Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings vs Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings (open spoilers)

Not sure if I need the open spoiler warning for films that came out in 1978 and 2000’s but anyways:

I got the Bakshi movie on dvd today (remastered “deluxe” edition) and watched the entire thing for the first time. I’ve seen bits and pieces but not the entire thing. In some ways it’s not as bad as I thought. So here’s some thoughts and comparisons to PJ’s movies. Of course the Bakshi movie rushed through a lot of stuff, cramming Fellowship and Two Towers into one movie. So a lot of stuff was cut, and it kind of feels like the “Cliff’s notes” version. Just the highlights please. However the dialogue, or at least most of it, is truer to the books than the PJ version.

Some key points:
The Shire. Bakshi had the relevant Gandalf/Bilbo and Gandalf/Frodo scenes but you only get a glimpse of the Shire. Bakshi’s Bilbo party starts and ends with the speech. Jackson showed you around the shire and made you want to live there, or at least buy a house with round doors and hallways. Advantage: Jackson
Saruman (Aruman) and Orthanc. I can kind of understand (if not agree with) the decision to cut off the first letter of one of your characters names to avoid confusion with the main villian. But at least be freaking CONSISTENT about it. Sometimes he’s Saruman, sometimes he’s Aruman. Does he have an evil twin? Everything about Jackson’s Sauramon and Orthanc was better. Visually, that is. The ridiculous “air battle” between Gandalf and Saruman was a joke. “You have elected the way of PAIN!”. Bakshi’s Saruman at least resembled Gandalf (Tolkien said it was hard to tell the wizards apart), and his dialogue was better. But the Bakshi Orthanc was terrible, and why was Saruman the WHITE wearing a RED robe? Advantage: neither
Black Riders. They were both very good but Jackson’s were scarier. Advantage: Jackson
Bree. Every single thing about the Bakshi version was better in this scene. This is one of the bits of Jacksons movie that I hated most. Jackson’s Bree was short and and everything about it was horrible. Advantage: Bakshi
Weathertop. Jackson’s LOOKED like the ruins of an ancient tower. Bakshi’s looked like a clearing in a forest. Other than that both were about the same. Bakshi’s Nazgul didn’t actually look like it caught fire though. Advantage:** Jackson (slight)**
The Council of Rivendell. Bakshi’s was not completely true to the book but much better than the 5 minute fiasco of a council that took place in PJ’s movie. On the other hand, Jackson’s Rivendell was beautiful. But [Monty Python]it’s only a model. [/Monty Python] Advantage: Bakshi
Orcs. Bakshi’s orcs were a horrible rotoscoped mess. They were so dark you couldn’t tell what was going on most of the time in the orc scenes. Jacksons orcs were cool and scary. Advantage: Jackson
Mines of Moria. Neither gave us much of a glimpse of Moria. Jackson does have a slight edge, but in the end it’s a draw. Advantage: neither
Gandalf reading the book of Marazbul (sp?) in Balin’s tomb. Bakshi had the more complete and accurate scene, but the PJ Gimli reaction to finding his cousin’s tomb was better. Advantage: Bakshi
The Balrog. If the Bakshi Balrog could fly, why did it fall down the pit? That collection of mismatched parts didn’t look like something that would inspire terror and drive thousands of battle hardened dwarves out of their homes. Jackson’s Balrog was a little over the top, but pure bad-ass. Advantage: Jackson
Lothlorien. Neither showed us much that much of Lothlorien, but PJ’s staircases up the trees and his depiction of Celebron and Galadriel was much closer to how I’d pictured it. Bakshi’s Galadriel looked like Barbie. Advantage: Jackson However:
The Mirror of Galadriel. PJ gave us nuclear Galadriel, while Bakshi’s Galadriel seemed kind of… emotionless in that scene, considering how important it was that she refused the ring. But in the end Bakshi’s scene was more accurate. Advantage: Bakshi
Frodo leaving the party. While not completely accurate, the Bakshi version was far, far better and made much more sense. PJ’s version was kind of ham handed. On the Jackson side, I loved Aragorn covering the ring with his when he lets Frodo go (even though it wasn’t in the book). Still the Advantage goes to: Bakshi
Boromir’s death. The Bakshi version seemed a little more accurate, but PJ had the emotional impact. They were both very good, but I liked Jacksons version a little better. Advantage: Jackson
Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas chase the orcs. Again, Bakshi has the edge in accuracy but his orcs sucked the big one. His rotoscoping is one of the worst things ever put to film. Advantage: Jackson
Meeting the Riders of Rohan. This is one of the areas where Jackson actually was pretty true to the books. Bakshis scene is very truncated and due to his horrible rotoscoping you can’t tell what the hell is going on. Advantage: Jackson
Treebeard and the Entmoot. How does a walking tree get fat? Bakshi’s treebeard was a joke, there was NO entmoot, or any other ents at all. Jacksons version didn’t have the full entmoot but was pretty good (if you can overlook Gimli voicing treebeard). Advantage: Jackson (by far)
Theoden and Grima Wormtongue. I hated Jacksons Theoden pre-exorcism, and loved him post exorcism. His Grima was more along the right lines but waaaay too over the top. Bakshi’s Theoden, on the other hand, sucked the whole way through, but his Grima was much better. Advantage: draw
Helm’s Deep. Jackson’s Battle was fairly decent except for a few things. Extreme Legolas. “Toss Me!” I’m going to lead a calvary charge into pikemen and it will work because I’m GANDALF!. Bakshi, on the other hand, completely butchered this scene. This is easily the worst example of his awful rotoscoping technique. Imagine an animated Theodens (who looks like Santa Claus) head atop a rotoscoped Theoden body, sitting astride a real horse. Yep. Advantage:** Jackson**

