Old vs New - LOTR Animated vs Lord of the Rings
July 22nd, 2009
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to, and welcome to another edition of Old vs. New.
The title card is shown, featuring an old man crossing his cane with a little boy's baseball bat, as dramatic music plays and lightning strikes.
NC: This is where I take something old and nostalgic and compare it to a recent remake. With that said, let's take a look at Lord of The Rings.
The main theme of Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings is played as we see pictures of the books' covers and illustrations.
NC (voiceover): Becoming the holy bible of geekdom, Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien has revolutionized the style of fantasy and given a whole new respect to the genre.
Footage from Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings is shown.
NC (voiceover): Many of us know about the Peter Jackson movies based on the books that came out between 2001 and 2003.
NC: But there is another version that came out in the 70's that a lot of people don't know about. This was Ralph Bakshi's Lord of The Rings.
The main theme of Ralph Bakshi's Lord of The Rings is played as we see the footage from the movie.
NC (voiceover): While considered both a critical and box office disappointment, Bakshi's Lord of The Rings offered a very different take on the classic story, and has since then either been loved by fans or detested by them. But is it anything compared to the big budget extravaganza of the Jackson movies?
NC: Now technically speaking, this is all opinion-based. But I have an online show, which automatically means that my opinion is better than yours. Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah! So let's take a look at Ralph Bakshi and Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings!
The opening sequence plays as we see pictures of the main characters from both movies fly into The One Ring, while the theme songs of both movies play side by side.
NC: Now seeing how the Ralph Bakshi film ends at the exact same point that the Peter Jackson film, The Two Towers, ends, I decided to include The Two Towers in this comparison as well as The Fellowship of the Ring. With that said, let's take a look at our main character, Frodo Baggins.
Round 1 - Best Frodo Baggins
NC (voiceover): One of the things I love about the Jackson Lord of The Rings movies is the casting. Everybody in these movies looks the part, and when I heard Elijah Wood was gonna play Frodo, I thought it was the best casting since Keanu Reeves played that mentally-retarded boy in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
Frodo (Jackson): My own adventure turned out to be quite different.
NC (voiceover): He was kind, innocent and extremely vulnerable. But maybe a little too vulnerable. In the Bakshi version, Frodo is just as wide-eyed and curious, but he does fight back and can also stand up for himself. Now, true, they both save Sam from Gollum, but the Bakshi one seems to be a little tougher and in control.
Frodo (Bakshi): I would put it on and command you to leap off a cliff or into a fire, and you would do it, Smeagol.
NC (voiceover): And here is when the Black Riders try to attack. Frodo actually gets out his sword and does try to fight. In the Jackson one, he just drops it!
NC (Mimicking Jackson's Frodo): If you could kindly stab yourself with that, I would be most thankful.
NC (voiceover): Or how about another encounter with the Black Riders? Even though he is sick and can barely stay awake, he actually manages to make his way past the river and even intimidate them.
Black Riders: The Ring! The Ring!
Frodo (Bakshi): By all of the Shire, you shall have neither the Ring nor me!
NC (voiceover): The Jackson one just sort of passes out and lets someone else carry him off.
In Jackson's movie, the Black Riders try to reach our for Frodo while Arwen is carrying him on her horse.
Arwen: Noro lim Asfaloth! *Run Faster, Asfaloth!*
NC (voiceover): By the way, how does that work? If the sword wound works its way to his heart, he becomes one of the Black Riders?
Frodo (Bakshi): Would I have-
Gandalf (Bakshi): You would have become like them. One of the Ring Wraiths.
NC: Wouldn't that be a little, um, awkward? I mean, I don't think they will look as intimidating if a little guy in a cloak is running around.
A picture of tiny Frodo-The-Black-Rider standing between the tall Black Riders is shown briefly. A scene of Black Riders screeching is shown with a speech balloon that says: "Dude, he's gonna ruin our image!"
NC: Eh, maybe they just gave him just a desk job.
A picture of tiny Frodo-The-Black-Rider sitting in front of his office desk.
Frodo-The-Black-Rider: I do hate Mondays.
NC (voiceover): Even though I love Elijah Wood as Frodo, the Bakshi one just seemed a little bit stronger, as well as closer to the book. No offense, Wood, but point goes to Bakshi's.
Frodo (Jackson): What do you know about it? Nothing!
Round 1 Winner - Bakshi's Lord of the Rings
NC: But what about the supporting cast? The little people who make it possible for the...other little people. There's a lot to get though, so let's take a gander.
