The Lord of the Rings (1978) (part 8 of 11)
Anyway, on with the “quest”. Our zeroes wander through rooms and things which are admittedly kind of atmospheric, and come across the requisite Ancient Tome in a room full of skulls and stuff. Gandalf reads from the Ancient Tome, which is a record of the dwarf city. The gist of it is that the place was invaded by orcs: the ugly, evil servants of… oh, come on. Everyone knows what an orc is!
Hearing this, Idiot Cousin pathetically says, “I don’t wanna stay here!” while clutching Gandalf’s hand. Look, Bakshi, just because the hobbits are small doesn’t mean they’re children. Stop making them run and hide behind the Big People every time trouble arises.
My prayers are finally answered when a huge, terrifying horde of orcs shows up, waving its weapons with malice aforethought. Hah. Just kidding. In fact there are only seven of them. I counted. Plus, they’re not even animated, just actors in terrible costumes, tinted a ghastly army-green with (natch) red eyes drawn on them. This is how the orcs will look for pretty much the entirety of the movie. We’ll only get to see a fully animated orc one time, for about half a second, and even then it’s only his feet.
Everyone acts like they’re in grave danger, even though they’re not even outnumbered. For no particular reason, Gandalf mentions that the orcs have a cave-troll with them (you see the thing for, like, two seconds, and then it inexplicably vanishes).
We watch a (tinted) Herman and Boromir fight an epic battle with one orc. It throws a spear at Alvin, but he unfortunately survives, because he’s wearing the previously-established Mithril shirt. The orc is killed (in slo-mo, for some reason), and here we learn the orcs have purple blood. This means that, when they’re killed, it looks a lot like someone piercing a pouch of Capri Sun, grape flavour.
The Fellowship decides to make a break for it, and they dash off into… some other place, with stairs, pursued by a terrible horde of ten orcs. Okay, two questions here: Where did the extra orcs suddenly spring from? And why is the Fellowship so terrified of ten miserable orcs? Obviously, the orcs are supposed to represent a huge horde coming to slaughter them, but it’s nowhere near convincing. Especially considering it’s like, the same three actors over and over again.
The pursuit carries on way past its use-by date. Herman waves his sword at the orcs and yells at them to fudge off. Somehow, the sound of John Hurt’s croaky voice yelling fiercely is intensely amusing to me. Perhaps it’s because I keep remembering him as the kindly old professor in Hellboy. And the tortured everyman Winston Smith in 1984. And the guy who gets caught by the face-hugger in Alien. He’s a great actor, but not exactly the voice of a mighty warrior, if you get my drift.
We get a close-up on the orcs, which is a really bad idea, especially when I spot one who—I kid you not—is wearing an old mop on his head. I’m serious! He looks like a cross between Cousin It and a 300-year-old Rastafarian. Terrified by the sight of these ghastly cotton dreadlocks, Herman runs off.
Then there’s a lot of roaring. Our heroes turn around and see… the Balrog! Aaaaaaaugghh! Hang on, let me rephrase that. Hahahahahaha! As you probably know, the Balrog is supposed to be a big, scary, fiery, demonic monster. In the books, it was also the reason the dwarves were driven from Moria. It had been sleeping under the mountains since ancient times, and the dwarves’ mining finally woke it up.
In Bakshi’s version, the Balrog is a guy with a lion’s head, big clown feet, and butterfly wings. I mean, I know the budget was restricted, but good gods. Apparently, the Balrog was woken up again by the Idiot Cousin dropping that rock down the well. Or maybe it was the racket all those orcs were making. Fortunately for the Fellowship, the Balrog scares off the orcs. Or so I assume. They actually just vanish after it shows up.
