Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings, Part One: A Critique
Perhaps the hardest thing, for me, in preparing this web-page is
having to view this movie
over again. I saw it with friends in the theatre when it first came
out, within mere days of its' opening, and loathed it. I came across it
again last year, stumbling across it in a video store, and found myself
thinking, "Oh, it can't possibly be as bad as I
Sadly, I was right. In fact, memory had softened the blow and the
movie seemed substantially worse.
This will be the third time I've felt compelled to endure this movie. I
will admit I don't think the movie is completely bad; there are
one or two things here and there which did work. It would also be
incorrect to say that I don't like Mr. Bakshi; I admire the fact that he
was willing to attempt the Herculean task of committing The Lord of
the Rings to film.
I just wish he could have done a much better job.
WARNING: This review makes absolutely no
attempt to be objective.
If Mr. Bakshi, or someone else associated with the
making of the film, would like to post a rebuttal to this review or other
related information, I'll be happy to add it (or a link to it) to this
Part One: The Game Attempt.
For the initial third of the movie, the filmmakers make their best
attempt to tell the story. True, they get
bogged down in unwieldy, half-given explanations and make it clear
that exposition is not their
strong suit, but at least they gamely make the attempt.
1. The Incidental Music.
When watching the film, the very first thing you get (along with the
titles) is your first earful of the big, overblown,
use-every-instrument-you-have-in-the-orchestra-or-else theme music.
unabated for for the next several hours. Many times Tolkien has written
of the subtlety, grace, and
magic of music and song; why, then, does
Rosenman insist upon starting the movie with this symphonic
Assault upon Dunkirk? A look at his other achievements tells us he's capable of better...
Though hardly a Tolkien purist, I'm nonetheless constantly irked by the
introduction's claim that "the Dark Lord
learned the craft of Ring-making" after the Elves had made all
the other Rings; but that is
not my major gripe about Sauron. Rather, it is the way they make
Sauron look. They show the
Enemy only as a silhouette, but the silhouette is clear: human, tall,
and wearing a big helmet with foot-long horns on the top. I
mean, he looks like one of the
Knights Who Say "Ni", for God's sake. Perhaps the Fellowship of the
Ring should have just brought him a shrubbery?
3. The Last Alliance.
Did you know that The Last Alliance lost? Evidently so. "As
the Last Alliance of
Men and Elves fell beneath his power", however, Sauron failed to
notice "the heroic shadow who slipped
in"; Isildur, according to the movie, heroically snuck up behind Sauron and
heroically hacked his hand off while he was looking the other
way, and so came by the
Ring. Hah! Some hero: "Isildur the Backstabbing Sneak".
4. Late '70s Hair.
Everybody in this movie has unspeakably big hair. Pounds and
pounds and pounds of it. I
swear, I keep waiting for Gandalf to fall over under the sheer weight of
it. And Saruman... it's
perhaps better not to even talk about Saruman. I mean, he
shouldn't have even been able to stand up.
5. "Seventeen years passed sleepily in the
As the narrator reads this line, we see a wide view of the Shire
from a hilltop; it is winter,
and the snow is falling. It dissolves to the same shot, in spring... then
the same shot, in summer... and then to fall. A little literal and
unnecessary for my taste, but okay. But then - in
some bizarre attempt to visually Make Time Fly - they flash-cut
through nine more seasons in
1.2 seconds flat. I swear, I started looking around the theatre to see
if the flickering seasons
onscreen had triggered any neurological seizures. What the hell did
they think they were doing, anyway?
In reading the books I always admired his wisdom, his seeming
irascibility, and his sense of humor... the feeling of
humanity which was so deeply-ingrained into the old wizard. But
for the first third of the
movie he comes off as a pretentious, monotonous Prophet of Doom,
utterly devoid of personality.
Why is that?...
Gandalf's problem in
the early part of the movie, I think, is that he gets
burdened with carrying all of the exposition. By the time screenwriters
Conkling and Beagle have
finished piling all the "here's-what's-going-on" and
"here's-why-it's-important-to-the-plot" dialogue on his head, he's got
no time left to develop any personality, much less
show any. Did every word of the initial exposition have to
come straight from Gandalf's mouth in the form of an intonation?
