May 24, 2004

One Ring to Two Rings to Rule them All

Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version of Lord of the Rings was on Cartoon Network yesterday. The Mrs. Frinklin and I watched it. We weren't planning on it, but we sort of stumbled upon it. This version is the first LoTR on screen, and its worth seeing. It does, however, definitely qualify as an admirable failure. This version compresses the first one-and-half books, then simply stops. As anyone familiar with the story would know, this compresses the events into a bit of a hyper kinetic mess. The animation itself is dated, a total psychedelic throwback. Scenery changes color when certain different characters enter, and only the main characters are totally animated. The majority of unnamed characters (various orcs, Bree villiagers and riders of rohan) are photographed and colored in to look like animated characters. The effect is jarring, especially during battle scenes. Watching Aragorn kill an orc is like looking at two different movies stapled together.
The characters are odd in places too. John Hurt voices Aragorn, and while his gravely voice lends depth to the character, his patrician accent seems out of place. Oh, and for some reason Aragorn looks disturbingly like Apache Chief. Many of the characters seem to have been victims of some unfortunate design choices. Boromir is basically a Viking. Saruman (whom the movie irritatingly refers to as "Aruman") wears red robes for some inexplicable reason. Gollum looks like the emaciated cousin of the Grinch, and Legolas (who is REALLY goofy looking) and Gimli are the same height. And if anyone can tell Frodo, Merry,and Pippen apart they have better eyes then me. Treebeard, swear to God, looks like a giant tree stump with little tufty ears.
Having said all that, the movie does work at times. While nowhere near as evocative as the current movies, it's still Lord of the Rings. The Shire is still beautifully simple. Mordor is still the creepiest place imaginable. Peter Jackson obviously saw this movie too; there are some images that are nearly identical. For instance, the scene where the Hobbits are hiding under the tree while the Black Rider sniffs for the ring look eerily alike. If you're a fan, check out this version.

Posted by Frinklin at May 24, 2004 06:07 PM
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