1978, United Artists. Directed by Ralph Bakshi. Christopher Guard, William Squire, Michael Scholes, John Hurt, Simon Chandler, Dominic Guard, Norman Bird, Michael Graham Cox, Anthony Daniels.
Decent Films Ratings
|?Kids & Up*|
Content advisory: Frequent menace and grotesque, scary imagery; realistic animated battlefield violence.
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From a National Catholic Register review
By Steven D. Greydanus
Animator Ralph Bakshi’s ambitious, uneven, incomplete stab at The Lord of the Rings suffers from a number of limitations — most notably that it’s only half the story. Originally intended as part one of a two-film adaptation, the cartoon was released and marketed as the whole deal, and, despite financial success, Bakshi never got funding for the sequel.
Notwithstanding this and other weaknesses, this Lord of the Rings is in some respects quite impressive and remains worth a look, especially for Tolkien fans, and perhaps younger viewers not quite old enough for Peter Jackson’s more intense adaptation — though even the Bakshi is darker and more intense than most cartoons. (Younger viewers might also be interested in the animated Rankin-Bass versions of The Hobbit and The Return of the King.)
At its best, Bakshi’s visualization of Tolkien’s world can be startlingly effective: the genuinely creepy Black Riders; the emaciated, spidery Gollum; Frodo’s wraithworld vision at Weathertop. Just as often, though, Bakshi is disappointingly wide of the mark, from unbeautiful elves to an unimpressive Balrog to a risible Treebeard. Then there are things that are just inexplicable, like the fact that the name "Saruman," presumably to avoid confusion with "Sauron," was changed to "Aruman" — but only about half the time.
Bakshi’s heavy reliance on an animation technique called rotoscoping is at times impressively lifelike, but palls with overuse in the disjointed final act. Even so, Tolkien fans will appreciate what Bakshi managed to get right, and Jackson fans especially will note with interest notable parallels between the two interpretations — most obviously in Bakshi’s best scene, with the four hobbits on the road hiding in their first encounter with a Black Rider.