Language: English, French, Spanish
Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
DVD Release Date: March 13, 2012
Run Time: 81 minutes
Bakshi was never one for coherence in his animated features. He preferred
stuff you could get stoned to: sprawling fantastical landscapes inhabited by
bizarre creatures following motivations barely developed at most.
I don’t intend this as a criticism.
Granted, it’s reduced a number of Bakshi’s features to unrecognizable
gibberish, but it’s also given him a distinct auteurial vision that sets him
apart from other animation producers. From his earliest days, his films
reflected an adult sensibility, with brazenly grown-up efforts like Fritz
the Cat and Hey Good Lookin’, and even his family friendly
efforts trended proudly away from the Walt Disney model that remains the
staple of animated features.
Wizards is typical of his efforts: a move away from the adult urban
scene of his first films and towards the fantasy elements that dominated his
later work. It also represented the first animated feature ever produced by
20th Century Fox, which returns the favor by releasing a new Blu-ray edition
to celebrate the film’s 35th anniversary.
The film remains a cult favorite, and while I can’t say it’s good, it’s
certainly unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
The storyline – such as it is – concerns an Earth of the far future,
millions of years after a nuclear apocalypse. Magic has returned to the
world, as have the elves and faeries that ushered humanity through its
earliest eras. When the kindly wizard Avatar claims rulership over his
mother’s kingdom, his evil brother Blackwolf turns to technology in an
effort to defeat him.
The extended showdown groans beneath the weight of heavy metaphor, without
offering much narrative cohesion to compensate. Characters come and go
randomly, countless asides serve no discernible point and the animation
technique displays about as much discipline as a five-year-old on a sugar
Bakshi said that the drama is intended to reflect the creation of Israel,
and it’s hard to miss the point since his villain uses Nazi propaganda
footage to inspire his troops. Beyond that, any efforts to make sense out of
the spectacle depend solely on the manner of pharmaceutical you ingest.
Watching it sober is an exercise in bafflement, as the shaggy dog wanders
shockingly far for such a short running time.
Fans, however, would call all that beside the point. Wizards exists
less as a story than as an exercise in stream-of-consciousness imagination.
Bakshi unloads the contents of his head in endless waves, traveling in every
direction he can conceive and few he probably couldn’t before the project
The shifting images keep up with his thought processes admirably, as
characters bounce across the scene and extended monologues carry an
inexplicable fascination with them. It’s a mess, but an undeniably
breathtaking mess: holding our attention even as it fails to provide a
Rakshi adopted a more resolute method in his subsequent fantasy epics Fire
and Ice and The Lord of the Rings. Both of those films constitute a more
satisfying experience than Wizards (Fire and Ice remains a guilty pleasure
of mine). And yet neither of them reflect their director as purely as this
Bakshi never apologized for his outlook and the resolute way which he
pursued his projects brought a one-of-a-kind chapter to the annals of
cinema. Wizards thus succeeds solely because of its originality. In
an era when prepackaged corporate bombast is the order of the day, the
notion of a singular onscreen vision is worthy of celebration. You may not
like Wizards – I’m not sure I do – but you won’t easily forget it. There
aren’t a lot of movies which can legitimately make that claim.
THE DISC: Fans are bound to be disappointed in the new Blu-ray.
Though it contains a gorgeous 24-page art book, the disc itself is just a
quick transfer from the previous DVD edition. Extra features are identical –
a behind-the-scenes doc, TV and theatrical trailers, a gallery of stills,
and running commentary from Bakshi. Image and sound quality are
indistinguishable from the DVD version: decent, but hardly worth shelling
out an extra 35 bucks for.
The enhanced clarity also highlights many of the flaws in the animation
itself, which no amount of upgrades can hide.
WORTH IT? Bakshi fans will think as, as will anyone with an interest
in unusual cinema. On the other hand, they could have gotten the same thing
with the DVD, which admittedly is currently out of print.
RECOMMENDATION: For those who already own it, buyer beware.
For the rest, know what you’re getting into before you buy. A rental
screening will serve newcomers well, while fans should consider whether the
marginal improvement in image is worth replacing their DVD edition.
- Rob Vaux