring passes from hand to hand, eventually coming into the possession of a hobbit named Frodo Baggins who lives in a peace-loving community known as The Shire. Frodo learns from a wizard named Gandalf that his ring is in fact The One Ring, the very same that was forged by Sauron all those centuries ago, and that its master is once again searching for it in order to restore his dark power over the entire land. Frodo embarks on a perilous journey to protect the ring with three other hobbit companions, but every step of the way they are hunted by Sauron's ring-wraiths, the Black Riders. There follow many adventures, during which a company of nine adventurers is formed to guide the ring to the only place where it can be "unmade" Mount Doom, in the land of Mordor. The film concludes with Frodo and his best friend Sam on the borders of Mordor, closing ever nearer to their horrifying destination. Meanwhile Gandalf and the other members of the company fight off a huge army of orcs at the legendary fortress of Helm's Deep.
This version covers just over half of the original book. A second instalment was planned to bring the story to an end, but was sadly never completed. While the ending feels abrupt, it does at least end at a sensible point in the story. One has to feel a little frustration and regret that no sequel exists in which we might follow these animated heroes to their eventual goal. The animation is passable, with a nice variety of locales and characters presented in interesting detail. The music by Leonard Rosenman is suitably stirring and fits in appropriately with the epic narrative. The voice-overs are decent, too, especially John Hurt as Aragorn and Peter Woodthorpe as Gollum. On the other hand, Michael Scholes - who provides the voice for Sam - is rather campy and goofy, which is not well suited to the character. The Lord Of The Rings is a commendable attempt to visualise the staggering book on which it is based.
As an animated film from 1978, this is pretty good--generally well above
standard of the days when Disney hadn't done anything good in years (and
Tolkien cared little for Disney anyway). It gets major points for
innovative and careful camera work, applying cinematic techniques with
relative success. The much-maligned rotoscoping actually works pretty
especially with the Ringwraiths, and the opening narration. However, it is
so drastically overused--possibly as a money-saving technique--that it
detracts from the overall effect. The same technique that makes wraiths
spooky and otherworldly doesn't fare so well in the Prancing
As for the adaptation of the story, it's actually quite good. We lose little bits here and there, minor details such as the Old Forest and Tom Bombadil, the Gaffer and the Sackville-Bagginses. We compress a few characters, such as revising Legolas as one of Elrond's household and an old friend of Aragorn's, but that's a rather wise decision for film. In books you have room to include the references to the larger world of the Elves and Middle-Earth's vast history. In film, you trade that for visuals and sound that convey the same elements in a different way. Nothing critical is truly lost here, and although I have minor quibbles about some of the changes, I'm generally pretty happy with it.
If only the dratted writers had managed to remember Saruman's name--he's frequently referred to as Aruman, a decision probably made to make him more distinct from similarly-named Sauron; it took me a second viewing before I was certain I hadn't misheard it. It's also annoying that Boromir is a bloody stage viking, and irritable from the start. However, Gandalf is excellent, and most of the rest of the voicework is excellent. If only John Hurt weren't too old to play Aragorn; I love his voice.
Of course, with the film ending at the midpoint of the story, there's a vast disappointment built in. What makes it far, far worse is the altogether miserable job done by the Rankin & Bass crew on the sequel. That they were permitted to do Return of the King after butchering The Hobbit remains a huge mystery; they seem more interested in bad songs than in proper storytelling. For all its faults, this film's heart is solidly in place and it tries very hard to accomplish a nearly impossible task. I can only hope that the upcoming series of films keeps as true to its vision...
First of all, the only reason people keep bitching about this film is
because they can't stand a few parts of the true story being "altered".
Well guess what? Peter Jackson's film wasn't a perfect rendition either.
Well enough ranting. This is a very beautiful film. The backgrounds are
gorgeous and taken from well known Tolkein artists. The film covers about
half the trilogy (Fellowship of the Ring and up to the battle of Helms
in the Two Towers) and moves at a good pace.
The voice casting is top notch and the most of the characters look
I imagined they would. Samwise is a bit too ugly for my tastes, but
looks AWESOME. The film has a great score that completely supports the
movie. If you enjoy good fantasy stories but hate reading (the books are
even better) give this movie a try, keeping in mind it was made 20 odd
Also of particular note: Peter Jackson's adaption of Fellowship follows almost exactly the same strand as Ralph Bakshi's (Jackson has said many times how much he admired Bakshi's effort).
Godard once said a way to criticize a movie is to just make one, and
probably the strongest kind that could be made about Ralph Bakshi's
take on Tolkien's magnum opus the Lord of the Rings, has actually been
made by Peter Jackson. The recent trilogy, to me, aren't even total
masterpieces, but they are given enough room with each book to breath
in all the post-modern techniques crossed with classical storytelling
to make them very good, sweeping entertainments.
