WHEN: September 1, 2014, 9:50pm. (Week 37, August 31-September 6.)
WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME.
FORMAT: Blu-ray on a Vizio 47″ LCD HDTV.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Just finished watching Ralph Bakshi’s animated The Lord of the Rings. Drinking a glass of milk.
I would assume that watching the animated version of The Lord of the Rings is a rite of passage for anyone whose first introduction to Tolkien was the Peter Jackson film trilogy and is now seeking to expand their nerd cred. (Hopefully with the books in the middle.) And while Ralph Bakshi’s take on Middle-earth has certainly already been compared to the live action movies before, the key difference in the comparison you are about to read is that I can’t stand the fantasy genre.
Swords and beards?? Boo! Hiss!
So, I watched Bakshi, then, because it’s “required” by “science” every “week,” I watched Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. How do they stack up when all this magic and shit ain’t your thing?
One of the best things about Bakshi’s cartoon for a Hobbit-hater is that it flies right by. If you didn’t know, it covers the span of both Fellowship and The Two Towers in a neck-breaking 132 minutes, with the Fellowship portion clocking in at an hour and 26 minutes. While Ian McKellen takes a full 24 minutes to acquire the Ring in the Jacksonverse…
“Agh, my back, hold on, I’ll get there…”
…cartoon Gandalf gets the job done in just 6.
“Come on, Bilbo, I got shit to do.”
Headed to Bree? Pete’s directions will get you there in 49 minutes…
…but Ralph’s shortcut is a 20-minute walk.
You wanna see the Elves, Sam? Well, it takes 73 minutes to get to Rivendell in New Zealand…
It’s only a model.
…but 43 in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
It’s… only a drawing.
Now, when I read the book, I complained about how much of the story was left out of Peter Jackson’s adaptation, so I must really hate Bakshi’s speed run, right? Incorrect. Bakshi’s cartoon feels like an adventure film should; zippy, always moving, go go go. If your goal is to strip the most exciting parts from the source material and build a movie around it, Bakshi picked just the right parts so that it feels like a movie. For my taste, Jackson’s films are in the worst possible spot for an adaptation; directly between a fast-paced, action-packed, major-plot-points-only romp and a detailed, full-length, nothing-was-left-out TV series. I know I’m in the minority here, but Jackson Fellowship is simply too long to prefer over the cartoon and too short to prefer over the book.
HOBBITS THAT FEEL LIKE HOBBITS:
I hate Frodo Baggins. At least, I hate Elijah Wood’s version of Frodo Baggins. I’m not crapping on him as an actor; his character is just so bland. I’ve pointed out before that they had to make him vague and uninteresting so the audience could project themselves onto him, but Christ, short of Kristen Stewart in the Twinkly Bloodsucker movies, few Neo Skywalkers are quite as flat and boring as Frodo.
Luke was whiny. At least that was something.
Bakshi Frodo, however, has, you know, actual emotions. As do all the Hobbits, rather than mere identifying quirks. The animated Hobbits are more cheerful…
…and more courageous.
“S my D, Ringwraiths!”
Roger Ebert claimed that Jackson’s Hobbits didn’t fit with his own personal idea of Hobbits, but that was Roger’s problem, not the filmmakers’. Rog, I disagree. Having seen Bakshi inject heart into Frodo and his pals without making them unrelatable, I think Jackson Hobbits really are just exceptionally bland. Sorry, Pete.
I THINK A BAD GUY LIVES HERE:
Okay, so every week I laugh at New Zealand Saruman’s home, because holy shit, how can you not tell that a purely evil wizard has set up shop there?
And yet, cartoon Saruman tops it in every conceivable way. How do you get in? Through a gaping demon mouth with razor-sharp teeth.
Remember to wipe your feet.
What kinda decorations does Saruman have? Oh, you know, just the head of a weeping man bleeding fire from his eyes.
“The Pulp Fiction poster didn’t quite fit, so I ripped Gary’s head off.”
Keep in mind that the disembodied head is at the top of the stairs; on the way up, Gandalf should have spotted the sex rack full of skeletons.
Hard to miss the place your nemesis is definitely going to buttfuck you.
I will never again laugh at Christopher Lee’s “evil” lair. He just doesn’t try hard enough.
HA HA HA, JUST PUSH THE BALROG OVER:
As much as Fellowship bores me, the Balrog is metal as shit and always will be.
Bakshi’s Balrog is pretty scary, too. Check him out:
“Check me out.”
There’s one small problem, though; he’s one small problem.
Seriously, just throw a rock at him.
The design is cool, but his lack of size paired with the fact that he’s clearly just a rotoscoped tracing of a man in a lion costume with fabulous wings makes him seem like a lesser challenge. The cave troll in the animated version is also significantly smaller than Jackson’s.
“They have a… guy, with, like, horns.”
I’m torn on whether this small scale is a bad choice or not. On the one hand, bigger is more dangerous. On the other hand, a man-sized cave troll fixes the plot hole that Cinemanaut John noticed in Jackson’s Fellowship: a giant spear wielded by a giant troll should not be thwarted by mithril or any other kind of armor, because at that size, it’s less of a stabbing and more of a crushing.
The real enemy is basic physics.
GALADRIEL IS A NICE LADY:
Hey, you know the part where Galadriel turns all stupid?
“BLLLLAAAAAAARRRRRGGGHHH! OOGA BOOGA! RAAAAAAH!”
Yeah, Bakshi doesn’t go for that over-the-top Hulking out nonsense in his version. Galadriel’s desire for the Ring is beautifully subtle. What does her big moment of weakness in the face of unstoppable power look like? She twirls her dress around like a pretty, pretty princess as she fantasizes about becoming a dark queen. And yes, it is creepier.
Fuck, run, this chick’s nuts!
Also, I hate how Cate Blanchett Galadriel is creepy from the very beginning. Cartoon Galadriel is sweet and lovely, so her grab for the Ring comes as a legitimate surprise.
“Bow before my Farrah Fawcett hair!”
TIME TO STICK THE LANDING:
So I used to think the ending of Fellowship was kind of weak…
“We sure have been through some stuff. Stay tuned for more stuff.”
However, the end of Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings barely gives a fuck. Gandalf, in the middle of a battle towards the end of the Two Towers section, just hucks his sword up in the air and a voiceover says: “As their gallant battle ended, so too ends the first great tale of The Lord of the Rings.”
“Fuck you! Good night!”
Well, I’m not sticking around for the rest, because I hear it’s awful.
I enjoyed Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings more than Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring. Nerds can fight me, but I gave my reasons. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it’s got heart. No, it’s not the same tone as the book, but no movie really is. Plus, while it doesn’t always work, the animation style is very experimental and creative.
I used to cringe whenever somebody said, “Hey, you wanna watch Lord of the Rings?” Now I’ll ask, “Do you mean the animated version?” Then I’ll cringe because nobody ever does.
ONE THING THAT WOULD HAVE IMPROVED THE MOVIE:
More sexual torture devices in Saruman’s tower.
A tongue saw is a dangerous tool, Saruman.