Ralph Bakshi's animated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's revered Middle-earth saga captures the dark mood of the books extraordinarily well. The film covers the first half of the trilogy--THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING and the earlier part of THE TWO TOWERS--as Frodo (voiced by Christopher Guard), the cousin of Bilbo Baggins from THE HOBBIT, is given the all-powerful ring sought by the evil Sauron of Mordor. So begins his adventure, as he must elude Mordor's black riders in an effort to prevent the ring from returning to its owner and thereby signaling the end of Middle-earth. Even with the mighty wizard Gandalf as his ally and faithful friends Merry, Sam, and Pippin by his side, Frodo is still up to his hobbit neck in peril. Bakshi took a big risk when deciding to direct the beloved Tolkien tale, but the resulting work effectively brings Middle-earth to the screen. Bakshi combines painted live-action footage with various styles of animation to create a very unusual collage-style texture for this film. Viewers should be warned that the story ends rather abruptly, leaving room for a sequel that was, unfortunately, never filmed. Still, for fans of fantasy, this moody, atmospheric version of the novels captures the shadowy hues of Tolkien's work in a way that is unique and worth discovering.
Leading Role 1
Leading Role 2
Leading Role 3
Additional Roles by
Anthony Daniels, Annette Crosbie
John Hurt, William Squire, Christopher Guard, Anthony Daniels, Michael Scholes
Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings is a bold, colourful, ambitious failure. Severely truncated, this two-hour version tackles only about half the story, climaxing with the battle of Helm's Deep and leaving poor Frodo and Sam still stuck on the borders of Mordor with Gollum. Allegedly, the director ran out of money and was unable to complete the project. As far as the film does go, however, it is a generally successful attempt at rendering Tolkien's landscapes of the imagination. Bakshi's animation uses a blend of conventional drawing and rotoscoped (traced) animated movements from live-action footage. The latter is at least in part a money-saving device, but it does succeed in lending some depth and a sense of otherworldly menace to the Black Riders and hordes of Orcs: Frodo's encounter at the ford of Rivendell, for example, is one of the movie's best scenes thanks to this mixture of animation techniques. Backdrops are detailed and well-conceived, and all the main characters are strongly drawn. Among a good cast, John Hurt (Aragorn) and C3PO himself, Anthony Daniels (Legolas), provide sterling voice characterisation, while Peter Woodthorpe gives what is surely the definitive Gollum (he revived his portrayal a couple of years later for BBC Radio's exhaustive 13-hour dramatisation). The film's other outstanding virtue is avant-garde composer Leonard Rosenman's magnificent score in which chaotic musical fragments gradually coalesce to produce the triumphant march theme that closes the picture. None of which makes up for the incompleteness of the movie, nor the severe abridging of the story actually filmed. Add to that some oddities--such as intermittently referring to Saruman as "Aruman"--and the final verdict must be that this is a brave yet ultimately unsatisfying work, noteworthy as the first attempt at transferring Tolkien to the big screen but one whose virtues are overshadowed by incompleteness.
Starring:Christopher Guard, William Squire, Michael Scholes, John Hurt, Simon Chandler
Directors: Ralph Bakshi
Running Time:128 min
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