Sunday, November 14, 2010

Old-School Forgotten Sequels: The Return of the King (Animated)

When you start off with a piece of shit movie, it's rare that you can make something good for its sequel.  Mind you, it can happen.  Some sequels can be better (Candyman 2) and some can end up being bigger (Aliens 2).  It's very rare, however, to get one that dramatically jumps in quality over the other one.  That leads into today's film: The Return of the King...from 1980.  This movie is follow-up to the Rankin-Bass film that royally-screwed up the J.R.R. Tolkkien story that has delighted readers for half a century.  From cutting down the Mines of Moria section down to five minutes to making Samwise the ugliest creature ever born to making Gandalf into 'a wildly-flailing prophet of doom,' the film disappointed many.  This is the same people that helped make the classic Watership Down and the often-overlooked Fire & Ice, so they could have done so much better.  Allow me to set your standards to the proper level in four words: it is a musical.  Much better.  Get out your death eclipse for my review of...
The film begins, oddly enough, with Bilbo Baggins' birthday.  He is 129 years old and a bit forgetful.  This sets up the film proper, in which the entire finale of the tale is explained to him by Gandalf.  Just to note: this is only the third part of the story, as the first two are truncated together in the original film.  They begin by explaining the events of 'The Hobbit,' a story which Bilbo was the main character in!  It begins with Frodo having already been captured by the Orcs, Strider off somewhere, Merry off recruiting Theoden for help and the others awaiting the final battle at Minas Tirith.  All hope seems lost as Samwise (voiced by Roddy McDowall) can't get into the evil castle and decides to destroy the ring himself.  See ya, Frodo!  He has a change of heart and manages to get in, finding most of the Orcs dead.  It seems that they have killed each other in a battle over Frodo's cloak- which he didn't have with him!  Yeah, it seems that he left his sword, his cloak and THE ONE RING simply lying on the ground outside.  He gets inside by scaring one of the few Orcs left thanks to The One Ring and it's power to make him glow when he stands dramatically.  I don't know- just go with it.  Meanwhile, Gandalf and Pippin- who is a freaking mutant!- have no hope, especially when the King explaisn that evil ships are on the way.  Dun dun dun!
A mighty, non-rotoscoped battle ensues at Tirith & the tide shifts back and forth a few times.  Theoden shows up with Merry to save the day, although that is short-lived.  It seems that Sauron can blot out the sun, which apparently scares Theoden's horse, causing it to buck him and INSTANTLY KILL HIM!  No, really.  During all of this, Samwise and Frodo wander around the enemy territory, clevely-disguised in Orc clothing...which somehow fits them.  Samwise also shows off his magical potion that blinds the magic door guards, despite not actually being poured out in any way.  Frodo gets a bit 'emo,' but Samwise helps him push through.  They over-sleep one night, however, and end up in an Orc line.  This leads to an infamous musical number called 'Where There's A Whip, There's A Way.'  Hello, fast-forward button.  At Tirith, the Witch King and his head made out of smoke show up to kill Theoden's daughter, who stands up to him.  He is defeated when Merry backstabs it and she cuts it's non-head off.  She says 'I avenged you, father,' which is a bit of stretch to me.  You basically got your ass kicked until a hobbit stabbed the thing and you 'picked the bones.'  Back with Frodo, he has a long, story-recapping dream and a fantasy about returning to the Shire.  Thanks, but that accomplishes nothing.  That was about as useful as Samwise's 'ring-inspired' fantasy of being a leader.  Creative, but pointless. 
The final stretch proves alternately way too easy and way too hard.  The Orcs regroup when the famous ships come down the river, but give up when they are revealed to be Strider and his army.  How did those green sails appear to be black again?  Back with Frodo and Samwise, they are stopped by Gollum, who appears to be a giant frog here.  Not sure about that choice, but, whatever.  After a short scuffle, they elude him and go into the volcano.  Frodo goes all super-evil on us for a minute before Gollum returns to bite that ring off of his finger.  It takes the powerful object and skips away, TRIPPING AND FALLING INTO MOUNT DOOM!  You're kidding, right?  This interrupts a threat of a fight between the force of good- now led by Gandalf and Strider- and a host of barely-drawn in Orcs.  Thankfully, about a million eagles (of unusual size) show up to carry all of the people away, including Frodo and Sam.  Back home, Frodo has another emo trip and asks to ride off with Gandalf, Bilbo and the Elves since 'the weight of the Ring has aged him beyond his years.'  Gandalf agrees and the group leaves the others behind, including Legolas and Gimli, who were apparently cut for time.  The End.
 This movie sucks and it's pretty obvious why.  The plot uses the actual story has a general idea, but otherwise goes off on it's own tangents.  Were the dream sequences necessary for a story this long?  In addition, the changes to the story are kind of irritating.  The One Ring is destroyed by mere happenstance.  You've got to be kidding me!  Strider's quest to become the true King is just kind of ignored and he shows up as the King, with no build-up.  Plus, you cut Gimli and Legolas out of the story for no good reason- for shame!  How will I know who has Gimli's axe now?!?  The animation alternates between being really good and really bad.  In fact, the summary bits from 'The Hobbit' are actually quite good, but the rest doesn't match up.  You also get some gorgeous background shots, while others are decent ones that get dragged across by a static camera.  It's not animation if things aren't moving- it's a painting!  I've been avoiding the elephant in the room, so here it is: I hate the songs from this movie!  They are constant, annoying and are often pointless.  Every time the Ring glows, they play the same refrain- "The wearer of The Ring, the bearer of The Ring."  You can't rhyme 'Ring' with 'Ring!'  The point of making it a musical is completely lost on me.  Mind you, this is the same movie that has people doing monologues to themselves for minutes on end, rather than just SAYING THINGS.  The second they introduced a nameless Minstrel as a character, I knew that all hope was lost.  Yet again, they had the chance to make something great and just made something embarassing.  I'll say this: Thank you, Peter Jackson.
Up next, a classic, Irwin Allen disaster movie gets a sequel.  On the plus side, it has exploding stock footage and Kojak.  Stay tuned...


  1. I am a huge, HUGE fan of the original Hobbit animated movie, but I havent seen this one in friggin years. I remember hating the Lord of the Rings animated snooze fest, except for the Ring Wraiths. PS -- How nice is it to not have to do the captchas on my site anymore lol..

  2. If you didn't like that movie, this one won't change your mind. Plus, it has a shit-ton more songs in it- most of which suck.

    P.S.-- It totally is.