The Lord Of The Rings (1978) - Movie Review

  • 01 November 2005

Rating: 3 out of 5

Relax, Tolkien nerds, the insanely anticipated live action trilogy of The Lord of the Rings isn't already out on video. Rather, it's Ralph Bakshi's animated version from 1978, now making a new appearance on VHS and DVD.

This film tells the story from The Fellowship of the Ring and some of The Two Towers, leaving the finale for The Return of the King, produced in 1980. Made for a reported $10 million, the film reportedly earned seven times that theatrically -- despite the fact that half of it is a jumbled mess (reputedly because director Ralph Bakshi didn't even finish the movie). All of which goes to show: Tolkien fans will sit through anything. More than once.

You certainly know the epic tale. The Lord of the Rings follows the journey of the hobbit Frodo Baggins, en route from the sleepy Shire toward Mordor's Mount Doom, where he is tasked with destroying a magical (and evil) ring. With a gaggle of dwarves, elves, wizards, orcs, talking trees, and more along the way, Frodo feels overwhelmed by the journey, fearing he'll never make it to the volcanic mountain off in the distance.

And of course, he doesn't. Not in this movie.

Ending on the heels of a huge battle with the orcs, we are left to see the conclusion of the story in the sequel. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the problem is that The Lord of the Rings just doesn't stand well on its own. The sequel, however, does. As does The Hobbit, which was made a year later and tells the prequel story of how the ring was found by Bilbo Baggins. But as mentioned earlier, fantasy junkies won't care much, anyhow.

Of questionable merit is Bakshi's (Cool World) animation technique, which combines regular drawings with rotoscoping -- the practice of hand-tracing and tinting live action film to make it look sort of animated, but not. Some of these effects are quite successful, but mostly, when a fully animated elf jumps into a fight with 10 rotoscoped orcs, it looks silly. The hand animation itself is often crude and chunky -- check out the Balrog and the anthropomorphic talking tree for the worst examples of this. That, and the hobbits all look like Joey Lawrence -- what's up with that?

Facts and Figures

Year: 1978

Genre: Kids/Family

Reviews 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Ralph Bakshi

Producer: Saul Zaentz

Screenwriter: Peter S. Beagle, Chris Conkling

Also starring: Christopher Guard, William Squire, Michael Scholes, John Hurt, Simon Chandler, Dominic Guard, Norman Bird, Michael Graham Cox, Anthony Daniels, Saul Zaentz, Chris Conkling