Fire and Ice (1983) Review
By Jeffrey Kieviet
Of Thundercats & Game of Thrones
Technically, this is part 4 of a series of “real-time” reviews. Not on the same topic, just the fourth review of something when I read/play/hear/see it for the first time. A gimmick, if you will. For the rest of the entries in the series, check out:
I noticed it was much easier to write “in real time” when I did music with the last post because I didn’t need to stop reading a book or put down the video game controller. I just let the music play and typed along; I feel most people write with music playing in the background. I thought doing a movie would have a similarly easy approach, but I’m only just past the credits and already I’m distracted by watching the movie. Ralph Bakshi has such a fascinating style, no animator has ever matched, although many have tried i.e. Rob Zombie’s The Haunted World of El Superbeasto. There were other adult oriented cartoons like Heavy Metal, but Bakshi has a look and feel all his own.
When I was a kid I was a fan of Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures & The Hobbit (Ok, I just found out that The Hobbit wasn’t made by Bakshi, even though it totally looks like he did, which I guess means his style is totally imitateable. Imitible? Able to be imitated. I mean, he made The Lord of the Rings cartoon, but I haven’t seen it so I don’t know how it compares. The Hobbit was good though). I found Cool World in my teens and it’s still one of my favorite movies today. I laughed at Fritz the Cat, but it’s really just groovy cartoon animals having sex and doing drugs. But I guess for a movie without a plot or story, just wannabe-Disney characters simulating an acid trip, it had its moments. Moving out of the hippy 70s and entering the hair-metal 80s, we can expect a shift in substance.
The goblins are awesome, like a cross between Orcs, tribal villagers, and Neanderthals. A couple of them are talking to the King and they remind me of Mumm-Ra, from the ThunderCats, if he was the sleazy agent of a pop band. Think Mumm-Ra meets Judd Nelson from Airheads. The painted backgrounds are beautiful. The script is a little rote, but it’s keeping me entertained. I thought the characters and story would be more like King Arthur and castles but it seems more Tarzan’s jungle.
There should be an audience for these kinds of movies. I don’t know why adult cartoons don’t make it in the mainstream. I mean, South Park & all the show’s on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim are super popular. And it seems like “swords and sorcery” stories are all the rage these days. Of course, most of that is the recent Game of Thrones surge, and well deserved (I just finished book 3, A Storm of Swords, and so much went down. If you think the Red Wedding was epic, just wait for what’s to come). The characters are complex and realistic, the plot is complicated and engaging, and any down time is spent having sex or killing people. Braveheart and Gladiotor reminded us that we like uber-violent tales about the warriors with bows & arrows, maces & morning stars. Then 300 turned that violence into art. TV shows like Rome and Spartacus help turn them into weekly episodes, going back to the Hercules and Xena style of action/adventure television. Even History Channel has a show about Vikings making bloody battle-axes the origin story of America.
So the jist of this little story is there’s a bad guy: Nekron. He’s got a witch for a mom (both literally and figuratively), and these two are in charge of anyone who is evil in the movie, even ravenous wolves. They are also in charge of Ice, just mountains and mountains of ice, shooting across and covering the countryside. Nekron Bates and his mother send these goblin-guys to attack a city, and the lone survivor goes on his quest to… save the girl? But he hasn’t met the girl yet. She was in another city (trying to keep up with the potentially cerebral plot and write at the same time has left me a little out of the loop) that was attacked by goblins, but she was kidnapped and managed to escape.
All women in these kinds movies are meant to draw in an already nerdy male audience, and these cartoons are ridiculous. How are we supposed to feel about cartoon sexuality? Remember Jessica Rabbit? What kid didn’t have a little crush on her? And have you seen video games these days? Zelda and Peach used to be chaste princesses but now we have Harley Quinn & Ada Wong walking around scandalous as an M rating can get. The question is for the women too; the main guy in this movie has his butt hanging out of his thong the whole time too. Cartoon pecs & buns doing it for you ladies?
While lacking some of the cheesiness of 80’s sexploitation, Apacalypto had similar themes and executions and it’s considered an art-flick (at least by Mel Gibson). Dinosaurs and monsters make films like Jurassic Park and Cloverfield multi-million (billion?) dollar box-office smashers. And romance between sexy, star-crossed lovers has been popular since Romeo and Juliet. So why when it’s all done as a cartoon is it considered a less important film? Why, when Avatar does all of it, with the same intentions, become the highest grossing film of all time, and I have to find out about this movie through Wikipedia? The art is beautiful; the story is complex and far reaching (it’s at least on par with Avatar’s Pocahontas rip-off).
I want to see more adult oriented cartoons without having to dig through mountains of henti first (if you don’t know what that is, do not google it). I’ve tried Manga and Anime and I liked what I saw of Full Metal Alchemist & Yu Yu Hakusho, but I’m not the biggest fan of the animation style or the random outbursts of squiggly lines and pouty faces. Ok, back in the movie, our main guy (let’s call him “Charlton,” he kind of looks like Charlton Heston from Planet of the Apes) and our main girl (how about “Princess” because she looks like a stripper) finally they meet, they fall in love, they get attacked by tentacles (maybe this was closer to henti than I thought).
If I’m not mistaken, this was filmed in a similar style to Richard Linlater’s A Scanner Darkly. The people were filmed live action first, then the cells were drawn over without backgrounds and other characters added after (“rotoscoping”, although A Scanner Darkly was done with much more advanced technology). Which is basically how they do motion capture today, except the character drawing is preprogrammed to mimic the actor. So while the cartoon may not look as realistic as CGI, it allows for more fantasy and art. Every time CGI looks fake (The Incredible Hulk steps on grass that doesn’t bend, the dragon has no shadow, etc.) it ruins the illusion. With cartoons, the whole thing is admitting it’s an illusion so even when it gets cheesy or over-the-top, you’re right there with it because you’re playing pretend along with them.
