Saturday, 7 June 2014

Bakshi Animated Lord of the Rings Part 5

And this is the part you’ve been waiting for since the middle of May! The end of my kind-of-almost-not-quite live blog of The Lord of the Rings animated movie from the 70s.

Last time we saw the remaining members of the Fellowship take a brief trip to Lothlorien before continuing their journey sans Gandalf. Boromir revealed his true feelings towards Frodo and the Ring, that didn’t work out too well for him or Merry and Pippin who got themselves carted off by a host of orcs. They did better than Boromir though, running into Treebeard shortly after escaping from the orcs. Aragorn lead Gimli and a grouchy Legolas on the trail of the orcs who abducted the hobbits and Frodo headed off for Mordor with Sam trailing along with him. They ran into Gollum who promised to show them the way into the country.

All in all it was quite action-packed and in this final instalment we’re going to get a little bit more action!

87. Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn are in the woods looking at mysterious tracks when Aruman appears. But SURPRISE! It’s actually Gandalf, all in white now except for his grey hat. We’re treated to lots of still images of Moria and the locations of Gandalf and the Balrog’s battle as he catches us up with what’s happened. I like the way this is done because it saves us from seeing him waving his arms around like a lunatic while he talks.

88. Gandalf recruits them to go to Aydoras where the King is being poorly advised by Grime-ah Wormtongue. Meanwhile (S)Aruman is getting his orcs ready for battle with Aydoras. It’s obviously the place to be at the moment.

89. Gandalf and friends arrive at Aydoras where Theoden is surrounded by his advisor and a woman who has Disney eyes that look out of place in a non-Disney face. Wormtongue fits right in, looking like a Disney villain. Grime-ah’s been telling Theoden to leave Aruman in peace but Gandalf saw them together when he was held prisoner so points out that maybe Grime-ah shouldn’t be trusted.

90. Grime-ah gets stressy because the doorkeeper didn’t take Gandalf’s staff which is funny because we didn’t actually see any guards when they went in. It all kicks off and Grime-ah runs away.

91. Theoden introduces the woman behind his throne as his sister-daughter (which I know is taken from the book but it makes it sound like there’s some weird incest going on there). Apparently she’s his only loyal kin, although Gandalf does point out that he only thought Eomer was disloyal because of Grime-ah’s lies.

92. Then they all ride to Helm’s Deep… until Gandalf rides away. Theoden laughs at this, then calls Gandalf ‘Stormcrow’, apparently this is now an affectionate nickname and not offensive at all.

93. We get some nice dramatic music as Aragorn and Theoden ride away.

94. Sam and Frodo wake up in a forest. I thought they were Merry and Pippin. I guess this means we’ve got past the Dead Marshes and the Black Gate.

95. Out of the forest and they see a wraith on wings flying overhead. Gollum stands there yelling about how they can sense the precious, or y’know, hear the crazy guy yelling about them.

96. Frodo’s feeling a wee bit tired so Gollum suggests that Frodo might let him carry the Ring. Frodo’s kind of annoyed by this and tells Gollum he’d make him jump off a cliff or into the fire. Harsh Frodo. The hobbits sleep again later while Gollum talks to himself. It’s not really clear exactly what’s going on here because although his voice does change to show both halves of his personality, it’s only really obvious when you’re listening for it.

97. Gollum starts to touch Frodo (no, not like that) and Sam wakes up. Gollum gets in a snit about Sam calling him a sneak, it’s actually quite funny.

98. Everyone else, bar Merry, Pippin and the tree-guy (I really can’t call him Treebeard because he looks nothing like the way I picture him), are at Helm’s Deep. Gimli likes the rock there. At least he’s happy because a moment later everything starts going red and wolves appear followed by loads and loads of orcs.

99. I find myself wondering if certain colour tints are used because of the rotoscoping process or if it’s supposed to add a particular effect to the film. If it’s the latter then it fails.

100. There’s a song in the background but I’m not entirely sure what they’re saying other than being able to pick out the word ‘Isengard’ occasionally.

101. Not really much I can say about Helm’s Deep. It’s a battle comprising of rotoscoped silhouettes against a red background. Arrows fly through the air and lots of people scream and collapse. The red and black makes it a bit hard to make out exactly what’s going on, but the blue lightning reveals the bad guys have put up ladders and are popping up for a bit of sword-to-sword combat.

