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Author Topic: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future  (Read 867 times)

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Offline HannibalBarcaTopic starter

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Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« on: January 21, 2016, 12:05:14 AM »
I'm 47, and so have lived through some few eras of film.  Loving fantasy as a genre, particularly sword and sorcery, I recalled some of the films of my youth recently, as well as some that came before me, and realized that, while the genre has been underrepresented among genres for many years, there have been a fair share of them, with mixed quality.  I'm not really talking of fantasy in the vein of The Wizard of Oz here--I'm talking high fantasy of The Lord of the Rings sort, with the tropes of wizards, dragons, and the like.

I think, for the most part, that the technology of special effects prevented the realization of many novels in the fantasy genre that would make excellent films.  Just recently, Terry Brooks' Shannara series was brought to television, and it joins a growing list of novels that have been brought to the silver screen more recently.  But let's not forget the long list of fantasy films that came before.  Some were from fairy tales or myth, and some were created strictly for film.  Perhaps you're a fan of fantasy films, and have not seen some of these.  Even if not all of them are of the quality of Peter Jackson's Rings trilogy, some are well worth watching, for various reasons.



The Beastmaster -- An 80s film, with a character who resembles a World of Warcraft hunter in many aspects.  Rip Torn plays the vilain...















Fire & Ice -- One of those rotoscoped 80s cartoon fantasy films, this one was based on the artwork of Frank Frazetta.  If you like Conan-style stories and plot, this one will do it for you.














Ladyhawke -- Knight, princess, and rogue, played by Rutger Hauer, Michele Pfeiffer, and Matthew Broderick, with a unique twist on lycanthropy as a curse laid on the knight and princess.  Did I mention that I got my teen crush on Michele Pfeiffer from this film?







The Thief of Baghdad -- Based on one of the 1001 tales of Scheherezade (like Ali Baba and Sinbad), this 1940 version was one of the first films to use bluescreen for special effects.  Lots of swashbuckling-style fun.  I saw this when I was 22 or so, and loved it.  Jaffar is in it as the evil vizier sorceror, but no Aladdin--there is a prince trying to marry the princess, and a thief named Abu that Jaffar at one point turns into a dog, not a monkey.  Abu kinda steals the show, and for a 1940s film it was nice to see they actually cast a non-white guy as the djinn.











Dragonslayer -- The first film to use George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic that wasn't made by George Lucas.  Ralph Richardson plays a wizard, and Peter MacNicol, his apprentice, who are sent for to kill a dragon named Vermithrax Pejorative...yeah, dragons always seem to get the cool names.  In Latin, that comes out to 'The Worm of Thrace who makes things worse'.  And he does. A young Ian McDiarmid plays a good village priest in this, but doesn't end much differently than the Emperor he plays in Return of the Jedi.  For the time, the dragon animation was awesome.










The Dark Crystal -- This is a surprisingly good fantasy film made by Jim Henson, using only puppets for characters.  Sort of hard to explain, it has to be seen to be believed.














Wizards -- A 70s animated post-apocalyptic science fantasy animated film by Ralph Bakshi.  Yeah, it has his usual weirdness and rotoscoping in parts, but it is a good weird.















These are only a handful, and I wanted others to post fantasy films of the past they enjoyed.  I left out popular and/or cult films like Willow, Legend, Dragonheart, Labyrinth, and Princess Bride...I also left out films I haven't seen, like Stardust and Flight of Dragons.  What have you seen that you'd recommend?

Offline Oniya

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Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2016, 12:51:51 AM »
Hard to mention Bakshi without also mentioning his adaptations of The Hobbit and Return of the King.  His Lord of the Rings, which tried to cover the first two books, was over-rotoscoped, but the other two were absolute staples of my childhood.  I can't read The Hobbit without hearing the Dwarves' Song as performed in that movie, and hearing Otto Preminger as the King of the Mirkwood Elves.

Also, the original Clash of the Titans - with all the stop-motion animation by Ray Harryhausen.  I'd throw in most of Harryhausen's other work as well, especially when you stop to think how much work goes into stop-motion.

Somewhat more recently, I also happened to catch Christopher Lambert in a science-fantasy version of Beowulf (oddly enough, it was packaged with Beastmaster in a collection of other movies.)  While it deviates significantly from the poem, it was quite an enjoyable couple of hours.

Offline HannibalBarcaTopic starter

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Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2016, 01:02:22 AM »
My first Tolkien experience was The Hobbit and Return of the King by Rankin-Bass.  Also reminds me of The Last Unicorn, which was another Rankin-Bass film based on the novel.  And Ray Harryhausen also did all the Sinbad films, including the first real fantasy battle I ever saw, that stupendously awesome battle between Sinbad and his crew versus the animated skeleton warriors. God, that got my imagination soaring.

Mentioning Christopher Lambert, I kinda have always had a dream to remake Highlander.  It was a strange mix of awful and incredible.  I'd keep the original music by Queen, but redo the dialogue and special effects.  It had a lot of potential.

