NAME: THE LORD OF THE RINGS (ANIMATED)
WRITTEN BY: CHRIS CONKLING AND PETER S. BEAGLE, BASED ON THE NOVELS "THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING" AND "THE TWO TOWERS," BOTH BY J.R.R TOLKIEN
DIRECTED BY: RALPH BAKSHI
FEATURING THE VOICE TALENS OF: CHRISTOPHER GUARD, WILLIAM SQUIRE, JOHN HURT
GENRE: ANIMATED FANTASY/ADVENTURE
BOUGHT FROM: CEX
WRITTEN BY: CHRIS CONKLING AND PETER S. BEAGLE, BASED ON THE NOVELS "THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING" AND "THE TWO TOWERS," BOTH BY J.R.R TOLKIEN
DIRECTED BY: RALPH BAKSHI
FEATURING THE VOICE TALENS OF: CHRISTOPHER GUARD, WILLIAM SQUIRE, JOHN HURT
GENRE: ANIMATED FANTASY/ADVENTURE
BOUGHT FROM: CEX
Right, where were we?
Oh yeah, I was going to start of this review of a movie based on one of the greatest and most beloved novels of all time by talking about "Star Wars." Seems logical to me.
Basically, I don't like "Star Wars." Actually, that's putting it too strong. I don't dislike it, I'm just not what you'd call a "Fanboy." I think some of that may be down to the fact that the first time I watched "A New Hope," I was fourteen, in hospital with an injured back, and obviously in a fair amount of pain. I mean, it's difficult to enjoy anything when you're propped up in a hospital bed with a drip in your arm (and I really hate those things). But if I'm honest, I think it was more my age than anything else. To be a true, hardcore "Star Wars" Fanboy, you have to be introduced to it young, as in single digits. For me at that point, I think it was just too lae for me to be able to build up an emotional connection to it. It was just another science fiction movie.
Almost all the big movie and TV franchises I love, I grew up with. I proudly consider myself a "Transformers" Fanboy (and yes, before you ask, I enjoyed both live action movies, although the animated one still trumps both of them), an Indiana Jones Fanboy (and yes, before you ask, I enjoyed "Crystal Skull." Indy's a homage to the old pulp heroes, and they all eventually met aliens, so it was only a matter of time before he met aliens)(AND THEY WEREN'T EVEN REALLY ALIENS! SO SHUT UP!), a "Ghostbusters" Fanboy... shit, if I rattle them all off I'll be here all day. I like alot of things, sue me.
I also consider myself a huge "Lord of the Rings" Fanboy. I say "consider myself," because I'm sure I fail most people's definition of what it means to be a huge LotR Fanboy. I've never Cosplayed as any of the characters (and in all honestly, ost of the characters I could cosplay as wouldn't exactly be flattering anyway), for example, and don't know how to speak a word of Elvish, or any of the languages in any of the books, for that matter. But fuck all that, I love the stories, I love the characters, I love the themes of friendship, bravery and sacrifice it preaches, and yes, I love the fact that men fight monsters with swords. It's good shit, especially when you're seven years old, as I was the first time I was exposed to the world these stories took place in, picking up "The Hobbit" at a school book fair. I don't know what it was that attracted me to that book to be honest. I didn't know what a Hobbit was, and if I recall correctly, the cover was the most boring version I've ever seen for any edition. Literally all I can remember is a blue sky and maybe a hill. Thinking about it, it might have been JRR Tolkien's name that interested me. I probably thought it was weird and interesting. Either that or I thought JR from "Dallas" had written a book.
Whatever the reason, I picked it up, my parents bought it, and for several weeks after that my Dad would read it to me and my sister before we went to bed. I fell in love with it instantly. I mean, it had wizards and dragons and sword fights and little people and a ring that turned you invisible. At that age, that's all you want out of life, other than maybe a robot and a lazer gun. It was especially potent for a boy like me, who at that point had gone through life quite coddled and was begging to do something a bit exciting and dangerous. Bilbo was a small fellow who'd been thrown into danger pretty much against his will and went through almost the entire story scared to death, and I could relate to that in a strange way. I still can, some days. Once that one was dealt with, the next logical step was to movie onto what me Dad described as the sequel to "The Hobbit," "The Lord of the Rings." I've always liked sequels, and I don't know why. Maybe I have some psychological problem with things ending (ENOUGH WITH THE AMATEUR HOUR PSYCHOBABBLE). Anyway, after being initially disappointed to hear that the next story wouldn't continue to follow Bilbo, but would rather be about some geezer named Frodo that I didn't really care about, I grew excited to hear that, rather than one book, this story took up three, and they were all massive, each one dwarfing (no pun intended)(well, alright, a slight one), "The Hobbit," so I'd get all the things I liked in that book, only it'd last even longer.