So that’s my take on it. In some ways I can see why the Bakshi version has such a terrible reputation. Most of the background/landscapes were pretty unimpressive, if not downright terrible, and didn’t give me that Middle Earth feeling. The rotoscoping was absolutely terrible, easily the worst rotoscoping I’ve ever seen. It was too dark and it was very jarring. Scenes where an animated character was fighting a rotoscoped character were really bizarre looking. Jacksons scenery, landcapes, weapons and armor, and characters all looked stunning and really made me feel like I was in Middle Earth. On the other hand, some of the scenes, most notably Bree, the Council of Elrond, and Galadriels mirror, were pretty good, and Bakshi didn’t butcher the dialogue as much as Jackson did, and was much truer to the books in some respects.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?

I haven’t watched the Bakshi version in a few years now, and some of what I remember as better than Jackson’s versions may not be accurate memories. I’ll see if I can find the time Thursday to watch them and give you a decent reply.

And a soundtrack for the debate - Christopher Lee doing the Ent’s Song.

And I pretty much agree with all your points. [I really like [Where There’s A Whip](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMdQpkujRsY)]

Fantastic post, very well written, and an enjoyable read. Thank you very much for that.

My only defense of the Bakshi film is: you had to have seen it at the time.

I saw it in the movie theatre as a kid. I had read the Hobbit (and seen the Rankin and Bass TV special) but not Lord of the Rings. Right around the Rohan / Grima / Theoden scenes I completely lost the plot, and had no idea what the hell was going on. Definite advantage to Peter Jackson for his screenplay.

However, the Bakshi “Lord of the Rings” was much darker and scarier, and more… heavy and foreboding, than the Peter Jackson films ever were. I can understand how you thought the Rotoscoped characters looked messy ('cause they certainly do). But to a nine-year old kid in a pitch-black movie theater, let me tell you, those orcs, ringwraiths, and horses were terrifying. Moria and the Balrog too. Advantage to Ralph Bakshi for dark and scary.

If I recall correctly, some of the scenes from the Jackson film (e.g. the ringwraith sniffing out the hobbits on the road before Bree) were modelled on the same Bakshi scenes, as tribute.