7. The Ring-inscription.
In Bag End, Gandalf asks Frodo if he sees any inscription on the
Ring. Finding none, they throw it into the
fire. After a moment. Gandalf pulls the Ring back out of the fire. Frodo
comments with surprise
that it is still quite cool. But they never bother to look for the
makes the whole business of throwing the Ring into the fire kind of
8. They Just Can't Hold Still.
There are dangers to having a movie done by amimators. One of them is
that it's far easier to animate large, sweeping gestures than it is to
animate smaller, subtle movements. Subtleties, however, are often more
appropriate to the story - and far more effective.
In this movie, Bakshi
seems to have extreme difficulty filming two people who sit down and
have a quiet conversation. This is highly unfortunate, since it is
Tolkien's elegantly-crafted dialogue which drives the story.
In Bag End, Gandalf just
can't sit still. He won't just sit down and talk to Frodo about the Ring;
instead he paces around meaninglessly, gesturing like a rabid stork. He
raises both hands into the air, squeezes his fists and lowers his hands
whenever he wants to make a point, a ludicrous overdramatic gesture which
beginning drama students refer to as "Milking the Giant Cow".
If Bakshi could learn
how to have his characters just sit down and talk, it would be of
great benefit to him as a director.
...Eventually Bag End
becomes too confining for all these gestures, and so
Gandalf and Frodo must go and walk in the night air where they can
move around more. "What a pity that
Bilbo didn't kill that vile creature when he had the chance!"
Frodo says, curiously jumping up and
throwing a rock to emphasize his point. They just can't sit still,
for God's sake.
Maybe tranquilizer darts
would have helped...?
9. Sam the Aborigine.
One of the side-effects of making Gandalf and Frodo go for a walk
in the night air is this: when Gandalf discovers Sam eavesdropping, Sam
isn't just outside the window (a sensible place for a gardener to be); he
is, in fact, hiding behind a lone bush next to a stream where
Gandalf and Frodo happen to walk. My question is this: what was Sam
doing, in the middle of the night, hiding behind a bush, next to a
Or do I really want to know?
filmmakers never get around to telling us who Sam is, or what his
relationship is to Frodo. I guess they assume everyone already knows. But
if you're not going to bother with telling the story, why bother with
making the film?
They decided to rename "Saruman" to "Aruman" for
the movie; evidently they were
concerned that moviegoers would confuse the name "Saruman" with
"Sauron". That's all well and good, I suppose...
but they only call him "Aruman" half the time,
and the rest of the time
they go back to calling him "Saruman". So the guy has two
names used interchangeably
throughout the movie, which is even more confusing. Why
bother doing this if you're not
even going to be consistent about it?
11. Saruman's Voice.
It's their business, I suppose, if they want to cut everything
referring to Saruman's melodic
and persuasive voice; but did they have to make him sound like a
gecko with a sore throat?
12. Gandalf's Imprisonment at Orthanc: Saruman's
In the book, Saruman had Gandalf imprisoned by simply putting
him "alone on the pinnacle
of Orthanc... I stood alone on an island in the clouds; and I had no
chance of escape"
(Fellowship p. 274 hardback). In the movie, Saruman succumbs
to the same visual
hyperactivity that everyone else has - and not only traps Gandalf at the
top of Isengard, but puts
on a really flashy light-show as well. Evidently Saruman forgets that
he's not doing a remake of
Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
I think this was
just a way to emphasize that
These Guys Are Wizards... but why did they have to make this
point with gratuitious
visuals when they could have done it by letting them show some
13. The First Nazgul.
I'm actually willing to say something good about this scene.
The scene starts well; the
hobbits converse, have a (very minor) disagreement (giving them a
chance to show a little
character!), and then move off the path to see who the rider is. The
Nazgul actually succeeds in
being a little bit scary, and the business with Frodo fighting the
temptation to put on the Ring is
executed well, simply and wordlessly. I'd like to know why all
the rest of the film
wasn't directed by the same guy who put together this one scene.
