In a post apocalyptic future that appears as a blend of World War II Europe and J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, a pint-size wizard named Avatar must save the world from a band of fascist mutants controlled by his evil twin brother, Blackwolf, who likes to confuse enemy armies by projecting films of Adolf Hitler speeches during attacks.
Directed by: Ralph Bakshi
. Starring: Bob Holt
, Jesse Welles
, Richard Romanus
, David Proval
, Jim Connell
, Steve Gravers
, Barbara Sloane
, Angelo Grisanti
, Hyman Wien
, Christopher Tayback
, Mark Hamill
, Peter Hobbs
, Tina Romanus
. Music by: Andrew Belling
I've seen this film a few times. Each subsequent viewing has always been spaced out by a few years, and for good reason. Because each time I look forward to seeing the film I'm reminded of why I didn't see it again after the previous viewing.
It's not a horrible film. It's a solid B-flick. I understand completely what Bakshi has done, and the message he's conveying. The problem is is that the film doesn't have a whole lot of visual appeal. Contrary to what Bakshi believes (and has stated) animation needs to have appeal. It needs some style, otherwise there's no point in going to view it in the first place. The whole reason animation has the appeal that it does is that the artist can take us to places that are otherwise too expensive, or impossible, to bring to the big screen via location shooting, special effects, or a constructed set.
"Wizards" could've been a really fantastic and impressive film with some polish, but the artist, because of both budgetary constraints and artistic bent, instead leaned away from a high gloss, Disney-like art style, and went the non-traditional, rough-edge, route. And that's a shame, because the film could've reached a larger audience instead of gaining the cult status it's achieved. As it stands the film looks, as others have observed, like a "head-trip" 70's film, complete with psychadelic oil effects for the backgrounds.
I now own a copy on DVD, and am able to hear Bakshi himself explain his intent in making this film. And where I agree whole heartedly with his social observations, and ultimate aim, I have to part agreement with him on his choice of style for the film.
To get one's message across, one needs to make said message palatable, such that people beyond the target audience will find the film appealing, and ultimately get exposed to the artist's message.
As it stands now the characters are oddly drawn and rendered, with exaggerated features (as others have observed). That, and the "magic" sound effects are straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon, which gives the film a kind of cheap-budget feel. One wonders why a new sound effect couldn't be used.
Having said all that I think some reviewers are being too hard on Bakshi. Where I sympathize with their observations (notably mercuryix of Los Angeles, who commented on how adolescent the film was), I don't entirely agree with them. The film's actually a bit deeper than they're making it out. There's more than a WW2 allegory at work here, and, as I've stated before, that's too bad, because had the film's animation and overall drawing quality been of a higher calibur, then it would've had a higher and wider degree of success.
The final nail in the coffin for the traditionalists is the sound. Bakshi states that he likes the sparse sound scheme, allowing the focus of the film to be on the sound that's playing at the moment, and not to clutter it with things like room-tone or other sound FX playing in the background. But again Bakshi, confessed child of the 60's, creates the piece he wants to, but fails to connect to the larger audience that might've been. The audience who wanted something more; all the allegory, sex, violence, and other heavy non-child themes coupled with a more traditional presentation, but ultimately got something that wasn't to their taste.
I like the film. Heck, I bought a copy. But like others have said, even though it's Bakshi's favorite, and where there's some fundamental ideas at work here, the delivery smacks of flower-power art. Our response; a lot of us already "get the message," and don't need the avante-garde tossed in our face to drive home a point. Like Bakshi himself stated, we're a lot more clever than producers give us credit for.
In other words a film can be styleish and honest all at the same time. I think a lot of us wish that Mr. Bakshi would've realized that way back when.
Sexual innuendo, bloodshed and violence; it's not a cartoon for kids. Watch only if you're into the whole fantasy scene.
Review by Blueghost from the Internet Movie Database.