A "sequel" to "LOTR" done in the style of "The Hobbit"
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 12/14/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"To be accurate, Ralph Bakshi's animated version of "The Lord of the Rings" only made it halfway through "The Two Towers" before suddenly concluding. My understanding was that because Bakshi did not get to "The Return of the King," the rights were available for Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr. to do their own version for television in 1980 in the same style they had employed for "The Hobbit." In fact, Orson Bean is back to do the voices of not only Bilbo but also Frodo, and John Huston returns to provide a perefect voice for the wizard Gandalf. "The Return of the King" certainly begins in the middle of things, with Sam (Roddy McDowell) trying to rescue the captive Frodo from the orcs and Gollum scrambling after his "precious" ring. Those who have read the trilogy will be able to pick up the narrative without any problem, but for the uninitated who have to try and enjoy this without some sort of "Previously on 'The Lord of the Ring,'" it is going to be quiet disconcerting. Clearly this version is geared for the kids, in the grand tradition of "The Hobbit," which was far and away the best of these three animated Tolkein films. Adults will undoubtedly cringe at some of these moments, as when the Orcs sing "Where There's a Whip There's a Way," but hopefully you will find a few small moments that you can enjoy. The chief charm of "The Return of the King" for me is that it does a decent job with my favorite scene of the Trilogy, when Éowyn, the shield maiden of Rohirrim engages the Lord of the Nazgul in mortal combat during the Battle of Pellennor Fields. Glenn Yarborough again does the music, as he did with "The Hobbit," but with notably less success. Except for the first little ditty about "Frodo of the Nine-Fingers and the Ring of Doom," the songs this time around add nothing to the telling of the tale. When you consider all the great moments from the book that were cut because of time constraints and then add to that list those that were jettisoned because of Yarborough's songs, it is the proverbial example of adding insult to injury. The best case scenario is to show young children "The Hobbit," and use that as a way of inspiring them to read the book and then move on to the Trilogy or the Peter Jackson film's. If your children got a kick out of Gollum in "The Hobbit," then they might be interested in seeing what finally happens to him, but it does give away the climax of the Trilogy. So I am back to my original position, that you should whet their young appetite's with "The Hobbit." "The Return of the King" is made with affection, but it lacks the time and money to make it a worthy presentation of Tolkien's story."
Not as bad as some think...a damn sight better, in fact
Matt G. Leger | Atlanta, GA United States | 06/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I don't agree with the reviewers here who find this 1970s gem cringe-worthy. Sure, Samwise spends way too much time talking to himself, but that's more the fault of Romeo Muller's script than the late, lamented Roddy McDowall's voice work. And the mispronunciations by the cast of Tolkien's place names gets on one's nerves. And yes, the "Frodo of the Nine Fingers" song is a tad overused. But the late, also lamented John Huston is the best damn Gandalf this side of Sir Ian (his voiceover work receives far less notice than his acting and direction, and that's an injustice); the artwork and animation, by a long list of Japanese animators, are gorgeous (this was the first Rankin/Bass TV cartoon to be produced largely in Japan); and the rest of the music has stayed with me since I first saw the film in childhood; come on, admit it -- haven't you sung "Where There's A Whip (There's A Way)" to yourself a time or two? And Glenn Yarbrough deserves to be remembered at least for the poignant, inspirational ballad "It's So Easy Not to Try." (It always makes me sniffle a bit.)
I consider this film a fine bookend to Ralph Bakshi's "Lord of the Rings" and the earlier Rankin/Bass special "The Hobbit" as an animated trilogy. (And more appropriate for young children whose parents wish to introduce them to Tolkien's magical storytelling than the more complex and violent films by Peter Jackson.)"
Don't overlook this one
Matt G. Leger | 06/02/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have to confess that I have a great deal of affection for this animated version of ROTK. In some ways it conveys the spirit of the book much better than the Peter Jackson film, particularly in the parts with Frodo and Sam. The character of Sam comes across as more complex and convincing than Sean Astin's portrayal in the film, although I don't want to criticise the actor as I suspect this was mostly the fault of the screenwriters. And Frodo's sense of resignation is also well captured here, again much more true to the book than his terrified portrayal by Elijah Wood in the film. Much more of Tolkien's original dialogue is preserved here, which helps a lot. For instance, more of Denethor's best lines are preserved in this 90 minute cartoon than was the case with the 3+ hour movie. I also think that the music overall helps to convey the heroic and lyrical tone of the book, compared to the unrelenting horror-movie feel of the Mordor scenes in the live action film, even though much of it is admittedly silly, although even the much ballyhooed "Where There's a Whip There's a Way" has some basis in the text. I think the voice actors were excellent overall, even though I didn't particularly care for Casey Kasem as Pippin, and the Nazgul Lord did sound a little too, well, cartoonish. Still, John Huston's Gandalf will forever be the voice I hear when I read the books; a classic performance. Even though you can poke holes in this version if you want to, I suppose my only real complaint is that it failed to establish any connection between Aragorn and Frodo. Since the entirety of "Fellowship" and "Two Towers" was summed up with something to the effect that Frodo and Sam had "come far and through many brave adventures," I don't think it would have been unreasonable to provide some similarly cursory treatment to establishing that the the march on the Black Gate was for the purpose of helping Frodo and Sam. One final word: I don't mean to come across as overly critical of Peter Jackson's films. In fact I enjoyed them tremendously. However, I think this version also has a lot to recommend it. Also, please forgive me for coming across as a "Tolkien geek" but I couldn't help myself."
Great for Kids who aren't ready for the Peter Jackson trilog
E. Carson | Dallas, TX USA | 04/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"My boys (ages 5 and 7) have seen ads for the Peter Jackson trilogy, heard about it from classmates, etc. and were desperate to see The Lord of the Rings. My husband and I loved the trilogy but strongly feel they are far too young for the Peter Jackson version. I remembered watching the Hobbit on tv in the 70's and went looking for it and found this gem as well. Yes, the music is cheesy and very 70's--and yes, it's a very hurried summary of a very complex movie--but my children LOVE it. It is their current favorite movie and I can't wait until they can read the books and someday seen the "grown-up" trilogy. So, I'd say--valid criticisms aside--this movie succeeds admirably in allowing younger kids some access to the Tolkien world."