You'd be right to think that, as bedtime reading goes, trying to get through the entire LotR saga was ambitious, to say the least. It was. And it was also failure. A noble failure, but a failure all the same. They were just too long, and when you add in the fact that my Dad insisted on reading a set amount of pages a night, rather than whole chapters, the fact is he'd probably still be at it now. We never got to the second book (I don't even think we finished the first one). However, all was not lost, as he managed to pick up the complete set of the radio play on audio cassette from a bootsale, and we set about listening to those instead. I've still got that set layin around somewhere, and one day I want to buy one of those machines that converts audio cassettes into MP3s, so I can put it on my iPod.
Then of course came the movies. In my house, these films were a big fucking deal. We practically counted down to the release of "The Fellowship of the Ring," and when it came out my Dad insisted on us all going to see it as a family (if you've not worked it out yet, he's a massive fan as well), which we did for the entire trilogy. I love those films, I make no bones about it. I know they're not perfect, and parts of them are easy to make fun of. Hell, I join in most of time, since alot of them are funny, if sometimes a bit obvious and childish. But they hold a special place in my heart. Here I was gonna put that they're my "Star Wars," but I don't think I can, because it's such a cheesy thing to say, and anyway, I don't think that's strictly true, just because my love for the series existed long before the films did, and, hand on heart, I can't honestly say I'd feel the same way about them if I hadn't already been exposed to their world.
And so finally we come to this, Ralph Bakshi's (he of "Fritz the Cat" and "Cool World" fame)(although I'm sure he'd like to forget that second one)(as would we all) animated take on the first two books, that I believe is the last thing "Lord of the Rings" related that I have yet to watch/read/listen to. And I've been surprisingly nervous about covering it, because like all things that bare the brand, it inspires great passion in "LotR" Fanboys. I've spoken to quite a few of them about it, and their opinion almost always goes one of two ways- they either think this version is a work of underappreciated genius that eclipses that Jackson trilogy in every way, or that it's an abomination, and everybody involved in the making of it should be ashamed of themselves. So, regardless of what I thought of this, chances are alot of people are going to violently disagree with me, and won't be shy about telling me. I was also afraid that it might be well-trodden ground at this point, as I'm not the first Internet critic to give this the once over. Most recently, The Nostalgia Critic himself put up a video comparing and contrasting this movie with the first two Jackson installments. But in the end it's pull was just too strong. I mean... it's "Lord of the Rings." I have to watch it.
Following the credits, the movie opens with some exposition, much like the modern day "Fellowship of the Ring" did. You know the drill, it talks of all the other rings, how Sauron created the Master Ring only to lose it, Gollum, Bilbo, everything. I'm not going to complain about this little bit just for existing, because the backstory for this piece is so dense and potentially confusing that you really have to set aside a small amount of time just to tell the audience all the relevent stuff they need to know. And from a scripting point of view it's a success, as I think if you showed this to a total Tolkien virgin, by the end of it they'd know enough to be able to follow the rest of the film. However, the execution here leaves something to be desired. For a start, other than a couple of instances, this entire prologue is filmed in live action, which seems a funny way to kick off an animated movie to me. Then there's the way it's filmed- all the characters are presented as silhouettes, with the background being blood red. I guess they thought this would be a bold and striking look, but really, all it looks like is a punch of blokes in silly Viking hats (and seriously, even without properly laying eyes on them, you can just tell the costumes these people were wearing were dodgy at best) fannying around in front of a spotlight, being filming through a red bedsheet.
