Wow, that was quite a disappointment.
Now, I went in expecting “The Black Cauldron” to be pretty bad (thanks in part to this Slate article), but in the back of my mind, I was hoping that my lowered expectations would overwrite the movie’s flaws and let me enjoy it.
Sadly, it was not to be. What makes the movie’s fumbles even harder is that I’ve read “The Chronicles of Prydain” by Lloyd Alexander (the movie’s title comes from the second book in the series), and it’s a fantastic and moving coming of age tale about an assistant pig keeper Taran (voiced by Grant Bardsley) and his journey to manhood (and heroism).
However, the film, directed by Ted Berman and Richard Rich, has none of those qualities. It’s an overly cutesy tale about bringing down a scary but one-note villain in order to save the world and get the girl. It’s the template for every fantasy story ever written (as a fantasy consumer, that’s not a complaint, just an observation) but the writers and directors didn’t do anything special with the story.
The characters are goody-goody bland, the animal sidekicks (on both sides) are annoying, and the wrap-up is too easy and ultimately costs our heroes nothing (something that is completely foreign to the author Alexander).
It’s not often that I wish for a bad movie to be longer, but condensing five extraordinary novels
in to one 80 minute movie is a travesty, plain and simple. Maybe I could have handled this movie better if I hadn’t loved the books as I did, but what’s done is done. Now it’s time for someone to rescue this series from it’s fate and make it into the grand spectacle it deserves to be.
“The Black Cauldron” (1985)
Written by too many to list here
Directed by Ted Berman and Richard Rich
Starring: Grant Bardsley (Taran)
Susan Sheridan (Eilonwy)