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2016, 07:29:09 AM »
I think The Dark Crystal is the only one I've ever seen of those. XD

It's probably the purest expression of the term mytheopoeia. It is a work that was built entirely from the ground up with no points of reference to anything familiar. There are no humans, no rabbits, no dogs. Everything was handcrafted to that particular world.

Though I'm scared to watch the movie again, fearing it might not hold up.

In general though, it seems to be really hard to pitch a fantasy idea to the movie industry these days. They seem to either be bad or fall under fantasy is for little kids.

Offline AmberStarfire

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Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2016, 08:41:44 AM »
I loved Ladyhawke. The music is entertaining because it's just so '1980s cop show' but apart from that it's a wonderful film. I really like Michelle Pfeiffer in this one. Her character was mysterious, romantic, feminine and self-assured. The actors all did a great job. I own the dvd of that and maybe it's time to watch it again.

Other films I liked.. The Princess Bride, Stardust, Willow, The Neverending Story (I haven't seen the last one in a while). Then more recent ones like LOTR, The Hobbit movies, Harry Potter films, The Hunger Games. There was Labyrinth, and I quite enjoyed City of Ember (it's a kid's movie). I picked up Pan's Labyrinth but haven't watched it yet.

And anime.. so much anime. I liked Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke especially, and Castle in the Sky.

« Last Edit: January 21, 2016, 08:44:00 AM by AmberStarfire »

Offline consortium11

Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2016, 09:46:36 AM »
How can any discussion of fantasy movies be complete without reference to Kull the Conqueror (alternative title: we couldn't get hold of the Conan license), any of the three Dungeons and Dragons movies or the instant classic In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (alternative title; what on earth are all those talented actors doing here?)... let alone the sequel (alternative title; Dolph Lundgren couldn't be bothered to change out of his street clothes so here's a dimension hopping plot to explain that).

On a slightly more serious note the wider availability (and lower cost) of computerized special effects and the rise of crowd funding means that we're seeing far more fantasy movies than ever before; Sci-Fi Pictures (the Sci-Fi channel/Syfy's in house film team) put out a large amount to go with their monster movie output while the producers behind Mythica have managed to make three films and currently be funding a fourth through kickstarter while you also get stuff like Ren and Curse of the Dragonslayer. As you'd expect from projects that tend to be done on a low budget with either inexperienced or jobbing actors and for an audience with either low expectations or who are deliberately watching for their "so bad it's good" kicks the overall quality is variable at the best of times, some of the special effects, acting, dialogue and choreography can be laughable and none are exactly going to storm the Oscars but they're enjoyable enough films to waste an hour or two on.

Offline Beorning

Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2016, 10:17:38 AM »
How can any discussion of fantasy movies be complete without reference to Kull the Conqueror (alternative title: we couldn't get hold of the Conan license), any of the three Dungeons and Dragons movies or the instant classic In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (alternative title; what on earth are all those talented actors doing here?)... let alone the sequel (alternative title; Dolph Lundgren couldn't be bothered to change out of his street clothes so here's a dimension hopping plot to explain that).

Also, the original movie adaptation of The Witcher (not the one that's supposedly in the works)!

Another classic that needs to be mentioned is Red Sonja :D

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2016, 10:53:17 AM »
How can you mention Dragonslayer, but not Dragonheart? Starring Dennis Quaid and the voice of Sean Connery, with CGI that holds up impressively well even nowadays.

Offline Gadifriald

Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2016, 12:50:33 PM »
Let us not forget the 1982 "Conan The Barbarian" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by John Milius! That movie blows the 2011 version out of the water and is a powerful film of visual storytelling. The sequel, "Conan The Destroyer", isn't near as good though.

Offline GothicFires

Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2016, 01:00:47 PM »
Legend the director's cut is much better than the theater version. It's alot darker. There's quite a few versions of Alice in Wonderland. I like one simply called Alice though Tim Burton's version is great too. I own Mirror Mirror which is a better take on Snow White than Snow White and the Huntsman but it's a bit on the sweet side. into the Woods and Jack the Giant Slayer is also in my library. If you also include TV shows then I recommend the 10th Kingdom and Tin Man which were both mini series.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2016, 01:25:25 PM »
Let us not forget the 1982 "Conan The Barbarian" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by John Milius! That movie blows the 2011 version out of the water and is a powerful film of visual storytelling. The sequel, "Conan The Destroyer", isn't near as good though.

The 2011 version didn't have Mako.  It never stood a chance.  :-)

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Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2016, 01:48:30 PM »
Almost anything and everything done by Ray Harryhusen would fit into this category including those films of the SciFi genre with his excellently crafted monsters.  The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, It Came from Beneath the Sea, and Twenty Million Miles to Earth, all productions from the 1950s are some of my favorites among his films. 

Also, while we are in this genre we must also include the iconic classic Forbidden Planet which introduced Robbie the Robot and the monster from the ID.

I love the old school special effects from these movies so much more than the CGI monsters of today.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2016, 01:53:54 PM by Beguile's Mistress »

Offline Oniya

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Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2016, 01:50:22 PM »
Almost anything and everything done by Ray Harryhusen would fit into this category included those films of the SciFi genre with his excellently crafted monsters.  The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, It Came from Beneath the Sea, and Twenty Million Miles to Earth, all productions from the 1950s are some of my favorites among his films. 