Anyway, this less-than-horrific sight scares the pants off our heroes. Excluding Herman and Boromir, who weren’t wearing any in the first place. They all run off, with the exception of Gandalf, who stops to “bravely” face the Balrog. The others try to get him to come along, but he yells, “Fly, fly, you cannot help me!” in about the dullest and most uninspiring bit of acting yet. This is meant to be a deeply moving and inspiring moment where Our Brave Gandalf dares to stand up to Evil all on his own to save his friends. But of course, it’s foiled by the ghastly performance of Gandalf’s voice actor.
The rest of the Fellowship clears out without complaint, and I don’t blame them. This leaves Gandalf and the Balrog to have a tense standoff. Sorry, when I said “tense”, I meant hilarious.
The Balrog flies over to confront Gandalf. I repeat, flies. I’m not an expert on the books, but I’m pretty certain that Balrogs don’t fly (but they appear to have wings, anyway. Whatever). Also, this Balrog roars, and I have it on good authority that Tolkien himself explicitly stated that Balrogs don’t have voices. Hence, no roaring. Sheesh.
Gandalf utters his famous “you cannot pass” line, which, coming from this guy, wouldn’t scare off a mouse. He and the Balrog fight a bit, and Gandalf’s magical sword is destroyed. Which, I might add, didn’t happen in the book. And not only that, but the sword reappears later on, definitely not destroyed.
Then Gandalf uses magic to break apart the bridge they’re on, and the Balrog falls. Yes, somehow, it forgets that it can fly. Sadly—I mean, luckily—it uses its whip to snare Gandalf and pull him down with it. Everyone rushes to the edge, but all they can do is watch him plummet to the depths. As Gandalf falls, he shouts, “Fly, you fools!” Ah, good old Gandalf. Even while falling into a pit of doom, he still cares enough to give one last obnoxious command for the road.
Needless to say, the movie acts like this is a big tragedy, with a slow zoom-out from the pit accompanied by A Terrible Thing Just Happened Music. We see Alvin, Herman, and Boromir standing together in a group looking horror-struck. Hmm. I’m betting that as soon as they’re off-camera, they’ll be breaking out the champagne.
No, really. In all the movies I’ve ever watched, I’ve met very few characters as unlikeable as this version of Gandalf. In the whole one hour and five minutes that’s passed so far, we haven’t seen him behave pleasantly even once. If he’s not ordering people around, he’s patronising them, or calling them stupid. Admittedly, everyone in the movie is pretty stupid, but even so. Without him around, things may just get better. (Yeah, I know. Just let me hope, dammit.)
Oh, dear gods, I’m wrong. With Gandalf out of the picture, Herman now takes up the post of Person Who Raps Out Obnoxious Commands. He snarls at everyone to get a move on, and they run out of the mines at last. Phew. What a waste of fifteen minutes that was (well, they got rid of Gandalf, so it wasn’t completely worthless). They step out of the caves, and for no apparent reason, there’s a massive zoom-out to an extremely wide shot of the area. It’s so wide, in fact, that we can hardly see the cave entrance. What the hell?
Cut to the Fellowship doing what they evidently do when they haven’t got Gandalf: lie around and complain. Herman is tending to Sam (ick!), who apparently got wounded, although the moviemakers cruelly didn’t let us see that happen. I personally would have paid four times what this DVD is worth if they’d have shown Sam getting the living hell beaten out of him.
Alvin is whining about how there’s no hope without Gandalf, and the guy’s gone and Alvin is still pissing me off with this. I mean, what is with him? Our so-called hero is so emotionally co-dependant on Gandalf that he can’t do anything for himself?
Alvin hears someone stalking about, and claims he heard the same thing in Moria as well. Obviously, it’s Gollum, who’s on a terrifying, obsessive vendetta to get the Tap Washer back. But so what?
Herman says they have to go to Lothlorien, another elvish settlement, and Boromir complains about how “evil” the place supposedly is. Come on, Boromir. All your friends are doing it! Yet another stupid argument ensues, once again at the worst possible moment. Is anyone else getting the feeling that our heroes are idiots, or is it just me?
