MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Even though I was a child of the 70s and 80s, I never had a chance to see “Wizards” in the theaters. Maybe it was because I was so crazy into “Star Wars” that in 1977, nothing else crossed my mind. Maybe it was because my parents weren’t wild about me seeing a movie by the guy who did the notorious “Fritz the Cat.” Maybe it was because my parents never got HBO until well after I was in college, so I missed the massive cable broadcast push of this movie.
In any respect, I feel left out that I never saw “Wizards” before this year. I adore animation, and the animation from the 70s had a certain special quality that made it endearing even today. It was made at a time when children’s animation was in the doldrums, pushed by the fast-product Saturday morning cartoons. What we still saw in theaters had some life left in it. And considering the full realization of digital effects was at least two decades away, the cell animation option was the best choice for fantasy films.
“Wizards” tells the story of two wizards who were polar opposites from birth. Born millennia after a world war that decimated civilization, they lived in a new world where old magic had returned. Avatar, the good wizard, tries to keep peace while Blackwolf, the evil wizard, commands an army of found technology. They must battle to see who will prevail over this future world.
What’s great about animation of the 70s – and particularly that of Ralph Bakshi – is that it wasn’t just about fantasy creatures. It had things to say both politically and socially. Sure, it didn’t always present it in the most subtle manner (with the all-too-obvious Nazi overtones seen in “Wizards”), but it challenges the viewer to think past exactly what’s happening on screen.
Told in an entirely different style than the work of Studio Ghibli, “Wizards” opens up a bigger world with greater themes beyond simple pretty pictures.
Using a mix of cell animation and rotoscoping that Bakshi later continues with his version of “The Lord of the Rings,” “Wizards” is a unique film unlike anything else you’ll see from this era.
The 35th Anniversary Blu-ray comes in a 24-page collectable book packaging which features concept art and other information about the production. Bakshi sits in for a feature commentary on the film as well as participates in the extended interview “Ralph Bakshi: The Wizard of Animation,” which was produced for the previous DVD release.
Additional basic features on the Blu-ray include a still gallery, a TV spot and the original theatrical trailers.