Following this, we see Gandulf (voiced by William Squire), making is way into The Shire for Bilbo's Birthday Party, which is already taking place, with no build towards it whatsoever, which I found a little bit jarring, to be honest. Following the prologue, you sort of expect to be given a second to catch your breath and take in what you've just been told, but that's not the case, you're just thrown right into the plot. People who own the Extented Cut of Jackson's "Fellowship of the Ring" and have listened to the director and writer's commentary will know that this scene houses the only reference to the whole film that Jackson admits to making in his entire trilogy, the "Proudfoot/Proudfeet" joke. Jackson's acknowledgement of this 1978 version has always been strangely... oily. At first he apparently claimed never to have seen it, then he admitted he had, but didn't really think that much of it, then he said not only did he like it, but it was this version that inspired him to seek out the books and discover more. I don't understand why he couldn't have just said that to begin with. Maybe he wanted to avoid comparisons between his films and this one (and there are comparisons, as we'll get into later), or maybe he just didn't want to be overly associated with it, as like I said, it's loved and loathed in equel measure. Whatever the reason, it's a shame that he felt the need to either downplay and outright lie about this film's importance to begin with, because it feels ever so slightly disrespectful, both to the film and it's director..
Bilbo does his now-famous disappearing act (which I actually don't think looks any more impressive animated than it would have done in live action during this time period) and retreats to his home in order to prepare to leave The Shire for good, sealing the ring in an envelope, then craftily pocketing it, intending to take it with him. In the book I remember this scene being quite shocking, as it did a fine job of revealing just how addictive the power of the ring is, and to what an extent it's seduced Bilbo, making him lie and be combative to people he genuinely loves, just because they dare attempt to take it away from him. Here, it feels very rushed and played a bit wrong- Bilbo doesn't really seem to be addicted to it, he reacts more like a petulent child who's about to have his favourie toy taken away from him. And when Gandulf figuratively gives him a slap, he just goes, "okay," and hands him over the ring. That's it, that's all it took to break the grasp of this evil thing that has driven other souls to murder? I'm not a fool (well...), I know they had to condense two enormous books into one two hour film, and that they weren't going to be able to give some scenes the attention they deserved, but at the same time I'm not saying they should have thrown in a ten minute monologue, just have the scene go a minute longer.
Gandulf then leaves, only to return seventeen years later to inform Frodo of the ring's true origin. For some reason I really liked that, that they put an exact time period on how long Gandulf was away aquiring this information. If there's one thing the Jackson movies weren't that great at getting across, it was the movement of time. When Gandulf went away in "Fellowship," for instance, I got the impression that he'd been gone all of about a fortnight before he came back. Here, doing something as simple as having the narrator say how long he was gone goes some way to making things seem a bit more epic, in a strange way. But then there's the scene itself, which always bugged me. I couldn't put my finger on what it was the first time I watched, but as everm when it came time to watch it again to write this, I figured it out- they did the whole bit with Gandulf asking Frodo for the ring, asking if he sees any marking on it, then throwing it into the fire when he says he doesn't. This is the part in the first book and movie where the markings appear. In this version, however, this little aspect is never really brought up. They don't even look at the ring again when they Gandulf pulls it out. This really, really annoyed me. How is it possible to screw that up if you're paying even the slightest bit of attention? It's like they either just forgot about it, or resigned themselves to the fact that they were making this film for fans, and since they already knew what this scene represented, they didn't have to really flesh it out. Plus when Gandulf does the "One ring to rule them all..." speech, he does so whilst performing a dance that can be best described as flamboyant.
They the walk about the Shire talking about what they have to do, Frodo offering Gadulf the ring, which he flatly refuses, before deciding the Frodo must leave the Shire, and even though this scene is one of the most important in the film, watching it is really boring. There's no score over it, just ambient sounds, and the staging is pedestian. This would be a tedius few moments for a live action film, but for an animated one, it's almost unforgivable. Some levity is brought to proceedings when Gandulf discovers Sam- he just walks past a bush and casually plucks him out of it with one hand. Unfortunalely, the downside of this scene is that we're introduced to Sam. Sam was one of my favourite characters, both in the books and in the Jackson movies, a loyal, unwavering friend, whose courage and determination kept him by Frodo's side then entire journey. In this version, however, well, Sam has problems. That's the most delicate way I can think to put it. Most of the time he acts like a small child, either prancing around in an overexcited manner, or being unable to do anything for himself. Then there's the way he looks. I showed him to a friend and asked him how he'd describe him. He came back to me with, "inbred," and I couldn't argue. So they took one of my favourite characters in the trilogy, made him annoying, and also made it so it's uncomfortable to even look at him. Marvelous.
