The Lord of the Rings (1978)

PG   |    |  Animation, Adventure, Fantasy


The Lord of the Rings (1978) Poster

The Fellowship of the Ring embark on a journey to destroy the One Ring and end Sauron's reign over Middle-earth.

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6.2/10
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  • The Lord of the Rings (1978)
  • The Lord of the Rings (1978)
  • Ralph Bakshi in The Lord of the Rings (1978)
  • Michael Deacon and Philip Stone in The Lord of the Rings (1978)
  • John A. Neris and Trey Wilson in The Lord of the Rings (1978)
  • Simon Chandler in The Lord of the Rings (1978)

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12 February 2000 | jvowles-2
7
| Underrated adaptation
As an animated film from 1978, this is pretty good--generally well above the standard of the days when Disney hadn't done anything good in years (and Tolkien cared little for Disney anyway). It gets major points for innovative and careful camera work, applying cinematic techniques with relative success. The much-maligned rotoscoping actually works pretty well, especially with the Ringwraiths, and the opening narration. However, it is so drastically overused--possibly as a money-saving technique--that it detracts from the overall effect. The same technique that makes wraiths spooky and otherworldly doesn't fare so well in the Prancing Pony.

As for the adaptation of the story, it's actually quite good. We lose little bits here and there, minor details such as the Old Forest and Tom Bombadil, the Gaffer and the Sackville-Bagginses. We compress a few characters, such as revising Legolas as one of Elrond's household and an old friend of Aragorn's, but that's a rather wise decision for film. In books you have room to include the references to the larger world of the Elves and Middle-Earth's vast history. In film, you trade that for visuals and sound that convey the same elements in a different way. Nothing critical is truly lost here, and although I have minor quibbles about some of the changes, I'm generally pretty happy with it.

If only the dratted writers had managed to remember Saruman's name--he's frequently referred to as Aruman, a decision probably made to make him more distinct from similarly-named Sauron; it took me a second viewing before I was certain I hadn't misheard it. It's also annoying that Boromir is a bloody stage viking, and irritable from the start. However, Gandalf is excellent, and most of the rest of the voicework is excellent. If only John Hurt weren't too old to play Aragorn; I love his voice.

Of course, with the film ending at the midpoint of the story, there's a vast disappointment built in. What makes it far, far worse is the altogether miserable job done by the Rankin & Bass crew on the sequel. That they were permitted to do Return of the King after butchering The Hobbit remains a huge mystery; they seem more interested in bad songs than in proper storytelling. For all its faults, this film's heart is solidly in place and it tries very hard to accomplish a nearly impossible task. I can only hope that the upcoming series of films keeps as true to its vision...

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Animation | Adventure | Fantasy

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