Tuesday, November 19, 2013

THE LORD OF THE RINGS (1978): Burton's first film job, Led Zep, and why REMAKES aren't always the bane of films

Fantasy... beyond your imagination. 

That is the movie's tagline - and while it's not really beyond my imagination, Ralph Bakshi's TLotR has in a way exceeded my expectations. Not that I was blown away or anything but let's face it - it's an animation made in 1978, the sequel never pushed through, and I love Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy - so I was half-expecting a Disney cartoon about hobbits, dwarves, royal bloods, and wizards going tra la la la la through the woods and deep into the mountains, and I'm glad that I got more than that. Okay, I admit, the animation is at times jarring, my favorite characters look like rejects from the drawing table of a comicbook artist, and the overall color scheme a bit bland. But I did enjoy this film. Because in contrast with Jackson's drawn-out epic saga, this one is fast-paced (considering it's based from a Tolkien book) - with books one & two condensed into a 2-hour movie. 

The Fellowship of the Ring embark on a journey to destroy the One Ring and end Sauron's reign over Middle Earth
Directed by:  Ralph Bakshi (Wizards, Last Days of Coney Island)
Screenplay by:  Peter S. Beagle, Chris Conkling
Music by:  Leonard Rosenman, Paul Kont
Cinematography by:  Timothy Galfas
Running Time: 133 mins

"Tim Burton worked as an animator on this film. He was not credited, but worked as an "inbetween" artist. It was his first job on a film." (IMDb)  I just hope he didn't have a part in the creation of the hobbits, Aragorn, or Legolas. Because the first thing that I've noticed is how appallingly ugly the characters are, if not comically awkward-looking! Some sceneries and animation could be breathtaking, but the characters seem like they've been drawn 30 minutes before deadline. The hobbits look like some kind of frumpy lesbians that have been in a barfight one too many times, Saruman looks like Old Saint Nick in 50 shades of red, Aragorn (my dear sweet Aragorn!) looks like a Native American Jackie Chan with a pageboy cut, among other bland characters! And what's up with Gandalf's epileptic walk? That really made me wonder... and weirded-out. (I really need to re-read LOTR). 

Tell me, is this the Aragorn you have imagined when you've read the books?

But I do think that the Ringwraiths looked cool. And the Orcs kind of sinister.

This is one of my favorite scenes. Tense. Love the hobbits' "acting"

The rotoscope animation in this movie is not that visually pleasing, but at least it made the Orcs look scary.

Gollum (which looks like a prototype of Jackson's Gollum) at least has personality, unlike Aragorn or Legolas to name a few. He's entertaining, even endearing.  Also, Frodo is more likeable in this version - well, for me. Elijah Wood's portrayal is just a bit annoying at times. His Frodo is whiny and so gay I just wanna pluck all of his hobbit-feet hair one by one. 

On to my next point, while some scenes are beautifully-drawn, most of the time it's either very brown, too red, too dark, or, well - you get the picture. I mean, Tolkien's world (at least to my imagination and interpretation) is very rich, vivid, scenic... green. Bakshi's Middle-Earth is a tad depressing. Like a wasteland. It's just all sorts of brown, black, a bit of brownish-green etc. The battle with the Orcs is also too dark (with red hue, or blue hue), plus, the rotoscoped Orcs and the cel animated characters just don't fit well together. I do like the jarring contrast of the rotoscope & cel animation in other scenes - but not in this one). But I did like the bloodshed, it was cute. =D 

According to IMDb, Bakshi originally planned to use music by Led Zeppelin (whose several songs reference Tolkien's books, such as "Misty Mountain Hop", "Over The Hills And Far Away", "The Battle of Evermore", and "Ramble On") in the film but he was unable to get the rights. If that has pushed through, wouldn't that be awesome?! Sure, it may not be LOTR material, but it would be different - and different is good in this case, because the musical score used is just a bit generic. 

In Conclusion

To those who always argue that remakes are unnecessary and/or a disgrace to the original adaptation and source material, I say there are always exemptions to every rule. Peter Jackson's trilogy, to me, is the superior adaptation in terms of - well, everything.  But that doesn't mean we should dismiss Bakshi's adaptation. Jackson, after all, have been inspired by the original - even lifting some scenes & framing, and incorporating it with his work. Most people (that aren't film buffs) may not have even heard of Bakshi's adaptation which I think is unfair. No matter how much flak this one has gotten, it is still worth seeing. It still has some level of goodness to it. And it still should have gotten the go-signal for its sequel.

What I'm saying is, I've enjoyed watching the original. I love the mixing of cel and rotoscope animation, not because it's cinematically good, but because it transported me back to my childhood years where cartoons weren't that well-made but they're still damn fun to watch. The screenplay isn't bad. I even prefer the Frodo-Sam bromance in this one because it's more lighthearted (maybe because they're cartoons, lol). But the remake (adaptation, whatever) wins by TKO. The moment I've heard the opening narration of Bakshi's, I knew I love PJ's version better, simply because I think no one can "out-narrate" Cate Blanchett's Galadriel. 

One narrator to rule them all. That hand, hahaha 

And to remind you guys why remakes aren't always bad, just look at it this way. If Peter Jackson didn't do his own adaptation,

we would still have this,

 instead of this great work of art. ;)

Yes, I'm talking about Orlando Bloom's Legolas =P

MY RATING:  4/5 - say what you wanna say about the sucky animation, I agree, but I still like this movie.

 Which adaptation do you think is better?

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