Gandulf then heads off to speak to Aruman ,and no, that's not a typo, throughout this entire film he's refered to as "Äruman" instead of "Saruman," apparently because the people making this were afraid audiences would get him and Sauron confused. Aruman reveals himself to be in league with Sauron, and imprisons Gandulf in his tower. I have a few issues with Saruman... Aruman... the other wizard bloke. For a start, I don't really like the voice they gave him. I've not really talked that much about the voice acting, because with a few notable exception (which I'll get to in a bit), they're quite unremarkable and plain. Aruman's voice stands out to me, although it's not for good reasons- I found it quite high-pitched and whiney. It didn't really sound like the voice I heard in my head when my Dad read it to me all thse years ago. He was powerful, intimidating... fuck it, he was Christopher Lee. There's also one really strange moment where he bellows that he's "ARUMAN OF MANY COLOOOOOOOURS!" before opening his robe (which is a pimp red colour, I'll give the dude that much), shooting a ball of light at Gandulf, which then explodes and... does nothing to him. And no I'm not making a joke about him flashing him. Grow up.
Deciding not to wait for Gandulf, Frodo and Sam set off, now joined by Merry and Pippin. I won't be talking too much about them, as they barely do anything, to the point that I couldn't even tell you which one was supposed to be which. So they're walking through the woodland, singing (well, going "la-la-la," really), dancing, someone's playing a Lute for some reason, it's all very idyllic, when Frodo hears a horse coming and suggests they all hide. Now, if Peter Jackson hadn't 'fessed up to having seen this movie, this is the point in this review that I'd be calling bullshit on that, as what happens next is almost frame-for-frame what happens in his film- the Hobbits leave the frame, it hangs empty and unmoving for a second, then one of the Black Riders ambles into shot on horseback. They even have the bit with the Hobbits hiding behind a tree root as the Rider looms over them, with Frodo trying to decide whether or not he should put the ring on. He was definitely "inspired" by this scene, and with good reason, as it's a good one, full of menace and suspense, and establishes the Black Riders as people to be feared.
Once the Black Rider leaves and the coast is clear, the Hobbits pick themselves up and, after a brief tiff based around the other three spying on Frodo, they continue on their journey, reaching an inn. It'shear that I have my first real issue with the animation. I've heard alot of Fanboys bitch about it, but I actually quite like it. It's got a fluid, life-like quality to it, no doubt due to the fact that alot of the scenes were acted out by real actors and then rotoscoped over. For the most part, it works well with the kind of story this is. With that said, this very same way of doing things also sometimes makes it feel like you're not really watching a cohesive, as certain scenes and characters look radically different to what has come before. Take this scene for example- whilst still animation, all the other people in this bar look so lifelike, that the Hobbits stand out a mile. There are other scenes later where this is a problem, and sometimes main characters are affected by it, leading to them going off-model and no looking a thing like they did in the rest of the movie. And for the second time in just under 25 minutes, I wonder why this had to be a cartoon, seeing as they obviously had actors ready to go, and in some cases even in costume.
Upstairs at the inn, The Hobbits meet a shadowy stranger who first introduces himself as Strider, before telling them his real name, Aragorn. Aragorn is one of this movie's big wins, alot of that owing to the fact that his voice is provided by John Hurt. They really couldn't have picked a better actor for this role, and he's truly giving it some wellie all the way through. The most wonderful thing Hurt brings to the table is that he's able to portray both sides of Aragorn's personality simultaniously, being bith kingly and dignified, but also intimidating and take-no-bullshit. I have literally nothing to complain about here. Aragorn rules. Together, they all allude the Black Riders with the old "sacks under the covers" trick, and continue on their way, the Riders in hot pursuit. The filmmakers do a really good job of building up the sense of foreboding. You just know at some point, the Black Riders are going to catch up to them, and when they do, all hell's going to break out.
And catch up with them they do, as they're all gathered round the fire listening to Aragorn tell a love story (the end of which causes Sam to put his hand on Frodo's shoulder as they gave into each others eyes longingly). Now, I hadn't noticed this until the Nostalgia Critic mentioned it in his review, but looking bacd needingk on it now, he made a dame good point- the Frodo in this movie is ever so slightly tougher than the one in the modern films. During this scene in the recent retelling, Frodo's pretty much useless- he drops his sword, falls over, puts on the ring to hide and then ends up getting stabbed anyway. Here, yes, he still puts the ring on, but when it's obvious to him that the Riders can still see him, he pulls his sword and attempts to combat them. He still gets stabbed, but he didn't just lay there and take it. And then, instead of giving into the sickness and having to be practically dragged across the river like a corpse, he gets there under his own power, taunting the Black Riders as he does so.