...On the other hand, I
would still like to know why the Nazgul has to groan and limp about
like an escapee from a leper colony.
14. Realism and Not-So-Realism.
In Bree, Frodo and his companions suddenly find themselves in a
roomful of characters who
are nothing more than colored overlays of high-contrast, live-action
footage. The hobbits, however, are still done as
rotoscoped animations. It makes the four of them stand out in that
barroom like Tony the Tiger would stand out at
a pedigreed cat exhibit. Was this an artistic choice of some kind? Or
were they just being cheap?
15. The Hallway at the Prancing Pony.
After the scene with Frodo's disappearance in the Prancing Pony
common-room, three of the
hobbits trot down a hallway. The hallway is drawn in a very dark,
atmospheric style, while the
hobbits are drawn as their usual, bright, rotoscoped selves. They don't
even bother to match the shadow and tone
of the hobbits to the shadow and tone of the background. As a result,
the hobbits look very obviously out-of-place... and it looks like they're
running down the hall with their feet floating well above the floor.
Was it just too much
work for them to do it right?
(They tried to correct this
visual problem by having the sound department make the hobbits'
footfalls really loud and heavy and convincing. Not only is this out of
character for quiet, soft-footed hobbits, but it doesn't solve the problem
with the animation either.)
Like Saruman, Aragorn also sounds inexplicably like a gecko with
a sore throat. I don't care if it is John Hurt; he still
sounds like a gecko with a sore throat. (Though not as sore a throat as
the gecko playing Saruman.)
17. The Nazgul Attack.
It's intriguing to note that any time the Nazgul attack - whether it
be at Bree, Weathertop, or
the Fords - the background fades away and becomes yet another weird
light-show. Admittedly, this does make their attacks seem a little
more disorienting. I keep
thinking, though, that Bakshi chose to do this so we'd be too
distracted to notice that the scenes
are fundamentally badly-paced... and unable to stand on their own
It's a little like
putting steak sauce on tofu: if you pour enough of the glop on, maybe it'll
distract you from the fundamental lack of flavor.
18. How To Recognize An Elf.
- Sappy pseudo-cheerful
woodland Elf-music plays whenever they appear.
- They have eyes like
- They're all exposed
three F-stops too bright.
19. The Nazgul Pursue Frodo At The Ford Of
Inexplicably, for the first half of the scene the Black Riders seem
completely unable to control their horses.
20. An Interesting Look.
Once Frodo recovers from the wound of the Morgul-knife, there's
a scene where he lies in
bed while Gandalf tells him of his escape from Isengard. At the very
end of the scene, Gandalf
leans over Frodo and tells him to rest. Intriguingly, Frodo turns away
from Gandalf and looks
directly into the camera, his eyes curiously tortured and
beseeching. It's almost as if he's saying to the audience: "Please,
please find a way to get me out
of this ludicrous movie."
21. "Don't adventures ever have an end?"
This short scene with Frodo and Bilbo, where Bilbo asks to see
the Ring once more, actually
works. A little bit. Not enough to save the rest of the movie. But a little
Part Two: Tolkien's Greatest Hits.
Once arriving at Rivendell, the movie shifts gears; it assumes it's given
enough exposition, and now drops the plot in order to start hitting the
"high points" of Tolkien's work. To its credit, this means the
characters actually begin to show a bit of the personality Tolkien infused
them with. Unfortunately, without an adequate framework of plot to tie the
scenes together and give them coherence and meaning, the movie simply
becomes more confusing.
22. The Council Of Elrond.
Tolkien knew the importance of the information provided at the
Council, and knew it was important not only to give the exposition as
clearly as possible but to properly introduce the characters present as
well. He took thirty-two pages to do it.
In the movie, Bakshi
covers the Council in three minutes and twenty-three seconds.
