Have you ever seen The Last Unicorn? Kind of a weird/freaky/awesome 80’s cartoon that those of us from that era grew up with? Or ever read the book, written by Peter S. Beagle?
Let’s talk about the book to movie comparison, shall we?
First, a spoiler-free discussion of the plot, just for those that do not know.
The Last Unicorn follows, well, a unicorn that is the last of her kind. She is on a search both for identity and acceptance.
Along her journey, she encounters other people, including the magician, Schmendrick.
The story follows along as the unicorn — later named as Amalthea — searches for other unicorns, who have been driven into the ocean by The Red Bull, who acts on the orders of King Haggard.
Haggard has ordered that all unicorns be destroyed — for whatever reason — so Amalthea, Schmendrick, and Molly Grue must find out a way to defeat The Red Bull, overthrow King Haggard, and return the unicorns back to their former glory.
Now on to some spoilers.
First of all, I think the only reason I “like” the movie now is for nostalgia purposes. The book itself wasn’t really the best.
I’m more of a character-driven reader than a plot, and this, to me, was a heavily plot-driven story. That in and of itself is not always a bad thing, but considering the search for identity that remains the main underlying theme here, I just wish both would have delved more into the characterization.
I enjoyed the theme of identity in this book, even though I wish it had some more exploration done. I like the idea — more so from the book than the movie — of men really only seeing what they want to, and not always what’s right in front of them.
We see that in both book and movie when men are unable to see unicorns for who they are.
They are only able to see them as horses.
This just adds to the theme of identity, for me.
It’s relatable to feel like you’re the “last of” or “only of” your kind, but this book just reminds us of the importance of our uniqueness.
You know, we are all beautiful little unicorns.
But, as stated in the story, “just because people can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.”
While we’re talking about the story itself, I should note that the movie is basically a page-by-page of the book. Very little has been cut out, and a lot of the dialogue is actually directly quoted from the book. The book itself is mostly just descriptions and summaries of what’s going on, in my opinion.
What the movie did not do well was all of the music.
Here’s the thing:
The music in the movie is atrocious. It is God awful. Watching it again right now for this honestly felt like a banshee screeching while she ran her nails down a chalkboard.
In and of itself, that does not bother me.
What actually bothers me is how much lyrics and music happened in the actual book, and how none of that was actually used in the movie. All the horrendous singing and songs from the movie were just for the movie.
That started as a really small upset at the beginning but turned into something that drove me WILD by the end. So bad. 0/10 for the music.
Although I do wish there was more character development in here, I will also say that I really enjoy the plot and the events that take place.
I just also think this book could’ve done with even just 100 more pages and done so much more.
Like, why does King Haggard hate the unicorns?
Where did The Red Bull come from?
What was the unicorn’s life like when she had her little fleet with her?
And also, I wish there was some more exploration of the unicorn as a human, which is when she becomes the Lady Amalthea.
From there, she’s got a bit of a Little Mermaid love story with Prince Lir, who spends “so much time” (in summary) trying to woo her, but to no avail.
The longer she stays human, the more she forgets who she was before.
I like the idea of losing yourself in that matter. It emphasizes the importance of remembering who you are and staying true to yourself.
There’s also a bit of that theme that goes deeper into the love story, with a same reminder: Even when you fall in love, you should never forget your own identity in the process.
This “identity” theme is the main one going on in here. Even Schmendrick talks about it a lot. The truth always prevails, even when people think they need an illusion to see something or someone as it truly is.
Let’s talk about some of the weird stuff for a minute, here, though, and this is mostly coming from the movie.
But first up is the butterfly at the beginning.
All I’m saying is, that butterfly was high. And he called the unicorn his Mary Jane. So he was smoking up her magic, for real.
Also, the harpy.
There’s this section of the movie where the unicorn is captured by Mommy Fortuna and put into this little circus-type traveling show. This is where she meets Schmendrick. Mommy Fortuna has put on the facade that she’s got all of these crazy creatures like sphinxes and such, when in actuality she only has animals like lions.
The unicorn is one of the two true creatures she has, the other being a harpy.
All I’m saying is… the harpy’s titties?
Like, free the nipple all the way, but my damn. As a child and as an adult, I’m over here like “…uhhhh…?”
Also, the tree that tries to make love to Schmendrick.
That “happened” in the book, but the way the tree shoves his face in her little chesticles…
I don’t know about all that.
There’s some weird stuff going on in this movie, and in this book.
And that little skeleton guy who’s obsessed with wine?
Overall, I give the movie like a 6/10. Moved down a lot because of just how bad that singing is, ohmygod.
The book I give about a 3.5, maybe a 3.75. Really, most of it is just for nostalgia purposes and not for actual enjoyment of what was going on.
To be quite frank, if I hadn’t seen it as a child, I would’ve DNFed both the book and the movie.
If you’ve seen the movie and are interested in the book, I would still recommend reading it and say that it’s worth it. If you’ve seen neither, I’d say either show it to your children or wait until you have them, because then it might be okay.
But I most certainly don’t agree with Patrick Rothfuss on the cover here talking about how this is the best book he’s ever read.
I’d choose any of your work LONG before I chose this again, Mr. Rothfuss.