Film Review : Fire and Ice
The evil Queen Juliana and her powerful son Nekron have conjured wave after wave of glaciers across the plains, pushing the tribes of humanity back towards Firekeep, the stronghold of good king Jarol. Hoping to force Jarol to surrender, Juliana arranges for his daughter, Princess Teegra, to be kidnapped.
Lost in the wilderness, Teegra meets Larn, a young warrior. Together with the enigmatic Darkwolf the three set out to thwart the evil plan of the ice king.
I had high hopes for this one. Fire and Ice has been on my to-watch list for a few years. A 80s fantasy epic? Count me in.
Ralph Bakshi has made some interesting (if not terribly good) films. I especially liked Wizards (1977), a completely bonkers film that combines stock footage from World War II and traditional cel animation to tell an epic fantasy war film. In no sense a great, or even good, or perhaps even passable film, Wizards is at least stylistically interesting and occasionally funny.
The next year Bakshi attempted The Lord of the Rings (1978), which is generally regarded as an ambitious failure. Actually it is not generally regarded at all; nearly forgotten today, I have fond memories of watching this confused mess as a kid. I'm not going to go back to see how it holds up.
Anyway, I guess in the early 80s fantasy was back in style, so Bakshi teamed up with cheesemeister Frank Frazetta to create Fire and Ice. On paper it seems like the perfect match - Bakshi was famous for creating occasionally stunning animation on a very low budget while Frazetta was very successful with his over the top fantasy artwork.
And Fire and Ice at least looks pretty good in places. The animation is completely rotoscopedA process where live actors are filmed and then the images drawn over so the characters move smoothly through fantastic environments. This is particular effective in the numerous fight scenes but in other places the rotoscoping gives dialog-heavy scenes a stilted quality that combines the worst aspects of terrible acting and unengaging artwork.
The visuals never quite live up to the promise of Frazetta's work. There are almost no wide shots and you never get a sense of the spaces these characters inhabit. Perhaps this was a deliberate choice since the background art is nothing special. Characters move from endless grassy plains to rain forests to mountains in the course of a single scene, making what should be an epic journey seem like a single day in a theme park. It just feels amazingly bland.
The plot is - well, the plot is not good. The whole thing plays out like a D&D campaign ran by an 11 year old dizzy from too much soda and the Playboys he found in the woods. A lot of that rotoscoping effort was used to animate Princess Teegra's breasts and the silky bikini she wears the entire film. But before you jump to accuse Fire and Ice of being ridiculously sexist know that it also manages to be fantastically homoerotic. All forms of male gaze are equally well catered for. I would expect nothing less from Frank Frazetta.
Sadly, Fire and Ice is so much less than the sum of its parts. The art is just OK, the music is just OK, the acting is just OKexcept for the guy playing Nekron, he was pretty entertaining as a camp Darth Vadar, even the animation (supposedly the big drawcard) was just OK. The sexist depiction of the princess makes the whole exercise indefensible. What else? Oh yes, Fire and Ice is also straight up racist.
I think the best thing I can say about Fire and Ice is that viewer discretion is advised. Not because the film is offensive (although it is), just that you want to be discreet about watching it because it is embarrassing as all hell.