It's understandable, of
course - and even desirable -
that some condensation of material would take place; that's to be
expected, and the scene would
be unwieldy for an audience if you didn't. But since this is
the exposition scene
which lays the framework for all the rest of the plot, giving yourself a
good solid six to ten minutes to do
it properly is an investment of time which will benefit you for the
rest of the story. By
rushing this scene, however, it cuts off all the rest of the movie from
any moorings it may have
had in the plot... and the result is, inevitably, a disjointed and
23. The Council of Babel.
During the narration-moment at the beginning of the scene,
everyone around the table is
talking at once. It's visually interesting, but not appropriate to the tone
of the scene. Indeed, it
starts one off with the immediate impression that all the heroes are
24. Boromir The Hornhead.
Boromir, like Sauron, is wearing a silly-looking horned helmet. I
keep waiting for him to
say, "Ni!"... or, worse still start singing about Spam. (If
Bakshi had filmed Part Two, perhaps we would have seen Denethor demanding
that Aragorn prove his heritage by cutting down "the mightiest tree in
the forest wiiiiiith... a herring!")
Aragorn announces at the Council that he is the descendant of
Elendil, and that he has the
Sword that was Broken. Unfortunately, the movie never explains who
Elendil is, or how
the sword got broken to begin with. The narrator hastily jumps
in and tells us that Aragorn
is Isildur's heir; but no explanation for who the hell Elendil is, or why
the hell the sword's being
broken should be significant, is ever offered.
It would be better to
have left Elendil completely
unmentioned than to have him put in this meaningless and confusing
26. Why Are We Going To Mount Doom?
"We cannot keep it, we cannot destroy it," Elrond says of the
Ring. A moment later, he says:
"We must send the Ring to the fire where it was made - to Mount
Doom." Curiously, he doesn't
say why it is necessary to do so. Those of us who have
read the book know it's to
destroy the Ring; but how is the rest of the audience supposed
to know that? After all, he just finished saying that "we
cannot destroy" the Ring, didn't he?...
27. Tolkien's Greatest Hits.
"What foolishness is this? Why do you speak of hiding and
destroying?" Boromir says of the Ring. Unfortunately, since most of
the dialogue from the book has been cut, nobody has spoken of
"hiding and destroying"... except Elrond, who says we can't do
those things anyway.
A lot of the movie's
dialogue has this problem: it assumes you already know the story, and so
just skips ahead to the next interesting bit without bothering to add all
the information and characterization that glue the story together
and give it life and coherence.
As a result, the movie
starts running like a record of "Tolkien's Greatest Hits": all
the neat bits of the story, but none of the framework that helps the neat
bits make any kind of sense.
Outside the gates of Moria, Aragorn draws his sword. It is no
longer broken. The movie never bothers to explain this change, and so it
comes off looking like a continuity error rather than the missing
plot-element it actually is.
29. Hack Hack Hack.
In the book, when the Watcher in the Water attacks Frodo, Sam
dashes up and slashes at one of its tentacles with a knife; the rest of the
Company do not have time to react. In the movie, Aragorn and Boromir run up
with swords drawn and hack away at the monster as well. Indeed, Boromir
gets a good deal of screen-time standing there hacking away at tentacles
which spew luminous green blood for the camera with every stroke. It's as
though somebody in the production office saw the first half-hour of the
movie, and then demanded to know why there hadn't been any gratuitous
swordplay in it yet.
They needn't have
worried. As the movie goes on, the gratuitous swordplay will increase
30. The Slowest Orc In The World.
The book does describe the Orc-chieftain who "turned Boromir's
sword and bore him backwards" with his shield, dove under Aragorn's
sword "with the speed of a striking snake", and "thrust his
spear straight at Frodo" (Fellowship p. 339). It does
not, however, say anything about his doing all this in slow motion.
31. The Balrog.
- It has big
red-and-black wings, kind of like a Monarch butterfly.
- It has the head of a
big stuffed lion.
- It has big
silly-looking feet. In fact, the Balrog is clearly wearing
oversized fluffy bedroom-slippers.
...It's also noisy as
hell, and makes a lot of big roaring Balrog-style
noises. Obviously Bakshi had no access to Tolkien's Letters,
particularly #210 to Forrest Ackerman:
"The Balrog never speaks or makes any vocal sound at all...