Round 2 - Best Supporting Cast
Clips of the movies play as the Critic narrates.
NC (voiceover): Now this one's really hard, because the rest of the cast is sort of hit-and-miss. Sam in the Jackson films, for example, is a tough loyal friend who will stick with Mr. Frodo through thick and thin.
Sam (Jackson): Don't you leave him, Samwise Gamgee. And I don't mean to.
NC (voiceover): While Sam in the Bakshi film is...
Sam (Bakshi): Oh, ooh, my! Ooo. Oh, hooraaay!
NC: [Creeped out] ...not.
NC (voiceover): I mean, good God! What did they do to you, Sam?! I really don't know what went wrong with this character, but they fucked up royal.
Sam (Bakshi): [Various scenes] Save me, Mr. Frodo! Oh, Mr. Frodo, he's gone! He's sick and he needs a rest. Help! I'm drowning!
NC (Mimicking Bakshi's Sam): And I want my bottle! Someone give me my bottle! [Sucks his thumb like a baby]
Sam (Bakshi): Oh, hooraaay!
NC: [Annoyed] Oh, God. SHUT UP!
NC (voiceover): Which is funny, because Merry and Pippin are at the opposite ends of the spectrum as well. In the Jackson film, they're a little overplayed, making them a tad too goofy, but still all-around likeable.
Merry: That was good.
Pippin: Let's get another one!
NC (voiceover): Where in the Bakshi film, they're actually underplayed, seeming a little bit more like real-life people, but to be honest, not leaving much of an impression.
Merry: You cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We're your friends, Frodo.
NC: Well, thank you, Pippin!
Dubbed voice of NC: I'm Merry!
NC: Whatever. You're all short.
NC (voiceover): Gandalf is good in both versions, creating that strong mythical element while also mixing in the side effects of his age.
Gandalf (Jackson) (throwing his staff): Oh, it's useless.
Gandalf (Bakshi): This last journey must be for others to make.
Bilbo (Bakshi): Ah. And who are they to be?
Gandalf (Bakshi): That is what they are trying to decide here!
NC (voiceover): My only problem is in the Bakshi film, he's a little too over-the-top. Like, compare these two scenes where he yells at Pippin.
Gandalf (Jackson): Fool of a Took! Throw yourself in next time and rid us of your stupidity!
Gandalf (Bakshi): Fool of a Took! Throw yourself in next time! Fool of a... (Followed by long gibberish which fades away as he walks away)
NC waves his arms around, mocking Bakshi's Gandalf's gibberish.
NC (voiceover): But one of the biggest differences is Aragorn, which is totally blown away by the Bakshi film. Now, granted, I'm not quite sure why he looks like a native American that certainly wasn't the design of the book, but the character is still a million times better. Why? Well, being voiced by John Hurt, one of the greatest actors of all time, certainly helps.
Aragorn (Bakshi): My name is Aragorn, son of Arathorn.
NC (voiceover): But on top of that, the idea behind Aragorn is that he was both a Ranger and a king. In the Jackson version, you certainly buy the Ranger part, but I never really saw anything kingly in him.
Elrond (Jackson): Put aside the ranger. Become who you were born to be.
NC: By...killing things and slaughtering evildoers. Just do it very kingly.
NC (voiceover): The Bakshi one seemed to pull off both. He could be a badass, but he could also be very smooth and diplomatic.
Aragorn (Bakshi): Lothlorien is a place of healing. There is no evil in it. Unless a man brings evil there with him.
NC (voiceover): On top of that, he can also be very intimidating.
Aragorn (Bakshi): Because if I wanted the ring for myself, I could have it. Now.
Aragorn pulls out his sword.
NC: [Scared] Please don't kill me.
NC (voiceover): The Jackson one never seemed to have that confidence or inner strength that the other one had. I mean, the only kingly thing he ever did was make a motivational speech.
Aragorn (Jackson): I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of Men fails. But it is not this day! This day we fight!
NC: I mean, who the hell could possibly get a role of leadership by having no political background and just making a bunch of pretty speeches?
A picture of Obama is shown
NC: Okay! Fine! But you got to give him credit. They both have totally different ways of dealing with their problems. For example, when a horrible threat comes across King Aragorn, he bails them out with billions of dollars and hopes they know how to spend them wisely. Ba Zing!
