The Black Cauldron (PG)
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This is based on a series of books that I haven't read, but I'm sure it's a lot different than the books. Anyway, it came out in 1985, but I didn't see it at the time. I feel like I should have seen it at some point after that, on TV or something, but I couldn't say for sure. It's entirely possible that when I watched the DVD in 2012, it was the first time I ever saw it. The movie is generally considered a critical and financial failure. And I must say, I was hoping to like it more than I did, but it wasn't bad. Definitely surprisingly dark, for a Disney movie, and even a bit risqué in one scene. There was a bit of humor, but mostly it was just a dark movie, and probably too scary for very young children. But mostly it's kind of boring.
It begins on a farm, where there's a boy named Taran who is an assistant pig-keeper, who wants to become a warrior. (He kind of reminded me of Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars, except he was actually pretty lame.) His employer, or whatever, was this old guy named Dallben (apparently just a pig-keeper, though the savvy viewer can easily tell he's more than that). Dallben tries to get Taran to stop daydreaming about war, know it's not nearly as fun as the boy thinks. Anyway, before long, Dallben has reason to reveal that their pig, Hen Wen, is more than she appears. (Btw, she's the only pig we ever see, but presumably they have others. Certainly they have at least one goat and a flock of geese.) Um... Hen Wen can provide magical visions of... stuff. Like there's this evil Horned King, who wants to find an ancient Black Cauldron, in which some evil has been sealed away. Whoever possesses the cauldron could use its power to raise an army of dead warriors, to take over the world. And now the Horned King learns that Hen Wen could show him where the cauldron is hidden. So, Dallben sends Taran off to take the pig someplace safe.
Of course, Hen Wen soon runs off while Taran is daydreaming again. Then Taran meets a weird, furry little doglike creature named Gurgi, who's a coward and a thief and basically rather annoying. (Though he did kind of remind me any number of other characters, such as Gollum from "The Lord of the Rings.") And then Taran continues looking for the pig, but it gets snatched by dragonlike creatures called Gwythaints, and taken to the Horned King's castle. Taran goes there (against Gurgi's advice), to rescue Hen Wen. He manages to free the pig, but gets captured himself. (I should mention that the Horned King has, in addition to his human soldiers, a goblinlike lackey called "Creeper.") While in the dungeon, Taran meets a girl named Princess Eilonwy, and an old minstrel named Fflewddur Fflam. He also finds a magical sword that had belonged to the dead king whose castle the Horned King had taken over. By using the sword, the three of them manage to escape.
While looking for Hen Wen, they meet up with Gurgi again, and subsequently all end up in the land of the "fair folk." Hen Wen turns out to be there, and the king of the fair folk promises to get the pig safely home. Meanwhile, he sends one of his people, a cranky old guy named Doli, to help Taran, Eilonwy, Fflam, and Gurgi find the cauldron. It turns out to be in the possession of three old witches (one of whom takes an immediate liking to Fflam, though the feeling is not mutual). They agree to trade the cauldron for Taran's sword, and later give them some disheartening information about the cauldron. But before long, the Horned King gets his skeletal hands on the cauldron, and the only way to stop him from taking over the world... isn't pleasant.
I feel like I've said too much, so I'll stop there. Um... so yeah, I thought the movie had some good bits, but mostly fell far short of its potential. Still, fairly surprising in just how... un-Disneylike it was. Kind of admirable, the risks this movie took, I give it props for that. It's just a shame the characters were kind of bland.