[he] may think he knows more about Balrogs than I do, but he cannot expect
me to agree with him."
Most curious, though, is this: unlike the original, Bakshi's Balrog can
fly. This addition to the story raises an obvious question: if the Balrog
can fly, why didn't it just fly back out of the chasm when Gandalf broke
32. It's Pronounced "Keleborn", Not
It's the first note in Appendix E, for God's sake. Didn't they
research the pronunciation of names at all?
...But, of course, the
filmmakers don't care about such details. They can't
even decide whether the name of the Wizard at Isengard is Saruman or
Aruman. Later on in the movie, we'll also learn that Gandalf and
Aragorn don't even agree on the pronunciation of "Edoras".
Sadly, this kind of
sloppiness and lack of attention to detail can be seen in all the
other aspects of the film as well.
33. Galadriel And Celeborn.
They come off as the most pretentious people in the Universe. I
guess with Gandalf still lost in Khazad-dum, they had to have
somebody sound pretentious.
Being Elves, they too
are exposed three F-stops too bright.
34. The Lothlorien Junior High Children's
Not only is the music unbearably nauseating, but in addition the
Elves in the distance are exposed at least five F-stops too bright.
Indeed, they're so bright it's hard to even tell they're people.
35. Playtime in Lorien.
My fondest memory of this movie is the absurd shot of Boromir
filing the burrs out of his sword by scraping it against a rock.
I guess they haven't
heard of whetstones in Lorien yet.
36. The Eye Of Sauron.
According to the Mirror of Galadriel, Sauron's watchful Eye is in
fact a kaleidoscope.
Galadriel holds up her hand, and Frodo sees the Ring of Adamant
upon her finger. But how
could he miss it? The moment she holds up her hand, Nenya
lights up and spouts colored sparks and rainbows and sprays of
glitter-dust which distract us from listening to her next six lines
This seems to be the only motif which is carried out with consistency throughout the movie:
If it's magic, it's bright and sparkly.
38. The Breaking of the Fellowship.
The sequence beginning with the Argonath and ending with Frodo
and Sam's departure from
the Fellowship comes as close as anything does in this movie to
working, and because of that it
bears examination. The music ceases, for a time, to be overbearing;
the Fellowship stops and converses without lots of unnecessary
dramatics or hyperactive gesturing (except for Boromir, who milks at
least one Giant Cow in his conversation with Frodo); and the dialogue
and action are, at least,
moderately coherent and serve to forward the plot. Curiously, though,
the sequence still doesn't really work.
The problem here seems to be in the editing. The pacing of
the scenes, and of the cuts within scenes, simply doesn't work. The
pacing doesn't build a scene up to a
climax, or provide any emphasis for any of the action taking place. It's
as though we were viewing a rough-cut of the scene rather than the
It should be noted that
the entire movie is shot
and edited like this; it's just harder to notice the rest of the time
because of all the other distracting problems.
39. The Death Of Boromir.
Though they can't seem to decide whether to pace the scene
quickly or slowly, it works fairly well. I think they were beginning to
realize the battle-scenes didn't require as much dialogue or exposition,
and so they weren't as hampered here by these recurring weaknesses as they
Unfortunately, this only
encourages them to do less storytelling and more battle-scenes.
Difficult as it is for me to say anything good about this movie, I
actually think that Peter Woodthorpe did a good job as the voice of
Gollum. Intriguingly, Gollum
did not sound
like a gecko with a sore throat (in spite of the fact that he's the one
character who safely could have).
Part Three: Let's All Fight A Lot.
Having discovered that Boromir's fight scenes were moderately
effective, and that they could be shot with a minimum of character and
exposition, the filmmakers finally abandon the plot to fend for itself
and rely on more and more combat to keep the movie going. Without
the plot, though, the battles become so confused that even the
filmmakers soon have trouble figuring out who's winning.
41. The Rohirrim And The Orcs.
Here's how the Rohirrim and the Orcs do battle:
1: The Orcs and Rohirrim
stand in two big long lines facing one another.
