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
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
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