Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Don Bluth Month: Out with a whimper - Thoughts on "Bartok the Magnificent!"

So here's the last feature-length Don Bluth movie ever released (in some markets [I have been informed that others got it before "Titan A.E."] and last feature to date; let's be optimistic here). Let's pause for a minute or two and let that sink in.

Depressed? Yeah, so am I. It's hard to imagine a quieter whimper to go out on. But that's not the only reason why "Bartok" is a very strange animal.

Records disagree as to whether it's the last feature Don Bluth ever
made. It certainly is the last most of us ever heard of him. Whenever it was made, Fox shoved it onto DVD after "Titan" imploded at the box office. (Currently, it can only be found as a special feature on the two-disk edition of "Anastasia", a fact I learned just in time by chance.) You might not be a Don Bluth fan, but you do have to agree that it is very sad to see someone like him go out like a fart in the wind.

This is supposedly a sequel to "Anastasia". As such, it barely qualifies. The only things connecting this film and it's predecessor are one character and the country it is set in.

And that leads to the sauropod in the room I mentioned a long while back: All those gorram sequels. It must suck in ways none of us can imagine to make all these beloved movies and then not be able to say what the studios who own the rights to said movies can and cannot do with them. And so we live in a world where there are, at last count,
fourteen "Land Before Time" movies. (For the record, there are about ten "Halloween" movies. I mention them because that is possibly the only other movie whose reputation has been so badly ruined by it's own not-original-director-involving sequels. It took years for the original "Halloween" to be appreciated.)

So this is why "Bartok" is one of the strangest movies I've watched during this project: Of all the Bluth-derived sequels, this is the ONE movie sequel he directed.

"Better" is a subjective word. I can't rightly say if this is indeed "better" than any of the sequels Bluth was not involved with. But I can pretty much guarantee that if it isn't better, it is at least
*stranger* than any other sequel to a Don Bluth film.

It feels more like one of the Dark Age Disney movies than any Don Bluth film. There were a lot of scenes and characters that gave me bad "Sword in the Stone" flashbacks. There were other scenes that felt like something out of "Dragon's Lair: Time Warp". In all, the whole movie is very confusing and, at times, damn creepy in a way that's hard to explain (ie, the big, perverted-looking dragon who shows up at the end.)

Thus ends Don Bluth Month.


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