I grew up on a few big franchises through the 80's, 'Star Wars', 'Indy', 'Star Trek' and 'Lord of the Rings'. Of course LOTR was never much of a franchise as the only thing available to us (other than the actual book) was the Bakshi animated version, but I loved it. Grown out of it slightly now admittedly but still...lets soldier on.
I can't compare the animated film fairly to be honest but I must admit there was always elements of Bakshi's effort that worked so well. There are many elements of this Jackson effort I like also but as usual with so many modern films I do feel the over exaggerated hype simply forced people to adhere to the fact that this film is suppose to be 'epic'.
The start of this film is perfect, everything we see in 'the Shire' is just as you would expect and it looks wonderful. Straight away you can see the immense detail that has been put into the film with the interior sets inside 'Bilbo's' little dwelling (look at the metal framing on the back of his front door). Clothing, decorations, equipment etc...everything within the Shire is warm, cozy and thoroughly inviting to the point that you just wanna up sticks and live there. I still think they took some ideas from 'Willow' hehe.
We all knew what to expect with the look of the characters before hand but you still can't fail to be impressed with the quality of simple things like wigs and little items of clothing such as waistcoats. The plot trundles along nicely and like the 78 animated version its pretty similar in styles and visuals. The journey to 'Bree' and incidents within 'The Prancing Pony' all look great and have that perfect olde English atmosphere with much ale drinking amongst shady figures.
I enjoyed pretty much everything up to the point where the heroes meet up with the Elves 'Galadriel' and 'Celeborn'. At this point I found myself getting bored, the sequences here were heavy going and pretty dull frankly. Not that I expected anything else but I just felt the plot and interest slip away from me. From this point I was disappointed with what I saw, the film seems to lose a lot of its genuine old world atmosphere, the orcs and especially 'Uruk-hai' looked pretty dreadful and the fight sequences become extremely repetitive.
We know the heroes don't die so you know they will be slicing down the bad guys left right and centre but the fights looked pretty badly choregraphed to me with obvious fake fisticuffs going on. The orcs just keep on coming one after another whilst the main heroes merely glance at them with a sword or look at them and they go flying to the ground in screams of agony...hmmm.
I never liked the designs for the orcs either really. They always looked like something from a bad 'Star Trek' episode with silly fake contacts, silly fake teeth and the odd scar across the face. They are a random bunch so the odd one looked OK but I must side with the Bakshi film for this. I always loved how the orcs were in the shadows, faces obscured by darkness only allowing their eerie red eyes to glow through. The 78 animated film was much darker in tone with violence and the orc hordes, Jackson's film never captured that spooky essence for me a tall with either.
This leads me to the effects which a lot was done with CGI. Now this was to be expected of course, you can't really make a film about this fairytale without it. Back in the day CGI was blooming was used in everything but unfortunately it hadn't been fine tuned yet. The result for this film being somewhat sketchy to say the least. Upon release everyone barked on about how great the effects were, I never saw this, to me they were always pretty bad and naturally to this day now look even worse.
You can't be negative about effects on old films but like I said even when I saw this at the cinema it looked dire to me. Where it worked was landscapes, skylines and armies, there are some glorious village/kingdom shots in this film, the odd building/ruin/relic also looked good but the problem came with over the top action set pieces and creatures.
Alongside tonnes of hideously bad bluescreen effects some of the CGI is damn ropey to be honest. Sequences inside the 'Mines of Moria' are easily the worst in the film and look awful, the huge troll the team must fight and the 'Balrog' demon always looked fake. The orc pits surrounding 'Saruman's' castle were another badly realised concept, looking back they really do look like PS2 sequences.
A lot of the action always did look like videogame sequences to me, much like the army battles at the start of the film and in the following sequels. The same issue that CGI had and still does really is the effects tend to look plastic and obvious.
One of the films main assets if you ask me is the attention to detail on errr everything!. Jackson has tried to cover all aspects right down to the smallest detail which has to be applauded. The other main asset must be the real location shoots used for various parts of 'Middle Earth'. Far be it from me to say but at times the film felt more of a tourist advert for New Zealand than a film hehe yep that's me being cynical, but honestly the location work really did expand the Tolkien universe to new heights. Much like 'Star Wars' did with their locations.
Cast wise, well I can't fault this really, every character is well cast and every actor does a good job, nuff said. Hell even the extras for the elves looked perfect just standing there saying nothing but looking so...elf-like.
Something the Bakshi film lacked but this film had was a beautifully smooth ethereal spirituality to it. Jackson captures the mythical almost semi religious tones of the story (mainly through sequences involving the elves and their folklore) and really makes it feel historically believeable. All the while you are accompanied by gentle heavenly sounds and the type of music you expect from 'Clannad' or 'Tangerine Dream', it is in fact Enya on occasion.
I still prefer the Bakshi version for certain aspects but I like this version for others. I don't think this film was quite dark or forboding enough in various sequences, huge missed chances with the 'Ringwraiths' methinks, and merely having screaming ugly drooling orcs isn't really enough to say its dark n scary. I also loved how the Bakshi film didn't cower away from showing lots of blood, something this film lacked.
First half of the film I love but from the midway point I don't like, simple as that really. It seems to go from a beautiful fable to a daft videogame mashup, think 'Legend' at the start then 'Conan' from the midway point.
I can't rant on about the semi reasonable effects or lack of the odd bits and pieces here and there lets be frank, the film is much more than that. Even though its not a perfect adaptation of the classic tale its pretty darn close and manages to encompass enough adventure and excitement with just the right amount of emotion to thrill. I do think it has been over hyped terribly which is a common problem these days but it is still a solid film, just not as epic as you're led to believe.
No one should ignore the Bakshi animated film either I must say, a glorious piece of work that really does offer a damn good alternative to this film.