But as one who has not read the books, I end up now looking upon the two versions, live-action (albeit partly animated in its big visual effects way) and animated (albeit partly done with actual live action as the framework) in relation to just the basic story, not even complete faithfulness to the books. And with Bakshi's version, it's almost not fair in a way, as what we do see is really not the complete vision, not what Jackson really had (probably final cut). Robbed of Return of the King's big climactic rush of the story, and with the other two parts becoming rushed, I ended up liking it more for what it did within its limitations, though as such those same limitations make it disappointing.
What's interesting too, after seeing the Jackson films first- which I also slightly regret being that I might've reacted to this differently when I was younger and prior to five years ago- is that the basic elements of the story never get messed up with. Everything that is really needed to tell the Fellowship of the Ring story is actually pretty much intact, and if anything what was probably even more gigantic and epic in Tolkien's book is given some clarity in this section. The actors playing the parts of the hobbits and the other heroes, are more or less adequate for the parts, with a few parts standing out (John Hurt as Aragorn and William Squire as Gandalf).
The lack of extra characterization does end up making things seem a little face-value for those who've not even seen the other films or read the books and can't put them into context. But there is some level of interest always with the characters, and here there's a more old-fashioned sensibility amid the large aura of it being more. This is not a garden variety Disney adaptation- warts and all, this is a Bakshi film, with his underground animation roots colliding with the mythical world of Middle Earth.
And what Bakshi and his animation team bring to the film is one that ends up giving what is on screen, in all its abbreviated form, its hit or miss appeal. Along with being not totally complete as a film, or as stories, the form of the film is an experiment, to see if something can be entirely rotoscoped. The results end up bringing what seems now to be retro, but at the time of course was something that was a rough, crazy inspiration on the part of the filmmakers. Might it have been better with more traditional drawn animation? In some parts, yeah; it does become a little noticeable, as was also the case in Bakshi's American Pop, that the main characters move in such ways that are a little shaky, like some kind of comic-book form done in a different way. Still, there's much I admired in what was done.
The orcs, for example, I found to be really amazing in they're surreal surroundings. They're maybe the best part of the combination of the animation on top of the live-action, especially during parts where there isn't battle footage (that's really the real hit-or-miss section, as there isn't continuity from the good and bad rotoscoping), and the chiaroscuro comes through with big shapes on top of horseback. It's creepy in a good way. And the backgrounds, while also very rough and sometimes too sketchy, are beautiful with the mixtures and blasts of colors together. It's almost something for art-film buffs as much as for the ring-nuts.
So, how would I recommend this animated take on the Lord of the Rings? I don't know, to tell the truth. It's certainly a good notch above the other Tolkien animated film I've seen, the Hobbit (and I've yet to see the animated ROTK), and there is some real artistry going on. There's also some stilted dialog, an all-too-rushed Two Towers segment with the most intriguing character Gollum being reduced to maybe two scenes in all. And seeing something as fragmented like this ends up only reinforcing the completeness of the more recent films.
If you're a fan of the books contemplating checking this out, I would say it's worth a chance, even if it's one of those chances where you watch for forty minutes and then decide whether to stop it or not. As for it fitting into Bakshi's other films I've seen it's an impressive ambitious and spotty achievement, where as with Lynch's Dune it's bound to draw a dark, mordor-like line in the sand between those who hate it passionately and those who don't. I don't.
I'm fond of this film and it vexes me that so many "reviewers" rank it
below the Peter Jackson trilogy. A filmed novel is always interpretive;
in particular an animated film relies on the artist's vision and should
be judged on its own terms. Speaking as a purist, this is a finer
homage to Tolkien than the updated version. While this film has its
flaws it stays truer to the source, especially so far as the characters
In the Jackson version Tolkien's Frodo is barely recognizable: from the first scenes he is portrayed as a weakling, constantly wavering, manipulated by forces around him and never standing on his own two feet (this is physically and metaphorically true.) You wonder why fate chose this limp biscuit to carry the one ring to the Cracks of Doom. Jackson unforgivably rewrites Tolkien and robs Frodo of his finest moment when he allows Arwen to rescue him from the Ringwraiths...Bakshi's version respects the original, presenting a Frodo who demands the wraiths "Go back and trouble me no more!" Bakshi sustains Frodo's character as Tolkien conceived it. We see his decline as the weight of his burden increases. Frodo is so pivotal to Lord of the Rings you wonder why Jackson took such liberties (he does so with numerous characters)since character development propels the plot to its inevitable conclusion. Bakshi's film better explores the companionship between Legolas and Gimli in a few judicious scenes that are completely lacking in Jackson's version. Similarly we see Boromir horsing with Pippin and Merry, furthering the idea of fellowship. For my liking the camaraderie is more developed in the animated version than the live action.