Frodo finally succumbs to the sickness his dagger wound cast upon him, and the Riders slowly close in around him, before they're unceremoniously flushed way by a massive horse-shaped wave, the result of Elrond and Gandulf's magic (Gandulf boastfully claiming later that he added the horse made me laugh). When he awakes, he's in Elrond's house, and following his reunion with Gandulf (who explains that he was saved from Aruman's tower by a giant eagle)(just go with it) and, briefly, Bilbo (who reacts to being in the ring's presence again by flapping his hands about like he just burnt them on the oven), he attends a meeting to decide what's to be done about the ring. And for the third time watching this movie, I ask, why is this a cartoon? It's men sitting around a table! I mean, fuck a movie, there's nothing going on here that couldn't be done during a fairly low budget stage play. Anyway, Frodo agrees to take the ring to Mount Doom in Mordor to destroy it, and The Fellowship of the Ring is born, as he and his friends are joined by Legolas (and elf), Gimli (a dwarf) and Boromir (a bastard).
Their journey is thwarted by snow, forcing them to take an alternate route through the Misty Mountains via Moria, the ancient Dwarf kingdom. They wait around, waiting for Gandulf to figure out how to open the door leading to it, and tere's lots of talking and... Christ, alot of this story is boring when you're just watching it as opposed to reading it, isn't it? It's just people talking and nothing happening, which is all very good on the written page, but doesn't lend itself to be very compelling when you're watching it being acted out. It was a nice change of pace when a tentacle appeared from out of the nearby water and starts attacking them, but it's dealt with far too swiftly. But fear not, as Moria now finds itself completely overrun by Orcs. I know what you're thinking, you're thinking, "YAAAAAAY! THE ORCS ARE FINALLY HERE!" I can understand why you'd be excited, because seeing as this is an animated feature, they could very easily look as hideous as they're described in the books. Sadly, once again, this movie is undone by its own ambition, as the Orcs are represented by real people who arn't so much rotoscoped over, but rather have some kind of effect added to them that almost makes them look like they're made out of newspaper. I feel like grabbing the animators in charge of this and shaking them, all the while screaming, "YOU'RE ALLOWED TO DRAW THINGS! REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE!"
Obviously, the battle isn't as bombastic or showy as that in the Jackson movie, but it gets by on a certain visceralness. There's actually blood in this fight (that spatters in quite an impressive fashion), whereas there was precious little of that in the modern trilogy, which focused more on thrills than gore. It's also just nice to see something a bit exciting happening for an extended period of time. The Troll and the Balrog (and I still can't hear that said without picturing the boxer character from "Street Fighter 2") make appearances, and yes, they don't look that impressive (the Balrog is especially rubbish), but at least they tried. To save the rst of the group, Gandulf seemingly sacrifices himself, using magic to prevent the Balrog from passing, and falling with it into the depths of the mountain. As with people's reactions to the ring, his death is really undersold. Nobody seems that bothered that they've lost one of their own, never mind arguably the most powerful of their number. Frodo does at least say that all hope is now lost without Gandulf, though he doesn't really sound like he means it. It does give Aragorn an excuse to be all macho and proclaim, "The we must do without hope! There is always vengence!" It's enough to make you go weak at the knees.
They finally reach Lothlorien, the forest home of the Elves, and meet it's queen, Galadriel. It's not explicitely stated that Elves can read mind but it's implied by the way she looks at all the members of the Fellowship, especially Boromir. I like his reaction here better than I do in the Jackson film, as he hurriedly moves past her, trying to avoid eye contact. In the other film, this is the point where he just burst into tears, and also the point I lost all sympathy for the rest of the group for still trusting him. How much more obvious did it have to be that he had bad intentions? The group rest themselves for a while, before Frodo is brough to Galadriel's chamber to gaze into her magic mirror (it's really just a pool of water, but I suppose "magic mirror" sounds better than "magic puddle"), so that he can gaze into it and figure out what Sauron knows about them and their quest. We don't get to see these visions of course, but rather have them described to us by the person seeing them (it's not like they could have just drawn them or anything, is it?). Frodo then offers her the ring, and... she just laughs. Y'know, I'm beginning to think the addictive nature of this thing is being greatly overstated. He's offered it to two people now, and they've both turned him down without so much batting an eyelid. There are a few Fanboys who feel some of the drama in the Jackson movies was overblown, but I'd personally prefer overblown to this sort of nonchalance.
