Saturday 8 December 2007

Ralph Bakshi's Lord of The Rings - an heroic failure?

Since the release of Peter Jackson's epic and generally speaking definitive adaptation of Tolkein's Lord of The Rings trilogy, Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version has become something of a filmic footnote.

Veteran animator Bakshi's Lord of The Rings is not helped by the fact that it is not only incomplete but also very condensed and to those unfamiliar with the book, it is pretty confusing. Characters come and go for no apparent reason and in the case of Saruman his name changes halfway through the film to Aruman.

Viewed today the first half of the movie is actually pretty good. The voice artists are excellent and many of the early scenes are genuinely magical. Alas the extensive use of rotoscoping during many of the action scenes is rather clumsy and makes the viewer feel slightly cheated.

Although the film actually performed well at the box-office, earning back $30 million from its $4 million production costs, the second half was never completed. Two truly ghastly cheapo direct to video family oriented versions of the Two Towers and The Return of The King complete with songs followed, but they really don't count.

Leonard Rosenman created an epic score for the The Lord of The Rings, with lots of rising fanfares and unusual intrumentation. In the first half of the soundtrack the charming Mithrandir cue uses children's and adult choruses and poetry by Mark Fleischer. The Helm's Deep cue utilises a language invented by Rosenman, occasionally using his name backwards! The main theme for Lord of The Rings which closes the second half of the score is the cue most people remember and is so hobbit forming you'll be whistling it to yourself for ages. Clearly Rosenman was so pleased with it he decided to recycle elements of it in his somewhat nautical theme for Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home.

Saul Zaentz, the producer of The Lord of The Rings may have lost out ultimately to Peter Jackson's masterful interpretation, but it didn't stop Zaentz from producing Lord of The Rings The Musical. Whilst this ambitious production has received a mixed reception, notwithstanding the problems of condensing the entire trilogy in 3 1/2 hours on stage and representing major sequences with a modest cast, it is actually tremendous fun, so make the most of LOTR The Musical before it closes.

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