2: They stand like this,
not moving, for 22 seconds.
3: One Rider of Rohan
then rides down between the two lines, and shoots an Orc and kills him with
an arrow. The remainder of the Orcs stand there and, inexplicably, cheer
the rider. (Three or four of the Orcs do pull bows and try to shoot him
in return, but an Orc-chieftain dashes up and, oddly enough, tells them
4: They continue to
stand there and do this for most of the night. The
camera wanders off and does a scene with
Aragorn and Legolas while we're waiting. Merry and Pippin also
escape during the interminable pause. Still the Orcs and Rohirrim
continue to stand there repeating the same tiresome game.
5: One of the Riders
finally comes too close to the Orcs, and they kill
him. This drives all the other Riders berserk, and so now they
suddenly decide to charge and attack.
...I guess they must
have figured that, as long as somebody's getting killed, the scene doesn't
have to make any sense.
It's hard to know what to say about Treebeard, since the movie
ends before he really gets a chance to do anything. Since the Ents never
get to attack Isengard, never see Gandalf, and never appear at Helm's Deep,
their inclusion in the movie makes no sense. Treebeard just becomes
another Tolkien's-Greatest-Hits element that gets gratuitously tossed
in. Pity, really.
But here's another
question: Why is it that Treebeard spits leaves whenever he talks?
43. The Dangers Of Rotoscoping Live-Action Footage.
Gandalf, ressurrected, reappears before Aragorn, Gimli and
Legolas. He jumps up, leaps onto a rock, and... his cape gets wrapped
around his head.
Couldn't they have corrected this when they animated the sequence?
Or, indeed, filmed the live-action shot more than once?
44. Wormtongue Looks Like A Jawa Straight Out Of
You'd think George Lucas' lawyers would have filed a complaint.
45. Saruman's Pep-Rally.
Bakshi has added a strange scene to the story: Saruman stands
before his armies of Orcs, and gives them a good Knute Rockne-styled
pep speech. "Our time is at hand," he tells them. "Theoden's
hundreds will face your tens of thousands!" The Orcs cheer and beat
drums. Shortly thereafter, as the Orcs approach Helm's Deep, they are all
singing... singing fight-songs.
I tell you, the only
things missing are the cheerleaders and the pom-poms.
Why does she look like the Wicked Queen from some Disney movie?
47. Varied And Subtle Musical Themes.
Quick! Get out your kazoo. Now play this:
Congratulations! You have just learned how to play the horn-call of
Boromir. And the horn-call of the Riders of Rohan. And the horn-call of
the Horn of Helm. And the horn-call of the Orcs. And, no doubt,
the famous Horn-Call of Buckland as well.
What's the matter?
Couldn't they afford to write more than one horn-call? Did Leonard Rosenman
only have room left on the score for two notes?
48. The Blasting-Fire.
It's not enough to have explosives used at Helm's Deep, as in the
book. Oh no! That's not nearly dramatic enough... so the explosives
are now magical ball-lightning, hurled all the way from Isengard some
eighty miles away. The filmmakers just don't seem to feel Tolkien's work
is interesting enough to stand on its own... so they glitz it up.
Unfortunately, this sort
of ignorant tampering makes the movie less interesting.
49. The Glittering Caves.
Gimli is bound to be disappointed, since the caves are completely
Curiously, even inside
the caves Theoden is unwilling to get off his horse.
50. Sam's Concern For His Master.
"After that?" Frodo asks sadly, when Sam asks about how
they'll eat after reaching Mount Doom. "If the Ring goes into the
Fire, and we're at hand? After that? Dear Sam! I wouldn't worry. Just to
get there... just to get there! Oh, the Ring is so heavy now,
Sam..." And Frodo casts his eyes downward, feeling again the acute
weight of his burden.
After a moment Sam gets
bored, stands up and begins to walk about whistling to himself.
51. The Final Battle of Helm's Deep.
The filmmakers, seeing the end of Part One in sight, simply give
up all pretense at this point - not only that the movie should make sense
to us, but even that it makes any sense to them. The final battle at
Helm's Deep, therefore, is ludicrously confusing. At the end, even the
filmmakers don't seem to know who's winning.