The next morning, the Fellowship set off again, and Aragorn asks in what direction they should travel, be it with Frodo to Mordor, or with Boromir to the wars of Gondor, also spectulating alout about whether they should break their fellowship. Why is this even a question? They were assembled to destroy the ring, so that should be the number one priority. Why deviate from that path, especially at the request of someone who's been downright shifty at best? Without Gandulf to guide them, Aragorn leaves this decision to Frodo, who asks for an hour alone to decide. He doesn't get that hour though, as Boromir joins him, at first under the guise of friendship and concern for his well-being, before revealing his true motives, that being to take the ring for himself. YES! Finally somebody's who's been driven slightly potty by this thing! Frodo gives him the slip by putting the ring on, and as in both the book and the other movies, they then do a good job of showing that Boromir wasn't quite in his right mind at that moment, and may not have been the entire time he was around the ring.
It's this action that sets in motion the events that rip the Fellowship apart. Boromir returns to the camp and tells the others what happened, which of course causes them all to run off looking for Frodo. Of all of them, it's amazingly Sam that's the one smart enough to realise that Frodo would take one of the boats in order to continue to Mordor, and the two are reunited. The others of course don't know this and continue looking, until Merrie and Pippin (Christ, there's two names I haven't typed in a while. I wasn't lying when I said this movie had nothing for them to do) are attacked by Orcs. This is another of those jarring borderline-live action scenes, and as ever it took me out of the movie just because it looks so different to most of what it follows. Still, this is the scene where Boromir redeems himself for his actions, battling to the death attempting to protect them. I always liked that he failed, and in my head I like to think he always knew he was going to fail, but kept fighting anyway because it was the right thing to do. Like when Rocky fought Apollo for the first time. Only with a sword. And set in the past. And fighting a monster, that didn't happen until "Rocky IV."
Boromir uses his horn to call the others, but they arrive to late, as he's at death's door, and the Orcs have made off with Merrie and Pippin. Before he dies, he makes Aragorn promise he'll save his people, and also tells him that he doesn't think the Hobbits are dead. Deciding that Frodo can look after himself, he, Legolas and Gimli set off tracking the Orcs on the chance that Merrie and Pippin may still be alive. Then follows lots of shots of them running, some in slooooooow moooooootion for no apparent reason. There's also a shotof Aragorn tripping over. In slooooooow moooooootion. For no apparent reason. Then this is followed by lots of shots of the Orcs running. This film has turned into a track, I swear. And it just keeps going.Out of curiosity, I went back and timed how long these two sequences lasted combined, and it came to just over two-and-a-half minutes. 150 seconds. Eventually one of the Hobbits (I still can't tell them apart), falls over (in slooooooow moooooootion) from exhaustion and gets given a good kicking by one of the Orcs, giving us one of the few close-up shots of the creatures, and I have to say, up close they don't look that bad. I don't undrstand why they have to look so different to the other characters, but hey, small blessings.
But back to Frodo/Sam thread, as we get what to many people is the money shot of the whole film- the arrival of Gollum. One of the things that always amazed me about the Jackson movie's visual representation of Gollum was just how close they got the character to what I saw in my head all those years ago. Even back in "The Hobbit," when we first meet him in a dark cave, so the dscription of him was minimal, what they came up with was pretty much what I imagined was there in the darkness. It was amazing. And I'll admit they also do a pretty remarkable job here, although there are subtle difference, mostly around his head and face. I never imagined him having pointy ears or fangs, which I think make him look a bit too much like an elderly vampire caught halfway between it's bat transformation, if that makes any sense. I have no complaints about the voice they gave him whatsoever, as it's provided by Peter Woodthorpe, who also played Gollum in the radio serial, and as such, vocally, he was Gollum to me during the early part of my life. They capture him and, in between his babbling insanity, force him to promise to lead them to Mordor.
Amongst the confusion of battle, Merie and Pippin manage to escape their captors and flee into Fangorn Wood,where they meet and are put under the protection of Treebeard, a talking (and walking) tree. Now, this is going to be a bit controversial, but I've felt that Treebeard was one of Tolkien's naffer ideas. He's just always struck me as being a bit silly. He was silly in the books, he was silly in the Jackson films, and he might be the silliest he's ever been here, mostly due to the way he's drawn. He doesn't really look like a tree, he looks more like a giant potatoe. With a beard. His voice is allot less annoying than it is in "The Two Towers," at least. They ask him what side he's on, and after a bit of waffle about how he's not really on anybody's side, he says he's "no fan of these tree-killing Orcs." Which cause Merrie and Pippin to start clapping. Then they stop. Then they start again. And that's the last we see of them. Bye Merrie, bye Pippin, thanks for coming.
