Movie Dictator Club: The Lord Of The Rings (1978)

The Movie Dictator Club for the month of May, 2010 is all about animation, and you know how I love animation!

Screenplay By: Peter S. Beagle & Chris Conkling
Directed By: Ralph Bakshi

Ralph Bakshi has garnered a reputation over the years as a man who had a tremendous vision but failed to realize he lacked the funds to facilitate said vision. The Lord Of The Rings is perhaps the best example of this, it is a moving portrait of an artist with a mind full of ideas who lacks the means to fully bring those ideas to life. You might say Bakshi was a bit ahead of his time, actually, judging by the direction animation has taken since the onset of the 80’s you can definitely say he was a man ahead of his time. If only Bakshi had the funding to fully finance his vision as well as the technology to implement all of his ideas, one can only wonder.

Where does the above paragraph leave The Lord Of The Rings? Unfortunately it leaves it as a film that is a wonder to watch yet at the same time not good, in any traditional sense. It is wonderful to watch Bakshi try out ideas in his animation, the man literally had no qualms with giving any idea that came into his head a go. It’s possible that The Lord Of The Rings is most known for its use of rotoscoping, I’m not a Bakshi historian so I’m not entirely sure if my claim here is true, and that wouldn’t surprise me. The rotoscoping is rough in places and at times it so obviously stands out against the traditional animation that it is distracting. But, it creates a visual netherworld, a Middle Earth unlike any that I could ever have imagined. The characters are foreign and exotic, not only from what the mind thinks of when it thinks of animated characters but from what Disney has trained us to think of as animated characters.

Rotoscoping wasn’t the only way in which Bakshi pushed the envelope visually, he went to different places with his traditional animation and created some gorgeous landscapes through the process of matte paintings. It sounds like an oxymoron to lavish such praise on The Lord Of The Rings while acknowledging that it is a bad movie, but it is that visually inventive of a film. Even when The Lord Of The Rings misses visually it still makes its mark, because it misses by trying something completely different. There’s also the issue of the darkness found in The Lord Of The Rings, I’d dare say that outside of the Asian market no one has yet to go anywhere near as dark as Bakshi was willing to go with his animation, including The Lord Of The Rings.

I began to think about halfway through The Lord Of The Rings that this would have been a great movie if only it were silent, and I stand by that claim. It’s not that the voice acting is bad or anything, but the story is rushed and rushed so much that it feels completely nonsensical. However, if The Lord Of The Rings were viewed on a purely visual level with a few title cards every once in a while you would have a great film, one that would dazzle the eyes while avoiding the issue of its rushed and incoherent story. I know some of you are wondering how this could be the case, but I think the visuals get across the gist of the story fine enough, it’s only when the dialogue is added that the story truly fails to take shape and loses its way. Of course the complete lack of an actual ending would always be a problem, so maybe I’m mistaken in my belief.

This was easily my oddest review ever, I lumped lots of praise on The Lord Of The Rings yet at the same time I am going to finish by telling you that it’s a pretty bad film. Darn that stupid story, it went and ruined what was an amazing visual experience, but them be the breaks sometimes. All in all I’m happy that Alex gave me the chance to check out The Lord Of The Rings again, it’s been so long since I first watched it that I forgot how inventive The Lord Of The Rings is visually. Tell you what, I do recommend you take a look at The Lord Of The Rings, but do so with the TV on mute, maybe then the story won’t bother you and you can enjoy the visual experimentation Bakshi engages in.




4 responses to “Movie Dictator Club: The Lord Of The Rings (1978)

  1. I watched this as a kid and found it to be pretty incoherent even though I had read the books. At the time, I wasn’t paying to the feats of the animation so maybe I’d appreciate it more now.

    Still, with the Peter Jackson films I imagine this film looks even more lackluster than it did before then.

  2. Yeah, I didn’t mention it in my review but there were definitely more than a few moments of, “Oh man, Jackson did this so much better.” But, in the end I really only cared about the experimentation in the animation, so it didn’t bother me all that much.

  3. yeah, i too remember watching this as a kid and being pretty frightened.
    turn off the dialogue… thats a great idea
    there are so many movies i would love to do that to

  4. It certainly would make for an interesting experiment.

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