Also, while we are in this genre we must also include the iconic classic Forbidden Planet which introduced Robbie the Robot and the monster from the ID.

I love the old school special effects from these movies so much more than the CGI monsters of today.``

Fun fact:  Forbidden Planet was a retelling of The Tempest.

Offline Gadifriald

Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2016, 02:02:55 PM »
The 2011 version didn't have Mako.  It never stood a chance.  :-)
Oh so very true and without Mako it just wasn't a true tale of high adventure! :-)

Offline Ananym

Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2016, 07:54:33 PM »
Did anyone mention Willow yet? That was one of my favorite movies when I was young.  Also, Excalibur (1981).  I have a fondness for all of the King Arthur related movies. Someone could make a sizable list on that alone.  I will blame you all, with a smile on my face, as I sit watching sword and sorcery movies all weekend.

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2016, 08:01:04 PM »
I'm trying to think of all the fantasy movies I like that aren't based on books (because I normally watch those to see how they translate the book).

I'm coming up kind of short. :\

Is it really that hard to come up with a fantasy plot?

Offline GothicFires

Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #16 on: January 21, 2016, 08:24:47 PM »
I thought of a few more

Hawk the Slayer
Krull
The Barbarians
Erik the Viking
13th Warrior
Earthsea
Inkheart
Your Highness

If you like Oriental movies
The Sword and the Butterfly
House of the Flying Daggers

Offline Oniya

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Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2016, 09:01:15 PM »
Krull was an excellent one - good videogame for its era as well.

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2016, 09:19:10 PM »
Is the 13th Warrior fantasy?

I guess I'm weird, but I don't consider epic literature fantasy. :\
It's epic literature. It's its own genre.

Offline Thorne

Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2016, 09:52:16 PM »
Is the 13th Warrior fantasy?

I guess I'm weird, but I don't consider epic literature fantasy. :\
It's epic literature. It's its own genre.

It's a take on Beowolf, and I'd count it. It's one of the few that I can watch (that CGI cheese-fest that had Angelina Jolie in it was .. um .. well. It was a good popcorn movie). I count anything based on mythology, though. The recent Hercules wasn't completely terrible.

The Mummy and the Mummy Returns are on my list of good fantasy, even with all the cheese. Not the third one! They banjaxed that one something awful for me. :/
George and the Dragon! How the heck did you guys miss THAT one? They roped James Purefoy into it, and it had one of the better dragons I've seen, too.

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Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2016, 11:43:58 PM »
I don't know if it qualifies, but the 80s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe movie starring Dolph Lundgren as He-Man. Aside from some of the cheesy, campy plot, characters and of course the trip to modern earth where the heroes need help from several Earth teens. The movie starred a young Courtney Cox. Aside from a few things, Dolph Lundgren was perfect. And, its good entertainment.

Eragon. It was an okay movie. Haven't read the books, but Jeremy Irons was awesome as always.


Offline Oniya

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Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #21 on: January 22, 2016, 12:23:14 AM »
Eragon. It was an okay movie. Haven't read the books, but Jeremy Irons was awesome as always.

If you'd read the books, you wouldn't say it was an okay movie.  Mr. Oniya devoured those books, so I got him the movie for Christmas the year it came out on DVD.  He couldn't finish watching it, and I felt absolutely awful about it.  :(

Offline HannibalBarcaTopic starter

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Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #22 on: January 24, 2016, 10:21:52 PM »
I feel sad that Dungeons and Dragons turned out so awful.  Whoever chose to create a plot for the film instead of using any of the countless Dragonlance or Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms worlds stories was an unmitigated idiot.

I didn't originally mention several movies, as they were hits and not sleepers, like Conan the Barbarian.  I loved that movie.

And Mako made any movie 200% more awesome :D
« Last Edit: January 26, 2016, 12:11:40 AM by HannibalBarca »

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #23 on: January 24, 2016, 10:33:58 PM »
The first D&D movie was at least fun, in a mind-bogglingly awful  MST3K sort of way. The second was far worse simply because it was bland and boring, mediocre. I never did get around to seeing the third one.

Offline consortium11

Re: Fantasy Films, Their Past and Future
« Reply #24 on: January 24, 2016, 10:35:47 PM »
I feel sad that Dungeons and Dragons turned out so awful.  Whoever chose to create a plot for the film instead of using any of the countless Dragonlance or Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms worlds stories was an unmitigated idiot.

An on paper odd combination of the film both taking too long and being rushed. The D&D film liscence had been floating around for about a decade or so with lots of different scripts attached but TSR and Wizards of the Coast never quite got their act together on selecting one and sticking to it (which also contributed to the vast number of scripts); basically what's known as development hell. Then the hype started to build around the first Lord of the Rings film and Hasbro (which had bought WotC and thus TSR) went "wait, don't we have the D&D license? And isn't that basically the same?" and rushed the film out as a cash grab. And I do mean rushed... they couldn't find a proper director so instead they got the producer (and even then a producer who was only really going to be the money man rather than hands on in any way) to direct, grabbed the first complete script they could find and went for it.