Produced by 20th Century Fox, 1976
Directed, Written and Produced by Ralph Bakshi
Featuring the voices of Bob Hold (Avatar), Jesse Welles (Elinore), Richard Romanus (Weehawk), Steve Gravers (Blackwolf)

Reviewed by TG Browning

Odd, how the space of twenty years can change a book, movie or song. My memory of this movie was good and I loved it when it first came out, but Iím afraid I have to say it creaks after twenty-five-plus years. And thatís too bad in a host of ways, not the least of which is that what was a cut above daring, state of the art animation, suffers from modern comparisons. Further, the movie was told in a time when America was in a come-back, happy and self-congratulatory place, having escaped from VietNam. The America of today is quite different. This other America has turned several corners and indeed, walked into a new landscape of ideas, quirks, values, and realities. Weíre no longer innocent (though we try like hell, it seems to me, to be so). Consider: The current situation unraveling in the Middle East, with a war in Iraq, Islamic fanaticism, American fanaticism, and the flowering of such mind sets (think prisons, think prisoners, think degrading both vanquished and victor alike), quite a bit of Wizards just doesnít cut it.

Even so, buy it. Itís an important piece of film legacy and Bakshi is still to be lauded and congratulated for what he accomplished. Thatís because of the timelessness of quite a bit of the story. Good and Evil ó oh, how we know that they still exist today. Honor and justice ó theyíre still to be desired. Humor in the face of horror and stupidity ó well, we always need that. Itís done with ťlan and itís welcome, even if itís no longer as germane as it once was.

The story is that of two wizards, Blackwolf and Avatar. One bad, one good. One tall, dark and skeletal (I wonder if that will have something to say, appropriate, to the thirty & twentysomethings about looking good and feeling fit?), one short, redheaded and roundish. Unfortunately for modern thinking, he also smokes cigars, while the villain doesnít smoke at all. These two finally are set to go head to head after literally ages of waiting and dancing around, looking for the right opportunity.

Elves are involved, as are fairies and dwarves, mutants and rather funny looking horse analogs. Itís set in a post-apocalyptic world that has had a million years to try and regenerate a working, livable environment with only limited success.

Blackwolf finally manages to uncover a mysterious weapon from the past, one that is so powerful that it can overcome the better-organized and more resolute armies of good. His first act in the new war is to send out assassins to kill the capable heads of state arrayed against him, succeeds with many and begins the new war with ancient technology. And itís here that the I have to add a caveat. This movie, for all of its dependence upon technology, is a rant against science and technology that bothers me a great deal. I remember at the time I didnít much like that aspect, but if you assign the word fantasy to a story, then you can get away with a lot. I think I let it get away with too much, then. Why?

Because itís propaganda and not very well done propaganda at that. Now, after twenty-five years of seeing such propaganda get free reign with many, Iím not much in favor of it. Iím not going to go into the right or wrong of the movie and the propaganda, I am going to say this. To my mind, at this late stage of life, I fear fanatics far more than I do technology. I merely point to the world outside, at this very moment, to prove my point. End of that topic in this review.

Avatar is warned of his brotherís moves and discovery. Along with a fierce elf named Weehawk (lots of hawks in this movie, donít ask me why), Elinore, the fairy queen-to-be now that her father has been assassinated, and a regenerated, remodeled assassin renamed Peace, strike for the center of the trouble, intending to take out Blackhawkís war machine and power. Thereís betrayal along the way, a lot of messy killing (some of it funny, oddly enough ó ďFritz, theyíve killed Fritz!Ē) and some wonderful animation. I think that in many ways, the hype that Bakshi got for The Lord of the Rings film he did, missed the mark. If anything, with that particular live-action/overlay/colorization process, Wizards was the better movie technically.

The ending? Well, I wonít spoil it. There are surprises. Be aware that Bakshi does take a crack at the classic flaw in good/evil confrontations: That the methods of the one canít employed by the other, if the two are to remain different. Iím not sure Bakshiís answer is the right one, either, but I will say this: ďEmotionally satisfying.Ē

Buy the movie. Think about then and now. Maybe we can come up with some better answers.

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