102. At this point Mr Click and I discuss how hungry we are and I check how much longer we’ve got left to go on this. There’s only fifteen minutes left. I’m slightly relieved.

103. There’s a shot of a tower with sparkly balls coming out of it. They fly into Helm’s Deep while Aragorn looks concerned. A second later we see why. Those things blow up! Everything gets a bit dramatic as they’re all forced to retreat.

104. Theoden doesn’t want to hang out in the caves any longer though so he plans to ride out when the sun rises. He wants Aragorn to go out there with him, misery loves company and all that.

105. Back to Frodo and Sam who are discussing food. Sam doesn’t think there’s enough for the return journey but Frodo doesn’t think they’ll need it because there won’t be a return journey. All the food talk isn’t helping me either. I’m starving!

106. Gollum gives them a little heads up about the staircases they’re going to need to go up for the next part of their journey. Frodo and Sam ask what comes after that and Gollum tells them they’ll see. But we won’t. They walk away and, like Merry and Pippin, that’s the last time we see them in this film.

107. Back to the orcs at Helm’s Deep. They’re trying to break in when they hear the party blowers, I mean, horns. All the men come out and chase the orcs away from Helm’s Deep. They all seem to be coming out of one door so surely it wouldn’t be that hard for the orcs to just fight them there. They only run away for a while before they start fighting and a few men are knocked down by orcs. Theoden and Aragorn seem to be doing okay for themselves though.

108. And then they spot a big company of dark figures and I can’t figure out if they’re good guys or bad guys. They surround the little crowd so I think they’re definitely not good. But it’s okay because Gandalf shows up with some more men and all the orcs run away. The music gets all triumphant and there are nice images of orcs being hacked at with blood flying everywhere.

109. Gandalf throws his sword in the air (I don’t think that’s very sensible, that could hurt if it came down point first)! And we get a voiceover telling us that this is the end of the first part…

110. Except there is no second part. So as the end credits roll we’re left wondering where Merry and Pippin ended up, what happened to Aragorn and Company, and whether Frodo and Sam ever found out what Gollum had planned for them. Thank goodness Peter Jackson’s version came out thirty years later!

Final Thoughts:
I first watched this film last year and this was only my second viewing of it. The first time I watched it I didn’t give it my full attention whereas this time around I felt like I was watching everything. On that first watch I remember finding bits of it comical and I did get a lot of that feeling this time. I think that occasionally that was intentional but I think other bits, like the way the hobbits react with such enthusiasm to every.little.thing are probably more accidental.

In a way this version of the story is closer to the book than the more recent epic trilogy; the timeline tries to stick to the book timeline a lot closer and there are massive chunks of dialogue lifted in their entirety from the book (which I noticed more this time because I was reading the book at the time). Then again there’s some pretty awful meddling within the story, the most obvious being the Saruman/Aruman change. I just can’t comprehend who thought it would make it easier to follow who was who by partially changing a character’s name but only doing it 75% of the time. It’s really weird.

The animation isn’t particularly bad, although there are a couple of places where it’s not great. The rotoscoping is used pretty well in some places (like some of the fighting scenes, like in Moria) but in other places it’s jarring and distracting (like in The Prancing Pony or with the Riders of Rohan). I do like the way it’s used in the Prologue. The backgrounds are generally really well drawn and I quite often found myself looking at those rather than the characters.

Speaking of characters, most of them looked and sounded nothing like I picture them. The closest would be Gandalf who not only looked the way I envision him but also sounded the way he should as well. Legolas was pretty much nothing the way I picture him and he just seems to moan about everything, nothing about him suggests Elven prince. Boromir in his mini-skirt and horny helmet made me laugh as did Sam who as I mentioned in Part 1 looks like those Troll dolls.

I think that this film was an okay attempt at setting something to film that was virtually unfilmable. They had to make some cuts and changes but I think those were a little bit hamfisted. On the one hand it’s a shame that there was never a second part to resolve all the storylines, on the other it’s maybe a good thing that they quit where they did because it might have killed all possibility of a live action version.

But I’m glad I’ve got it and I’ve watched it purely from the point of view of a Tolkien fan.

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