Monday, April 23, 2012

Fire and Ice

In my adolescent years, movies like those of the animator Ralph Bakshi were pretty hard to come by. My only opportunity to get my hands on many of those underground cult films was at a comic book convention, every six months or so. I still have a bootleg VHS of Bakshi's bizarro 1977 animated fantasy, Wizards, buried away somewhere, and his animated Lord of the Rings movie as well.

Nowadays, of course, the movie studios realize that there is indeed a market for the strange, and have released Bakshi's work and many of the other Comicon oddities from my youth on DVD and Blu Ray, or are streaming them digitally. So now, here I am at 30, getting to watch his 1983 animated feature, Fire and Ice, instantly on my TV.

Fire and Ice has quite a geek friendly pedigree. In addition to being directed by Bakshi, it was developed and designed by legendary fantasy illustrator Frank Frazetta (see poster above), and the screenplay was written by two of the all time great comic book writers, Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas. Conway is perhaps best known for writing the Death of Gwen Stacy story in Amazing Spider-Man, considered the most important Spider-Man story pretty much ever. Thomas wrote Marvel's Conan the Barbarian comic books in the 1970's, making him a perfect choice for this movie.

Fire and Ice is the story of two warring kingdoms. The evil Nekron attempts to kidnap the might-as-well-be-naked Princess Teegra to make her his wife. She escapes and is assisted on her journey home by a musclebound villager named Larn. When she is kidnapped again, it is up to Larn and the super-badass masked man, Darkwolf to rescue her and defeat Nekron and his evil queen mother.

Bakshi used rotoscoping in his animation, drawing over live action elements, which saved much time and money for his relatively low budget operation. This gives the movements and characters a nice, realistic weight and believable human movements. Of course, not everything is rotoscoped. I can't imagine the pterodactyls were, for example. By the way, people storming a castle on the backs of pterodactyls is pretty awesome.

Fire and Ice was made in 1983, right before Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom forced the hand of the MPAA into creating the PG-13 rating, so don't let that PG fool you into showing it to the kids. It also gets a lot of leeway for being animated. This movie would be an R if it came out today. As I said before, Teegra is pretty much naked the entire time, very little is left to the imagination. Also, it's quite violent. People take axes to the head, spears to the chest. All that stuff. It's not even hidden in shadow or conveniently off-camera, tricks used by many PG-13 movies nowadays.

As a whole, the movie itself is enjoyable, but not great. The animation is really cool, though, and it has a genuinely comic-book-y feel to it. The voice acting is not exactly top notch, and it doesn't exactly have the most complex of stories, but Fire and Ice hits the right mark when it comes to appealing to the 12-year-old-boy part of the brain.

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