Anyway, we then immediately—and I do mean immediately—cut to the elvish rulers Galadriel and Celeborn welcoming them all to Lothlorien. So I’m guessing Boromir lost that particular argument.
Yet again, we’re clued in to the fact that the filmmakers couldn’t be bothered to do basic research, because they mispronounce Celeborn as “Sell-a-born”, even though Tolkien’s endless appendices made it clear it’s meant to sound like “Keleborn”. Galadriel says they already know about Gandalf’s apparent demise (news travels fast in these parts. Almost… as if by magic!), and tells them “the whole of Middle Earth mourns for your loss”. Meanwhile, the whole of our world mourned for this movie. Incidentally, we’re treated to yet more psychedelic effects here, as the Lothlorien backdrop seems to be made up of fairy-lights and those funny oil paintings that kids make in kindergarten.
Our heroes are now introduced one by one to Galadriel, and when it’s Sam’s turn, we hear “light-hearted” clarinet music, so that we know this guy is meant to be “funny”. Still not buying it, Mr. Bakshi. Galadriel looks at him with what I can only call serene incomprehension, which really fits the bill, particularly given her rather drugged-up personality. Sam then proceeds to once again giggle like a little girl. This scene is just so wrong, I can’t even put it into words.
Now we segue into… well, I think it’s a choir of elves, but don’t quote me on that, and we hear a lament for Gandalf. However, this “lament” is obviously being sung by a children’s chorus, and it also sounds very happy and upbeat. Hmmm. So maybe I’m not the only one who’s glad Gandalf is gone.
To the accompaniment of the song, there’s a montage of the Fellowship enjoying themselves in Lothlorien. There’s Herman and Alvin sparring, Gimli and Legolas practising archery, and other things we don’t care about. Sam also reinforces his manly credentials by picking flowers. Though, to be fair, he forgets to pick their petals and do the “he loves me, he loves me not” thing. He then throws the flowers up in the air for no reason. Hey, stay out of our flowerbeds, you pest!
There’s also a totally ridiculous shot of Boromir sharpening his sword on a rock. Uh, they’re called whetstones, Boromir. Look into it. And while you’re at it, get some new clothes and a shave. And get rid of that stupid helmet.
Now comes the famous scene of Galadriel showing Alvin and Sam their futures in her Magic Bowl, which in this film, looks like it’s full of dye. Perhaps they’re planning on making some of those funky t-shirts later? Oh, come on, these elves are so obviously hippies.
Lamely, when the two hobbits look into the bowl, we don’t see what they see. Instead, they just describe what they’re seeing. Talk about lazy. Tell me again why I’m watching this instead of the Jackson version?
When Alvin looks into the water, he sees a fractal pattern looking back at him. I was wondering what the hell that meant, when Galadriel—with a perfectly straight face—tells him it’s the Eye of Sore-on. Excuse me for a moment while I cringe. Alvin tries to touch the water, and Galadriel yells at him not to. For crying out loud, does everyone in this movie have to be snappy and didactic?
Galadriel tells Alvin that Sore-on is looking for him. I have a hunch he already knows that, lady. Then again, the Black Cheerleaders disappeared after being drenched in the river, so maybe Alvin thought that Sore-on had given up, too.
Galadriel holds up her hand to show she’s wearing one of the Rings of Power mentioned in the opening (so not everyone who owns one gets corrupted, I guess). The ring then lets forth an outrageous shower of rainbow sparks. In the books her ring glowed once, briefly, so of course they have to completely overdo it here.
She tells him that if Sore-on gets the Tap Washer of Doom, he’ll use it to destroy Lothlorien. So Alvin offers it to her. When that happens, she bursts into patronising laughter. Okay, we know he’s contemptible, but do the characters have to keep agreeing with us?
She blathers on about how “terrible” she’d be, all the while twirling around like a ballerina. She then announces that she “passed the test”. Does she mean the auditions for Swan Lake? Because I think she’d be better off as the Swan Princess, seeing as how she looks like she stepped out of a sub-Disney fairytale.