NC (voiceover): For Aragorn's weaknesses, though, the Jackson film makes up for it with the addition of Gollum, which is done much better in Jackson's version. Again, the Bakshi one isn't bad. They certainly have the addiction down and the hinging towards madness.
Gollum (Bakshi): Oooh. Yes. Yes indeed! Niiice Hobbits!
NC (voiceover): But the Jackson one really took the character to a whole new level. He was devious, but sympathetic. When bad things happen to him, you felt genuinely sorry.
Gollum (Jackson): That would kill us! Kill us!
NC (voiceover): Plus, they really play around with the split personality bit.
Smeagol (Jackson): Leave now and never come back.
Gollum (Jackson): Noooo!
Smeagol (Jackson): Leave now and never come back!
NC (Mimicking Smeagol): I think we want diet Coca Cola.
NC (Mimicking Gollum): NO. We want original Coca Cola Classic!
NC (Mimicking Smeagol): But we have to watch our calories. We're trying to lose weight!
NC (Mimicking Gollum): NO! We loves the calories. We love all of them!
NC (Mimicking Smeagol): You suck.
NC (Mimicking Gollum): Hey, you suck.
NC (voiceover): There's, of course, a ton of other characters, but they're all kind of on the same level. They're good, but not great, each having their strength and weaknesses. Tough call, but I am gonna go with the Jackson one, mostly because they have more time and two movies to flesh their characters out. And that's a huge advantage. Sorry, Gandalf. We still love you.
Gandalf's complaint towards Pippin in Bakshi's version is played again.
Round 2 Winner - Jackson's Lord of the Rings
NC: But heroes don't mean crap unless you have some good villains to go up against, and these movies had plenty! (long pause) Here they are!
Round 3 - Villains
NC (voiceover): Again, from a casting point of view, you couldn't have got a better pick than Christopher Lee for Saruman. He looked the part, acted the part, but most of all, he sounded the part.
Saruman (Jackson): Sauron's forces are already moving. The Nine have left Minas Morgul.
NC (voiceover): Goddamn, is that voice cool?
Saruman (Jackson): You did not seriously think that a Hobbit contend with the will of Sauron?
NC (voiceover): I think it's another one of those voices you don't want reading bedtime stories to your kids, though.
NC reads a story book with the voice of Saruman.
NC: Once upon a time, there were three bears. Three, innocent, sweet, unsuspecting bears.
He bursts into evil laughter.
NC (voiceover): The one in the Bakshi film is okay, but you don't see much of him.
Saruman (Bakshi): Where is the ring, Gandalf?! Would you rather see the Dark Lord have it (Saruman pulls his robe apart as a light flashes from his body) or Saruman of many colors?!
NC (Mimicking Gandalf): No! Please! Don't flash me!
NC (voiceover): Something I never understood in the Bakshi film, though, is for some reason, they stopped pronouncing the S and simply call him Aruman. Why? Is the S suddenly a bad word?
Many clips of characters in the Bakshi's film saying 'Aruman' instead of 'Saruman' is shown.
Gandalf (Bakshi): Only because 'Aruman' is kind.
Boromir (Bakshi): It should have been his friend, 'Aruman'!
Gandalf (Bakshi): How long since 'Aruman'...
Gandalf (Bakshi): 'Aruman'.
Frodo (Bakshi): 'Aruman'?
Gandalf (Bakshi): 'Aruman'.
NC: SARUMAN, YOU IDIOTS! It's pronounced SARUMAN! The S isn't silent!
NC (voiceover): Also, how come Gandalf can never figure out that Saruman is gonna be a bad guy? I mean, do these look like the homes of any decent people you know?
Saruman (Jackson): Your love of the halfling's leaf has clearly slowed your mind.
NC (Mimicking Gandalf): Oh, stop hushing my buzz!
NC mimics Gandalf smoking Hobbit's leaf.
NC (voiceover): The Black Riders are a little hard to decide between the two. I mean, the Jackson ones were cool, especially how you never see their faces.
Nazgul (Jackson) (hissing): Shire. Baggins.
NC (voiceover): But the Bakshi ones were also pretty intimidating, ranging from fragile, creepy folk to tough soldiers of darkness, almost as if their powers veered in and out at times. Though, again, they do go a bit over-the-top at moments.
In a clip of Bakshi's film, one of the Black Riders approach near Frodo who is fighting his temptation to wear the ring. The Nazgul sniffs, moans and murmurs in a very ludicrous way. NC mimics the Nazgul.
NC (Mimicking the Nazgul): Get the Tylenol.
