Wizards (1977) is a cult animated movie by Raph Bakshi which combines the post-apocalyptic and fairy tale setting. The titular ‘Wizards’ are twins that look nothing alike: Avatar is a Ginger Gnome whilst the other, Blackwolf, bears a striking resemblance to an Undead Saruman. And guess what? One is good and one is evil – but which?
Why yes – the Ginger is evil! Just kidding! It’s Undead Saruman, and just in case you weren’t entirely convinced he goes and sits in his throne room with a giant Swastika painted on the floor. Hmm, is the Nazi symbolism being laid on a bit thick here? Never mind. His secret weapon is broadcasting giant projections of Adolf Hitlers face.
So what does the good guy do? Well for quite a lot of the movie nothing, since prior to unleashing Hitler the bad guy was not having much success controlling his army of monsters. It seems even monsters will not kill without compunction and needed some form of mental conditioning. Do I detect a message? So the Ginger Gnomes mission is to destroy Hitler, at least… the projection of Hitler.
We get to see the ‘mind control’ power of the “dream machine” via the most relatable character in the movie: Necron99/Peace. Possibly it’s his slouchy body language communicating he really is just an underling who wants this all to end. I nicknamed him ‘Red Bender’ because he looks a bit like Bender from Futurama. After an extremely long narrating opening, this is the first character we follow as viewers. I was personally disappointed he was not the main character, although he does play a major role (I’m carefully avoiding spoilers).
Wizards is low-budget and it shows. The frame-rate is painfully low and I’ve already mentioned it has a lot of expositional scenes. Some of the backgrounds are just hastily pencilled in whilst the battle scenes are overlaid against stock-footage of a cloudy sky. You may consider this artistic or you may wonder why the characters are flying for no reason. Furthermore artwork is reused. It may be racist to say that all elves look a like but… Weehawk the Elf is a main character and when we meet him he is in conversation with what can only be his identical twin! Judging by later scenes I can only conclude Elves are commonly born as identical octuplets.
The sound effects are possibly the worst. It would not be so bad if the sound guy just picked a sound effect for a thing and stuck with it but it’s inconsistent. The guns alternate between going “BANG!” and “PEW! PEW!” And whoever though it was a good idea to have a two-legged creature sound like a horse?
The battle scenes combine video footage with animation, something Bakshi was the first to do. It’s pretty effective and looks cool. What doesn’t work with the battles is that there is not tactics whatsoever. Maybe when you’ve got Hitler, ahem, the “dream machine” you don’t need any. But they have guns, GUNS! And what are they marching in with? Spears!
Overall it’s your basic good versus evil story with a few twists thrown in. It’s easily comparable to Lord of the Rings but with guns, however this story is nowhere near as coherent and the messages are very in-your-face. Unfortunately I’m not sure the messages always hit either. I suppose if all the movie wants you to do is think, sure, but personally I’m not sure quite what it was trying to say. I guess that’s what comes of artsy, low budget animation.
Wizards is still fun though. Worth a watch even in a so-bad-it’s good way. A bizarre Saturday Morning Cartoon for Adults.