The remaining members of the Fellowship track the Hobbits to the Wood, but instead of finding them, they find Gandulf, who's been reborn as Gandulf The White, my thrid-favourite Christ metaphore behind the second coming of Aslan and the return of Optimus Prime. He tels them of his battle with the Balrog, of how it pretty much destroyed the mountain, and that he's been sent back in this new form for a brief time in order to complete his mission. Telling them not to worry about the Hobbits, he leads them instead to Rohan's capital, Edoras, to help the aging King Theoden and his people fight back the Orcs that are coming their way. Thus begins the countdown to this movie's version of The Battle of Helm's Deep. They arrive at the King's palace to find him under the control of Grima Wormtongue, a slimey-looking little fellow who's poisoned the King's mind. When Theoden is told this, instead of becoming enraged, he gived Grima a bit of a cuddle, asks him if it's true, and then tells him he won't harm him even if it is. And then rather than try to manipulate the King into believing him, he hisses at him like an annoyed cat and runs out of the room. That was easy, but then they're running out of both screen time and, probably, money.
There's some more stuff with Frodo and Sam following Gollum, but if I'm honest, at this point, this thread of te movie is also the least interesting. Then best bit in this most resent sequence is the reappearance of a Black Rider, this time riding a winged creature, which is as good a way of showing that the stakes have been upped as any. There's also a fun Gollum/Smeagol conversation/monologue, and also his indiginty at being accused of "sneaking" is quite funny, but the sooner we got back to Helm's Deep, the better at this point. As with before, in terms of action and wow-factor, this battle really can't hold a candle to what would come later, but at the same time there's a real brutality to it, as once again blood really does fly. It lacks that choreographed feeling that alot of modern fight scenes suffer from (and, if I can be impartial, what some of the scenes in Jackson's movies also sometimes veer towards). The good guys hold off the Orcs as long as possible, and all seems lost, until Gandulf arrives with the cavalry, and they day is, if not quite saved, then is at least rescued for the time being. Before all this, we cut back to Sam and Frodo, so Frodo could make this big speech about how they're probably not coming back from their mission. It's like the movie realised that tey were no longer really the stars here, as the last shot of the movis is Gandulf triumphantly holding his sword aloft, as the narrator implores us to come back next time. Only there wasn't a next time, at least not with this creative team, as Bakshi had decided adapting somebody else's material whilst also being surrounded by people who had no respect for it wasn't for him, so he opted out. "The Return of the King" was eventually made into an animated feature, but... we'll get to that one day, hopefully.
So, how do I sum up this movie? I think with the same words I used to describe my Dad's attempt at reading me and my sister the books as children- a noble failure. It's heart is in the right place, and it does some things very well, but in the end, it feels rushed, the animation techniques employed make it look a bit piecemeal, some scenes are undeniably boring, and it's just downright strange in places. In the end, this was not a film that really should have been made in 1978. It needed more time, scope and money than was available to it and it's creators at that time to be able to do justice to it. Nobody involved in this should be ashamed, they all tried their best. It's just in the end, to put it perhaps more bluntly than is stictly nesessary, their best wasn't good enough.
Before I wrap this up, I just ant to apologise for how long it's taken me to get this up. I'll level with you all here- I had another writing engagement that needed my attention, so I had swallow my pride, realise I coldn't do both of these at the same time, and shelve this project for a little while. However, once that other assignment was done, I found myself so burnt out on writing in general that I just couldn't bring myself to get back to work here straight away, meaning I got further behind here than I ever intended to. Well, I intend to remedy tis, as this review kicks off the MONTH OF FURY (spot the reference). Basically, for the next month, you're going to be getting two revies a week, one on Wednesday, and one on either Friday or Saturday (more often than no Saturday, if I'm being realistic). Because as a friend of mine says, there's nothing better than fighting back against burnout than keeping to a painfully unrealistic work plan that'll probably kill you.
Until next time, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and look, there's only one "return," okay, and it ain't of the King, it's of the Jedi.