Lost in Translation: Ralph Bakshi’s Adaptation of Dialogue in The Lord of the Rings (1978)
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The Lord of the Rings and its many adaptations have taken the world by storm since 1954. However, among these many works based on Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Ralph Bakshi’s animated adaptation from 1978 has been critically neglected. Similarly, the study of film dialogue has received little to no attention from scholars since the birth of the medium in the late 19th century. This study aims to aid in filling in both gaps by examining and exploring the ways in which Bakshi has adapted the great amounts of dialogue from Tolkien’s original work for his film. It does so by first establishing a theoretical background concerning the studies of adaptation, film, and film dialogue, and then using this background in the subsequent chapters. These subsequent chapters involve the examination of the film in a general sense, as well as the close reading of several scenes that play great roles in the development of characters and the furthering of the overall plot. These analyses show that, while valiant efforts have been made by Bakshi to adapt the novel’s dialogue for film, he often ends up working against himself through his efforts to preserve the dialogue itself while neglecting its context. As a result, the film has become unnecessarily convoluted and has great shortcomings, both as an adaptation and as a film in its own right.