[Hobbit Day] The Return of the King (1980)

Director: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.

Cast: Orson Bean, John Huston, William Conrad, Roddy McDowall, Theodore Bikel

Screenplay: Romeo Muller

98 mins. Not Rated.

 

Happy Hobbit Day, y’all. September 22 is Bilbo Baggins’s birthday and Tolkien fans around the world celebrate with all sorts of fun festivities. Well, I thought we would take a look at the Rankin/Bass animated adaptation of the back half of The Lord of the Rings today.

But first, a history. Hobbits love history. After Ralph Bakshi’s sequel to The Lord of the Rings was cancelled, Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. (The Last Unicorn, Frosty the Snowman) took on the task of adapting the follow-up. They had previously adapted a version of The Hobbit. The style between the two directors is drastically different in almost every way.

The Return of the King opens at the end of the tale after the ring has been destroyed and recounts the events that caused the end of the ring and Sauron (an interesting idea but one that is not wholly successful in the larger framework of the work) as Frodo (Orson Bean, Being John Malkovitch, TV’s Desperate Housewives) explains how he lost ring finger and became “Frodo of the Nine Fingers.” He tells of the bravery of Samwise Gamgee (Roddy McDowall, Planet of the Apes, A Bug’s Life) taking on the role of ringbearer in his absence. Meanwhile, Gandalf (John Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Black Cauldron) escorts Pippin to Minas Tirith to bring warnings of war to Denethor (William Conrad, The Killers, TV’s Cannon).

Overall, The Return of the King has some major missteps in its adaptation. The choice to place a framing device on the story further separates itself from the interesting and far superior Bakshi film. Rankin and Bass said they always planned to follow-up their adaptation of The Hobbit with The Return of the King, but I call bullshit on that one.

Then there’s the issues of the characters. Aragorn (Theodore Bikel, My Fair Lady, The African Queen) barely has a presence in the film and Legolas and Gimli do not appear whatsoever. It’s as if they for forgot to include them at all. I get it, they have less purpose in the latter half of the story, but to omit them completely is an extremely poor choice.

Now, there are some nice musical interludes (an area where the Rankin/Bass adaptations usually make good on the source material), and I rather enjoyed the Denethor scenes, but the wins of this film are too few and far between.

The Return of the King is easily the lesser of the three animated Tolkien films. It just misses the mark on so much that anything good to say is quickly overshadowed by its flaws. Even Rankin/Bass’s work on The Hobbit is far better. Sadly, this is a poor finale to an interesting animated journey.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Hot Tube Time Machine (2010)

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Director: Steve Pink

Cast: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Crispin Glover, Lizzy Caplan, Chevy Chase

Screenplay: Josh Heald, Sean Anders, John Morris

101 mins. Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use and pervasive language.

 

Okay, so John Cusack (Being John Malkovitch, Drive Hard) signed on to this film immediately after hearing the title, but then again, wouldn’t you?

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Hot Tub Time Machine tells the story of three friends who have grown apart. Adam (Cusack) has just become single and alone…again, Nick (Craig Robinson, This is the End, Get on Up) works at his dead-end job and dreams of being a famous musician, and Lou (Rob Corddry, TV’s Childrens Hospital, Muppets Most Wanted) is a drunk loser…still. But after a near-fatal accident, the three friends decide to relive their glory days at Kodiak Valley, they, along with Adam’s nephew Jacob (TV’s Greek, A Merry Friggin’ Christmas), come across a malfunctioning hot tub that sends them back in time to the 1980s where they have the chance to right their wrongs, or mess their entire future up.

First of all, the opening credits. This is how you open a film. It sets the tone with a goofy montage of people partying in hot tubs. Simple, yet perfect. The entire opening sets the stage for this film perfectly. You know exactly what you are getting into.

John Cusack is the perfect guy to carry this film. A staple of 80s pop culture himself, Cusack’s helpless romantic Adam thinks he can fix his broken relationship to his Great White Buffalo (long-lost love), but he can’t see his own strengths.

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Really, this film is nearly flawless as a piece of comedy gold. There are two jokes that fall flat at the beginning, but this film’s references to masterpieces  like Better Off Dead…, Back to the Future, and The Karate Kid come off great and feature a group of actors not fighting for themselves but servicing the group and the film, a hilarious screenplay from Josh Heald, Sean Anders, and John Morris added to the well-stylized direction of Steve Pink (Accepted, About Last Night) are what makes Hot Tub Time Machine near-perfection. If you haven’t seen it, see it. This just might be the Great White Buffalo you’ve been waiting for.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 5th Birthday!] 2012 (2009)

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Director: Roland Emmerich

Cast: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson

Screenplay: Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser

158 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some language.

 

So 2012 came and went. We survived. This movie is now forfeit. My review of 2012 begins now.

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Our movie starts in 2009 as Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave, Salt) discovers solar flares that somehow mean that the world is going to come to an end (I doubt the 45 minutes of expository science boils down to much). He makes Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt, X-Men: First Class, Chef) and President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover, Saw, Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses) aware of the Earth’s impending doom, and a plan is set into motion to do as much as possible to begins saving lives.

Flash forward to 2012. Jackson Curtis (John Cusack, Being John Malkovitch, The Bag Man) is a failing novelist who wishes to spend the weekend with his kids at Yellowstone. There, he comes across Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson, No Country for Old Men, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1), a crazed conspiracy theorist who knows all about the end of the world. Then, the world starts ending.

2012 is a movie that you can get drunk with some friends and just watch things get destroyed. It is also a horrible movie signifying the death of director Roland Emmerich’s career (he had already decided to make this his last disaster movie, which leads me to the theory that he might’ve just made a list of all the shit he wanted to destroy before he quit it for good).

The effects are a true spectacle here. They are incredible. Although, I still found visual effects that created major plot holes in the sense that it seems that the Earth is hollow. This is a shitty movie. That’s all I can say here.

I like John Cusack and the rest of the cast here. I can at least see that they are having fun, and that’s all this movie really boils down to. There isn’t a lot of merit to be thrown around.

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When it comes down to it, I think 2012’s cult following will pick up soon, and people will enjoy it for what it is: a movie so bad it’s kind of fun. Not good, but fun-ish.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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