Originally published on September 22, 2013 at 11:11 am
When I wrote about American Pop I said it was one of those movies I couldn’t be objective about. Wizards is another. There is plenty wrong with it, but it still manages to capture my imagination, and at times my heart.
Two million years after five terrorists (and why he specifically says five I don’t know as it’s never mentioned again after the longish prologue) cause a worldwide nuclear war; the radiation begins to clear allowing sunshine to finally reach the planet’s surface. Humans are slowly making their appearance but most of the inhabitants have been turned into mutants. From the beginning you really need to forget anything you know about math, science or continuity, as Wizards isn’t really concerned with such trivialities.
It is concerned with the birth of twin boys to Delia, Queen of the Fairies during a celebration of 3000 years of peace. If you’ve seen any movie or read any book at all you’ll know one is good, Avatar, and one is evil, Black Wolf. As you can imagine, after their mother dies, they fight for control of the kingdom, with Black Wolf getting the doggy doo end of the stick. After two failed attempts to regain control, Black Wolf decides to try again, as he has a secret weapon-A projector with footage of Nazi Germany and Hitler on the march! See, the reason he lost the first two times was because his troops lost interest in fighting. With this new weapon, showing the film not only bolsters his army but scares the enemy!
This of course sends Avatar, along with some friends to put an end to the evil brother once and for all. If that sounds silly too you, it is. Bakshi, that clever little man, has an ulterior motive though. It’s less about making a statement about war, or Nazis, but simply a way to be able to use stock footage to rotoscope his battles. If you look carefully you’ll see bits from Zulu, ElCid, Patton, Battle of the Bulge and Alexander Nevsky. Using the WWII tropes was simply an easy way of working those rotoscoped fights in.
The biggest problem for Wizards and Bakshi was, as usual, money. At one point he went to Fox for more money and was refused. At the same time a jolly fellow named Lucas went to Fox for his little movie known as Star Wars, for more money and was also told no. The lesson here is Fox was full of cheap bastards, but I digress. Okay, one more digression: Wizards was originally going to be titled War Wizards, but the name was changed so not to confuse it with that other movie Fox was too cheap to infuse with a bit more cash.
In previous films like Coonskin, Fritz the Cat, or Heavy Traffic, Bakshi was more concerned with saying something about the world around him. There were lessons to be learned! Wizards certainly has some of that, but it’s very subdued (though one extremely funny poke at consumerism as two characters go into a church and it’s filled with soda machines, posters, electronics, etc). This is Bakshi having a good time in a genre he loved since he was a kid. He populated a world with animated characters that in most cases were far more authentic than real world counter parts.
For all the plot holes, awful rotoscoping (and it really is bad, especially when you see the animation at the same time, it’s a very jarring experience), and some cheesy dialog, Wizards is one hell of a lot fun, and one can only wish Fox had coughed up some dough to let Wizards be what it could have been, and not the film it actually was.