NC (voiceover): Also, in the Jackson version, I thought the way they looked when he put the ring on was a little goofy. In fact, I never liked the way things looked when he put the ring on. It's like a third grader went nuts with a smudge tool on Photoshop. In the Bakshi film, they don't really change, but you can tell you've entered a different world. Everything is slower, the color changes, it's almost like a different state of being.
Black Rider (Bakshi): Come back. To Mordor, we will take you.
NC (voiceover): But for me, the big deciding point is the lord of darkness himself: Sauron. And believe it or not, I actually liked the Bakshi one better. Simply because you never see him. The most we get is a guy with a viking hat, which isn't very intimidating. But everything else is kept a mystery. You never see him, but you can always feel his presence simply by the way people talk about him.
Gandalf (Bakshi): Under the power of Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor.
NC (voiceover): Look at the scene with the eye in the fountain. You can't even tell that it is an eye, but the fear that fills everybody is still present.
Galadriel (Bakshi): Do not touch the water! He's looking for you. The door is closed. If your quest fails, then nothing can stand against him and we are defenseless.
NC (voiceover): Now let's look at the Jackson film. It's just too overblown. The eye looks more like a lizard's eye which indicates Sauron is more of a monster than he is a man.
The scene of Sauron's eye looking around is played with a roaring sound.
NC (voiceover): And even his costume seems over-the-top. There's just nothing subtle about it. When I think of the Lord of Darkness, I think of something sneaky, conniving and quiet, not loud, bombastic, and in your face. I always saw Sauron as a plotter, someone who's waiting to strike in the shadows. Where this guy seems like the Hulk's metal pincushion.
Scene of Sauron defeating warriors in one blow is shown.
Sauron (voiced by NC): Sauron SMASH!
Isildur slices off Sauron's fingers, including the one with the ring.
Sauron (voiced by NC): OH, SWORD MEAN!
Sauron explodes, sending a shockwave throughout the battlefield, knocking the warriors off their feet.
Sauron (voiced by NC): SAURON HAVE EXPLOSIVE DIARRHEA!
His armored head falls to the ground.
Sauron (voiced by NC): SAURON GO BOOM!
NC (voiceover): So, like I said before, tough call. But seeing how less is usually more, I have to go with the Bakshi film, 'cause, let's face it. No one can bring the dread and feelings of doom that the guy who directed Cool World.
Poster of "Cool World" is shown, causing NC to shudder.
NC (voiceover): Point goes to Bakshi.
Sam (Bakshi): Oh, hooraaay!
NC: Shut up!
Round 3 Winner - Bakshi's Lord of the Rings
NC: Well, that's all fine and good. But how can they beat the shit out of each other? Here's the Best Action Scenes!
Round 4 - Best Action Scenes
NC (voiceover): Now both these films are unique in how they do their action scenes. Jackson's movies are a little bit more acrobatic and inventive, while Bakshi's is a little bit more gritty and bloody. It's interesting, too, how the Jackson films do the battle of Helm's Deep in all blue and the Bakshi film does the battle in all red. I don't even know why it turns all red. It just looks really cool. In another flip-flop, where the Bakshi film has little buildup but a lot of payoff, the Jackson film has a lot of buildup but little payoff. What do I mean by this? Well, in the Bakshi version, there is a real feeling of suspense and tension. I mean, when someone gets stabbed, you really felt like they're getting stabbed.
Bakshi's version: Warriors and Orcs stab each other and scream.
NC (voiceover): In the Jackson one, they tempt that just a few too many times. I mean, they literally jump into the middle of an army of Orcs, not once, not twice, but THREE times! And not once do they ever get a scratch on them.
Jackson's version: Aragorn gets on a ladder and throws it off of the wall.
NC: MOSH PIT!
NC (voiceover): I guess I shouldn't defend the Bakshi film too much, though. I mean, look when they fire the arrows. Those numbnuts don't even move!
A shower of arrows fall into the warriors. However the ones NC mentioned do not even twitch but stand still.
NC (Mimicking the numbnuts): I'm far too proud to be searching for cover!
Gimli (Bakshi): I like this place. There is good rock here.
NC: Good rock that we won't be taking the least bit advantage of!
NC (voiceover): Now, of course, The Return of the King has some of the best action scenes ever, but since Bakshi never made it that far, I really don't count it. But still, the action in the Jackson films really are better. They're more flashy, more creative and more energized. I would have liked to have seen a little bit more grisly and realistic, but then again, it is a fantasy. So I guess anything goes. Point goes to Jackson.
