The Hobbit (1977) IMDb

Categorization

Fantasy in a manner rendered orthodox by J. R. R. Tolkien. This is a cel-animated musical feature version of Tolkien's eponymous prelude. The book resembles traditional children's literature, and this film resembles traditional children's animation.

Commentary

Bass and Rankin directing. John Huston, playing Gandalf, sounds a bit like Leonard Nimoy, who recorded “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” in 1967; alas there is no real connection.

Japanese production animation moving picture

Sequel:

The Lord of the Rings (1978) IMDb

Categorization

Filming of the first two thirds or so of Tolkien's epic by the same name. Much of the animation is traditional cel stuff, some of it aided by rotoscoping. As in the battle scenes of the director's Wizards (1977), cheaper rotoscoping on a larger scale takes over towards the end.

Subject

An entity seeks to rule through an innocuous magical artefact. Three races convene to destroy the artefact, but who is least susceptible to its promises of power? Dwarfs have little interest in or influence on the surface world anymore. Humans are short-lived, fickle and divided, responsible for not having destroyed the artefact when it would have been easier. Elves, while clearly a superior race, are abandoning the continent to live with their distant gods. A non-human wizard, set apart, realizes that a fourth race is more suitable: a little known people called hobbits. They are childlike in stature and care little for adventure, but seem to resist the corrupting call of the artefact better than the others.

So it falls to a small group of small hobbits, protected by a fellowship made up of the other races and led by a man who could one day unite the humans, to carry the artefact to where it was forged, a volcanic fire at the heart of darkness. It may be possible to survive the long journey, but not to do so unchanged.

Commentary

Obvious budget problems. A few things are done well enough. With far more time and money it might have escaped the now total shade of Jackson's version.

References here: The Return of the King (1980).

animation moving picture

From the same book:

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) IMDb

Extent

Review refers to the extended edition.

Categorization

Live action with an encyclopedia's worth of trick filming and CGI. This, the first third of Peter Jackson's trilogy, is more faithful to the novel than Bakshi's version. Jackson adds much, especially more crude humour and violence, and subtracts some good stuff.

Commentary

The whole 2001-2003 trilogy is awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, the heart of the story is still a universe predicated upon incomprehensible moral strictures. Ugly is evil (and cool) and wants to rule a dead world for some reason, but monarchism is wonderful, nature will literally fight back, and so on. There are many fine impulses towards greater realism, and it's hard to imagine a better interpretation within the flawed framework, but I can't forget the basic foolishness of blowing up an Aristotelian double plot to epic scales without the other visceral rewards needed to uncouple reason. Also, there are a couple of flaws in execution, notably in the late extended scenes.

References here: Wild About New Zealand (2000).

moving picture

Sequel:

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) IMDb

Extent

Review refers to the extended edition.

moving picture

Sequel:

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) IMDb

Extent

Review refers to the extended edition.

moving picture

Sequel:

The Return of the King (1980) IMDb

Extent

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Musical in the style of the original, defying the serious turn of the underlying literature. Less desperate and less creative in its execution than Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings (1978), to which this is not a sequel, despite the timing and minimal overlap of the three projects.

Subject

The last third of Tolkien's epic, with many omissions and curious changes. Elrond has a glittering halo for some reason. Eowyn gets her crowning moment, while many other major characters are cut. Aragorn's army, apparently of the living, is lifted away from Mordor by Gwaihir's buddies, really highlighting the classic plot hole. Weirdly, Gandalf prophesies that hobbits will merge into the human species by gradually becoming taller, which I suppose is an allowance for an audience of children, who will do something similar in real life.

Commentary

Apart from the leading motif of “Frodo with the nine fingers”, the darkness of the novel is not effectively represented here. It is therefore not clear why Frodo chooses to leave Middle-Earth. The plot can't make much sense to people who've never read the novel, nor seen Bakshi's film.

Japanese production animation moving picture