Bakshi was an animator (he started at Terrytoons, before he did Fritz the Cat), and he’s at his best when animating. Too much of his Lord of the Rings is simply rotoscoped, and some scehes (particularly the ones at Bree) as so heavily rotoscoped you wonder why he didn’t just use the film straight. He was at his best when he was animating, and some of the purely animated scenes (the Party, Gollum, the flying Nazgul, Treebeard) really shine. It’s stuff you realyy couldn’t rotoscope.
That’s why I was massively disappointed by Bakshi’s Balrog. It’s not pure animation, but really obvious rotoscoping (not quite as blatant at the scebes at the Prancing Pony at Bree, but almost). And, worse, it’s rotoscoping of a gu in a really bad Balrog suit. I had been looking forward to how this scene would be animated, and I find that it effectively hadn’t been. Serious bummer. I was not so happy as I was when I saw Peter Jackson’s CGI Balrog, which really worked.

I can’t think of a single thing about the Bakshi version that I prefer over the Jackson version. Not a single damn thing.

Especially pantsless Native American Aragorn and Horny Viking Boromir. What a fucking joke.

But that wasn’t Bakshi. That was the Rankin & Bass made-for-TV “sequel” to Bakshi’s movie. Though I totally agree that “Where There’s a Whip” was awesome. I’m still pissed that The Hobbit left out the “Fifteen Birds” song.

There were some elements in Bakshi’s version to recommend it (some of the backgrounds are breathtaking, and I think I do like his Galadriel in the mirror scene better)…

But why in God’s name did Gandalf feel the need to do “One Ring to rule them all” as a freakin’ INTERPRETIVE DANCE?!

I saw the Bakshi version when it came out, so I have only vague memories of it.

But my basic thought is this: Bakshi was doing it on a relative shoestring, with 1970s technology (and not state of the art by any means). Jackson had a quarter of a billion dollars to work with, three decades later. Bakshi’s achievement is a hell of a lot more impressive to me.

Of course, Jackson lost me when he butchered the Council of Elrond. Frodo speaking the words of his doom into the pregnant silence has long been one of my favorite scenes, not just in LotR, but in literature generally. And Jackson decided to crap all over it.

THIS says everything that needs to be said about the Bakshi LotR. It’s hilarious every time I read it.

For all the things I didn’t like about Jackson’s LotR, there are many, many more that I couldn’t stand about the Bakshi version.

Also, for Súil Dubh - I’m not sure it’s really fair for you to say both “My only defense of the Bakshi film is: you had to have seen it at the time.” and “However, the Bakshi “Lord of the Rings” was much darker and scarier, and more… heavy and foreboding” when you admit that you were nine when you saw the Bakshi film (and therefore, via the powers of mathematics, somewhere in your 30’s for the PJ version). It’s a LOT easier for a nine year old to be impressed with the darkness and scariness of a movie, any movie, than it is for a 30+ year old.

Yes, my wife and I both caught that right away. PJ didn’t do the “gimpy wringwraith” bit though, and Bakshi’s wraith, despite smelling/sensing the ring, GIVES UP and rides away for no reason at all. PJ at least had the hobbits distract the wraith so they could run.

LOL. But you forgot Old Lady Sam, HUGE Hair Saruman/Aruman, Theoden Claus, Grima Jawa, Keebler Legolas, and Galadriel Barbie.

Lol. Gladys does the same thing when Frodo offers her the ring. At least she doesn’t milk the giant cow.
I forgot a couple things
Gollum. Bakshi’s Gollum is pretty good, aside from him just saying “Gollum” instead of making a noise that SOUNDS like Gollum when he’s clearing his throat. Perfectly servicable and one of the high points of the movie. But Andy Serkis OWNED that role in PJ’s film. No one else will ever equal it. Advantage: Jackson
Documentaties. I will have to let someone else do this because the Bakshi documentary is only subtitled in Arabic. I guess despite being billed as “subtitled for the hearing impaired”, research showed that people with hearing impairments don’t have any interest in “making of” stuff. :mad::mad::mad: Pj’s documentaries are subtitled AND captioned, and are a fascinating insight into the movie and actually enhance it by pointing out little things that are easy to miss.