So the goblins have captured the girl again, and she escapes, really easily, again. Seriously, all the goblins got drunk and passed out. I don’t know what they were expecting was going to happen; she’d just sit around while they nurse their hangovers til morning? And now Charleton has met a Native American stereotype with a black cat mask. Kind of like a mix between Black Panther and that Indian dude who could grow really tall (Apache Chief).
Ok, when Nekron’s home-boys came to parlay back at the beginning of the movie, they were negotiating with the King character (“King Arthur” until we learn his name), saying he needed to completely surrender in order for the ICE not to kill his kingdom. While the negotiating was going on, the goblins kidnapped his daughter, Teegra (who we were calling “Princess.” Hey, she actually was a princess, what do you know?). King Arthur and his son are the guardians of FIRE (oh, so that’s why it’s called Fire and Ice. Hey, did you know that the book series Game of Thrones is based on is called A Song of Ice and Fire? I wonder if they’re connected). Now the girl meets up with a ginger goblin, and his ginger sister is a witch. Both of them are killed, and Teegra is taken by the goblins again. If she gets kidnapped again, she deserves to stay with them. Ok, I’m starting to see why films like Avatar & Beowulf are better liked by the general public than Heavy Metal 2000.
Actually, while movies like this are very adult oriented, R rated, and border on the absurd, they’ve tried making cartoons to bridge the gap between Disney musicals and boobalicious blood-baths (that term is copyright pending). Titan A.E. and Eight Crazy Nights aren’t what I’d call “family friendly” but they don’t have psychotic violence or heavy adult themes.
Holy shoot, I just found out this movie is PG. I was curious about it, there wasn’t much swearing or nudity (other than thongs and bikini tops), Nekron just called the girl a “slut” and it seemed very out of place so I had to check. There are bloody swords, things that one wouldn’t see in most PG movies, but this is back when parents let their kids play in the sewers to toughin’ them up. People weren’t all uppity about things like “safety” and “tolerance.” I was thinking this would be more along the lines of Heavy Metal or Fritz the Cat but I guess this was an attempt to make an exciting adventure movie (and it’s as well made and less cheesy than Kull the Conqueror [and Schwarzenegger’s Conan as well. Fun movies, I’ll give you, but the scripts and acting weren’t winning any Oscars] so it’s not like there isn’t an market for these films), but if you were the type of parent to give your 5-year-old a Mohawk, maybe you’d take him and his friends to this movie in 1983. Heck, Jaws was rated PG when it came out.
Since out of the hundreds of thousands of dozens of people reading this blog, probably only one or two of you have seen this movie, and I might be able to convince one or two more to watch it after this review (it’s free on Netflix streaming!), I’m not going to feel bad about ruining the plot. The girl finally gets brought before Nekron where he refuses to marry her (which would unite the evil Ice & benevolent Fire), he kills her brother who comes to beg peace, and Charlton is almost turned into a pin cushion by goblins.
But Native American Black Panther (would “Red Panther” be racist? Maroon Panther? Panthro! The ThunderCats are everywhere, we’ve got Mumra, Panthro, Teegra [Tigra]. With his blond hair, Charlton could totally be Liono. Anyway, Panthro) saves him and they make it back to King Arthur’s castle, Fire Keep. Riding the pterodactyl things from Avatar, they head into the Ice to kill Nekron. Dragon Hawks. That’s what they call these things. Badass. Teegra finally gets to do something besides be a helpless victim and chucks a dagger at a goblin. The final battle comes down to Dark Wolf (it wasn’t a panther mask, it was a black wolf, much less racist) and Nekron. I must have missed it but I’m guessing Nekron killed all his wolf-people so he’s trying to get the same revenge as Charlton. I would have thought Charlton gets to kill Nekron but I guess they’re gonna give him Mama Bates. Nope, she just falls off the Ice and dies. Charlton just gets to save the girl.
Excellent. Earlier, King Arthur threatened that if they couldn’t stop the Ice he’d have to “release the lava.” Since they only stop the Ice at the last minute, Arthur cranks the wall and lava flows, killing however many people stand between the Fire & Ice. But Charlton and Teegra escape on a dragon-hawk, and Panthro/Dark Wolf somehow manages to escape the cracking Ice on horseback. That horse better have wings or something… I guess not.
A lone & injured goblin crawls to shore near where Charlton and Teegra embrace, the only survivor of the toppled Ice mountains. But before Charlton can smash it with a rock, Teegra stops him and gives the moral of the story: “no, we must rebuild.” See, if you want to get along with your enemies, you have to kill them all except one, and then by sparing that one, all who come after will consider you a friend. Actually, aside from them 3 on the shore, Dark Wolf on his horse, and Arthur is his castle, I think everyone is dead.
In conclusion, this may not be the best movie ever. But, I think you take the same basic scenic layout, just adjust the dialoge to have a bit more natural flow (maybe throw George R.R. Martin on the words), and CGI the creatures & castles, you could have another Avatar and maybe a few bucks on your hand. Just remember to thank Bakshi for the cool characters and style. Also, my comic book, King of the Dead, was inspired by his artistic style for the Land of the Dead. Just something to keep in mind Derek. And everyone else out there who eagerly awaits issue #1.
Fire and Ice (1983)
Directed by Ralph Bakshi
20th Century Fox