Legolas (Bakshi): Then you know nothing.
Round 4 Winner - Jackson's Lord of the Rings
NC: So once again, it comes down to story. Which one had the better plot, the better pacing, and the better delivery? Let's take story for the win!
Round 5 - Best Story
NC (voiceover): It is interesting how both Bakshi and Jackson end their films at the exact same point. They win the battle of Helm's Deep and Gollum leads Sam and Frodo to Shelob. Even though in the book, Helm's Deep is in the middle when they already met up with Shelob.
Gollum (Jackson): We could let her do it.
Gollum (Bakshi): She might help, yes.
NC (voiceover): And again, the Jackson film has the advance that it has two films to explain the story and where Bakshi only has one. Because of this, the Bakshi film suffers. The characters can't be fleshed out like they should and some characters just disappear altogether. Arwen never makes an appearance and Eowyn, I don't even think, ever gets a line. She just stands there.
Theoden (Bakshi): My sister daughter, Eowyn. My only royal kin, since her brother has disobeyed my command.
NC: Unfortunately, she's a mute.
NC (voiceover): But the Jackson film, at times, seems a bit rushed, too. Like, I never did enjoy the editing in the first film. It seemed way too fragmented.
Frodo (Jackson): Half the Shire's been invited.
Gandalf (Jackson): Good gracious me.
Frodo (Jackson): He's up to something.
Gandalf (Jackson): Mm-hmm? Really?
Frodo (Jackson): All right, then. Keep your secrets.
NC (Mimicking Frodo): I like talking in sentences without any pauses. Don't you? Yes, I do. I like it a lot indeed. Ha-ha!
NC (voiceover): And to Bakshi's credit, for all the scenes he had to cut, the scenes he does keep in are often very quiet and usually allow for a lot of atmosphere, which I think, in a lot of ways, is closer to the books. Take, for example, when Gimli finds out the Dwarves in the mines of Moria have all been destroyed. Here's the Jackson version.
Jackson's version: Gimli cries out loud in front of the tomb of Balin.
Gandalf (Jackson): "Here lies Balin." It's as I feared.
NC (voiceover): And now here's the Bakshi version.
Gandalf (Bakshi): "Yesterday, Balin, Lord of Moria, fell. An Orc shot him from behind a stone."
NC (voiceover): He doesn't scream, he doesn't yell, he just slowly walks away to be by himself. That's a lot more powerful. But to be fair, Jackson's film has a lot of powerful scenes, too, many of which weren't even focused on that much in the book. Like, Arwen's debate about choosing a mortal life is really looked into and analyzed.
Elrond (Jackson): You will linger on in darkness and in doubt.
NC (voiceover): There's even a few subtle scenes as well. Like, in the Bakshi film, Frodo makes a big speech about how they'll probably never get back.
Sam (Bakshi): I reckon we got enough left to see us to this Mount Doom. After that, I don't know.
Frodo (Bakshi): Oh, Sam. Friend of friends. After that, if the ring goes into the fire and we're at hand, after that, dear Sam. Just to get there. Just to get there!
NC (voiceover): Yet in the Jackson film, it's literally just summed up in a look.
Sam (Jackson): You go ahead and eat that, Mister Frodo. I've rationed it. There should be enough.
Frodo (Jackson): For what?
Sam (Jackson): The journey home.
Frodo looks at Sam.
NC (voiceover): That look alone seems to say everything. And as the films went on, they did get progressively better and better, taking their time with story and not feeling as rushed as before. So, while I have to admit it's not really a close call, there are a lot of elements in the Bakshi film that are not only subtle, but really work well. There's a lot of over-the-top moments, sure, and some scenes don't really make sense, but what they do get right, they get really right.
NC: So, even though this is probably a surprise to no one, the film that really is better is the Peter Jackson versions. The superior movies.
Round 5 Winner - Jackson's Lord of the Rings
NC: So there you go. Peter Jackson vs Ralph Bakshi. Though, I do feel bad I'm not able to compare Return of the King to anything. Oh! Wait a minute! The Rankin/Bass version! That's right! They did Return of the King. Well, I'll just compare those two, then.
In that version, animated Orcs are having a musical sequence.
Orcs (singing): Where there's a Whip, there's a way...
NC is shocked.
NC: Jackson wins.
Jackson's Lord of The Rings poster smashes the Orc's musical sequence.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.