For what it’s worth, Peter Woodthorpe also did the voice of Gollum in the excellent BBC Radio Drama. Boromir was done by the same voice actor (Michael Graham Cox) in the Bakshi and the BBC production as well, and I rather liked his portrayal, just not…anything else about the way the character was done in the Bakshi film.

Jackson’s Galadrial was just not 70s enough. She’d suck in an Herbal Essence commercial.

My only defense for my above post was alcohol.

But to also be fair, some people make fun of the Bakshi film for being a corny 70’s artifact. At the time, obviously, it wasn’t viewed that way. I guess that’s what I meant by “you had to have seen it at the time”. My nine-year-old self didn’t know what the critics thought of it, but I do remember it being a popular film.

I was thinking a bit more about the two films, and while I still maintain the Bakshi version is darker (if not scarier), one could argue it’s too dark. Even many of the scenes in the “good” settings (the Shire, Bree, Lothlorien) take place in the darkness at night. Jackson’s films do a much better job of capturing the brightness, and the whimsy, and the magnificence, of Middle Earth. So advantage to Jackson for atmosphere.

1970s technology? He’s making an animated film - the technology to do that had been around for forty years by the time this film was made, and had only improved over what was available to Disney when he made Snow White.

The budget difference is a valid issue, but keep in mind that Bakhi had started using rotoscoping to cover budget issues in his previous fantasy movie, Wizards, with similarly shitty results. The cheap-ass rotoscoping used by Bakshi is forgivable as a failed experiment. Looking at Wizards and thinking, “Yeah, let’s double-down on that for the next movie,” is a lot less admirable.

Well, obviously nothing (well, okay, few things) look like artifacts when they are new, but some things stand the test of time better than others, and I don’t think time has been kind to Bakshi’s work.

Yeah, the Bakshi film definitely has a very gloomy feel to it.

I was quite disappointed when I found out that there was no Rankin Bass version of Fellowship or Two Towers. There was a point in the 80’s after I read the books where I would watch Hobbit or ROTK something like once every week or two.

Meanwhile, I rented Bakshi’s LOTR from the grocery store (remember when every place in the world rented VHS tapes? Wow I miss those days) and barely got through it once. It quickly became a running joke between me and my best friend about how terrible we thought it was. Too bad he never got to see the Jackson version, I bet he would’ve liked that one.

You know, by and large, I LIKED the rotoscoping in Bakshi’s version. It had a style. It made the orcs menacing and lent an unusual cast to the people in the Prancing Pony, placing them somewhere between real and cartoon, which kinda works if you’re drinking too much at a pub :slight_smile: . The orcs, in particular, did not always have much detail, but the glowing eyes and rough features, combined with the oddly realistic movements courtesy of the rotoscoping gave them menace.

I found it on VHS in the mid-90’s and was overjoyed to have it. If you REALLY have to hate on something, hate on the godforsaken Rankin-Bass shit.

I’m personally a fan of Bakshi’s LOTR and will take it any day of the week over Jackson’s films, warts and all. The rotoscoping, the designs, the animation–the total effect is a strange, surreal otherworldliness that Jackson’s films never achieve, IMHO.

The prologue in Jackson’s Fellowship feels mythic, but the other 11 hours has a kind of gritty immediacy that really puts me off.

And then you have the completely animated main cast sticking out like sore thumbs.

Sorry, but I will always enjoy these simply because of how much original prose they retain.

The Bakshi piece made no sense to me when I first watched it as a child, and I subsequently realized that that wasn’t because I was a kid, but because it is actually terrible.

At least it’s possible to follow the plot in Peter Jackson’s films.