Film:The Last Unicorn.
Directed by: Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass.
Running time: 84 min.
The film is a traditionally animated film from Rankin/Bass Productions, based off a book of the same name by Peter S. Beagle. It features a story of a sheltered unicorn who finds out that she is the last of her kind. Troubled by this, she leaves all she knows behind her and journey’s out into the world to find other unicorns, meeting colorful characters along the way.
The strongest feature of the film is the simply gorgeous and unique character designs by Lester Abrams, and animated by Topcroft, who would later be hired by Hayao Miyazaki to work on one of his titular films with the core members eventually going on to form Studio Ghibli. Abrams and Topcraft captured the illustrative concepts of a fairy tale splendidly with particular individual attention paid to the look of each character; details that make them stand out visually from each other,and the scenery is like something from a medieval water color at times or others a twist of angles in the fantastical, or the merging of the Gothic within the very structure of the setting such as King Haggerd’s dilapidated castle and the twisted faces that made up much of the walls.
The music was exactly what was needed for the film, enjoyable and supported the tone of the film for the most part, the only flaw perhaps being the love song between Prince Lir (Jeff Bridges) and Lady Amalthea (Mia Farrow). It was a little to schmaltzy for the tone of the film, but it served its purpose to progress the plot.
The narrative flowed well, with a plot that was decently paced, barring a few to quick moments here and there between the characters that could have used a bit more set up, but not overly distracting. The themes of the film, which there were many, were well couched, themes that explored the notions of perception, nature, innocence, love, determination, obsession, and regret, with the normally portrayed positive themes, such as love, shown in the light of the negative and harmful consequences of said emotion, though still ultimately positive as well. All this was layered well within the film, though that could be because the author of the book it is based off of also wrote the screenplay.
The characters were good, though the best would have to be the unicorn and King Lir:
The unicorn’s character development from a sheltered naive creature into something braver, surer, and mature which carried her through the movie she represented the mythos of unicorns, but at the same time was separate from it, due to her experiences, and her design of course is perhaps one of the best unicorn animated characters ever made.
King Lir, was a significant antagonist and the great personification of the ultimate unhappy man and the insanity that is part of that. He is a cold thing that one would normally pity, when it comes to unhappy people, but the unique juxtaposition of obsessive mercilessness one moment, and uncaring dismissal another moment, only involved with his own pleasure, which he has little of, makes him compelling to watch and in the end you feel disturbed in how to react to him.
That is another facet of the movie that that is just so fascinating, the fact that characters are not cut and dried; they are complex enough that no one is clearly without faults, even the protagonist(s).
This is a film that I would recommend to families to watch, especially in this day and age where there is a lot of family movies that stick tropish cut outs, or become so over time, appealing in its visuals, adventure, and complexity. The Last Unicorn is a film that stands on its own.
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