Wizards [Blu-Ray] Ralph Bakshi

Wizards [Blu-Ray] Ralph Bakshi
When Ralph Bakshi created Wizards, he was best known for making controversial adult-oriented urban animated features like Fritz the Cat and there was no such thing as fantasy or science fiction blockbusters (friend George Lucas, who was making Star Wars at the time, would make sure that changed). Therefore, Wizards was a risky move, but Bakshi wanted to prove that there was room for smart animation that neither talked down to kids nor courted controversy as its raison d'être. Essentially a battle between two brothers – one good and one evil – Bakshi meant for Wizards to be an allegory about the evils of technology. The two brothers live on a post-apocalyptic Earth, destroyed by nuclear war. By wiping out all of man's progression, magic was allowed to come back into the world, which the good wizard, Avatar, embraces. Meanwhile, Blackwolf spends his time digging up the past, using artefacts of war, including Nazi propaganda films, to inspire an army of mutants to do his bidding. Subtlety was never Bakshi's strong suit, but the muddled narrative requires such a heavy hand in order to get the point across. Visually, however, there are few films that compare. Bakshi was a pioneer in animating overtop of live-film stock and its juxtaposition with the hand-animated cells makes the overall film look beautiful. Star Wars, released soon after Wizards, would have a great effect on the film, but not necessarily for the best – Lucas had asked Bakshi to change the name of his film, originally dubbed Wizard Wars, to avoid confusion. But it was the studio's decision to boot Wizards from theatres in favour of pushing Star Wars onto more screens that ultimately doomed it to cult status. The Blu-Ray includes the same extras as the film's 2004 DVD release, but the interview with Bakshi is incredibly revealing, and a director commentary and a nice sketchbook are also included. Despite its cluttered storytelling (no wonder Bakshi's condensed The Lord of the Rings feature was such a mess), Wizards is a fun, gorgeously rendered film. His insistence that it's meant as a work for children might be a bit of a stretch – there are some genuinely frightening scenes and a couple of overly sexualized moments, not to mention Princess Elinore's constantly erect nipples – but it's a triumph of animation that would help prepare North American audiences for further adult-oriented animated fare. (Fox)