Tolkien's poetry is an important ingredient in the novels and Bakshi makes tribute to this in one of my favorite scenes: when Frodo sings the "Merry Old Inn" song, minutes before stumbling into Strider. The cheery tune is chillingly juxtaposed with the darker theme music when seconds later, invisible to his friends but visible to the wraiths, Frodo is dangerously exposed. This is one of the most atmospheric portions of the film and chills me whenever I see it.
The well documented budget/time restrictions limit this film's final impact but had it been completed it may have resonated with more viewers. As it is, it's worth a look. Even its detractors admit that Peter Jackson derived much of his inspiration from this prototype.
I won't dwell on the purists' outrage over Bakshi's liberties with story
characters. For the most part, they are correct. I'm certainly not
to the filmmaker's defense, but in the context of the material's density,
animation technology of 1978, et al., this guy really took a swing at
bringing this thing to the silver screen.
Sadly, the film wasn't that good. Much of the animation was disjointed, and most of the backgrounds were crudely drawn and failed to create the correct atmosphere that one gets from reading the book. I will say, though, that I have always liked the rotoscoping, in particular that of the orcs. There is something exceedingly frightening about the way they are displayed, something today's CGI characterizations seems to miss. Bakshi used this technique in his other works as well, particularly in Wizards, which is a better, if different, film than his version of LotR. But mixing purely-drawn characters (hobbits) with those that are rotoscoped (orcs) just didn't look right here.
I must agree with some others who assert that some of the frame direction and scene selection is oddly similar to Peter Jackson's version of late. And if Jackson was influenced by at least SOME of the look of Bakshi's film, then what's the harm?
If you want to be dazzled, this version of LotR probably won't rouse you. There's many more misses than hits. But it isn't as bad as many would have you believe. If it weren't a Tolkien adaptation, I think it would be received much better.
I happened upon this movie as an 8-10 year old on a cold, dark November afternoon. I was outside playing all day, freezing, and when I came in around 4pm, I had a cup of hot cocoa and sat down in front of the TV with a blanket. I was surprised to be watching a cartoon that wasn't all happy and silly--and was in fact dark, and moralistic. It captured my imagination. I'm sure it misses the text, and is abbreviated in all the wrong places for the Tolkien purist. But it still captures the spirit of the story, the choice to carry a burden for the good of others, the consequences of selfish, rash decisions, etc. The quality of animation leaves room for complaint. But the one place where this movie clearly rises above the new films is the voice characterizations. John Hurt is great in this. If you don't like how the character is drawn, look away, and just listen to him. His voice is extraordinary. I've seen it again many, many times and it always brings me back to that time, as a kid, thirsty for some magical adventure. It's for this reason I say 'lucky', the film is nostalgic for me so I overlook its shortcomings. But between John Hurt, and Tolkien's fantasy, it still reached me, and still does.
First of all no adaptation is ever as good as the book, especially when you're dealing with master writer like Tolkien. This ADAPTATION wonderfully synthesizes Tolkien's universe with 1970s psychedelia, aesthetics, and liberal culture. Yes - the animation and background painting is sometimes a little "rough" in its technical execution but it's beautiful none the less, and very evocative in terms of giving a unique "sense of place" to each of the scenes. Beyond the absolute uniqueness in imagery is the absolutely outstanding voice acting - acting that's FAR superior to the acting in the new live action movies. And while the cell animation might not be the most "technically proficient" animation it superbly captures the expressive bodily and facial gestures of the acting while at once not forgetting to be subtle and nuanced. The background paintings vary from traditional "fantasy" motif to outright abstraction, but the transition to abstracted settings is always motivated by the narrative and contributes greatly to the themes of the film. If you're a person who has to have extensive computer rendering in a film so that everything is visualized for you then I can see how you might not like this movie but if you enjoy superior acting, transcendental imagery, and JRR Tolkien then this film is a must see.
My friend had the idea of watching the animated LOTR after seeing the
Jackson Return of The King. So I finally bought it off e-bay, thinking
from the start it was going to suck. Actually, it really wasn't as bad as
thought it would be. The animation was good for its time, they used a
method of blending live action with animation to create some interesting
effects, and the guy who did the voice for Frodo sounded somewhat like
Not the greatest adaptation of a book, but trust me, I've seen a lot worse. It skips quite a lot of things, since both Fellowship and The Two Towers are compressed into one two hour movie. Definatley worth a watch, kids might like, but still, absoutley no comparision with the Peter Jackson trilogy.
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