As the scene begins, the
Orcs are using battering-rams to try to break into the Glittering Caves.
The Horn of Helm is sounded (unless, of course, it's the Horn-call of
Buckland, or maybe Boromir returning from the dead), and all the Orcs
decide to drop the battering-ram and make a blind run for it for no
discernable reason. They fall back in rout, even though there are no
enemies present anywhere yet.
The Riders of Rohan
burst forth from the caves, Theoden leading them. Though not an Elf,
Theoden is nonetheless a good F-stop brighter than all
his men. He and Aragorn and the Rohirrim ride about slaying the Orcs.
(Slaying Orcs has become a familiar and favored pastime to the
filmmakers by now, so they have fourteen on-screen slayings in the next 58
The tide, however,
turns. After 58 seconds of being the clear victors, it slowly dawns on
Theoden, Aragorn and the other riders that they are, in fact,
surrounded by countless Orcs. Funny how they missed it before. The
Orcs, rather than simply charging in and killing them, slowly begin to
tighten their circle around them; Theoden and Aragorn look around, now
clearly realizing the hopelessness of their situation.
...At least, that is how
the scene looks. The orchestra, however, has something completely
different in mind, and begins playing heroic triumphant music which
is completely at odds with the hopeless situation onscreen. Evidently they
no longer know or care who's winning. (Or maybe they're rooting for the
One of the animators
evidently gives over to apathy for a moment as well. Surrounded by
enemies, Theoden actually smiles at the approaching Orcs for
the briefest of seconds before resuming his look of worry.
Luckily, Gandalf comes
riding to the rescue with a contingent of the Rohirrim. Succumbing to a
moment's Elvishness, Gandalf is exposed a couple of F-stops too bright
and looks for all the world like Moses descending from the Mountain
rather than a wizard. The Orcs are again driven back in rout, though
this time nobody has to blow a horn to tell them when to leave.
52. Sam Peckinpah.
The orchestra now begins playing Christmas music as Gandalf
rides Shadowfax through the Orcs, slaying at will. He begins killing
them in hideous detail, and in gruesome slow motion at that. Two
Orcs fall dead over the camera, the backs of their heads spraying
blood. What the hell! Since they've already gone this far, they may
as well make Lord of the Rings into a slasher flick too! Why not
just give Gandalf a chainsaw and be done with it?
A Final Observation.
Many of you reading this, having only seen the movie in revival
screenings or on videotape, may not have been aware of one other
unique aspect of its' original release.
53. The Bait-And-Switch.
Needless to say, when they first opened this movie it came forth
with lots of pre-opening publicity and advertising. Many exciting
facts about the movie were revealed in an effort to get people into the
Unfortunately, one of
the exciting facts that was not revealed was that the movie was
That's right: they
publicised the movie as Tolkien's complete Lord of the Rings, giving
no hint to anyone that it was, in fact, only Part One. It was even
advertised that way. And they kept you on in that belief right up to
the very moment when you had paid for the movie, sat through the
whole thing, and were waiting to see how they were going to screw up the
ending - my friends and I were actually looking forward to it in a
perverse way, since a glance at our watches told us they'd have to tie
up all the loose ends very quickly - when suddenly the narrator
announces that Part One has just concluded and the credits begin to
roll. The advertising for this movie was so brazenly deceptive I'm
surprised there weren't any lawsuits.
On the other hand, I
suppose I should be thankful that it stopped as soon as it did.
In fact, it might have
been a better movie if they'd stopped Part One at, say, Weathertop.
That, at least, could have been looked at as an act of mercy.
"[The scriptwriter has added] a great many Eagles, not to
mention incantations, blue lights, and some irrelevant magic... He has cut
the parts of the story upon which its characteristic and peculiar tone
principally depends, showing a preference for fights..."
-J.R.R. Tolkien, commenting on M.G. Zimmerman's
film treatment of Lord of the Rings
(Letters of J.R.R.