The Greats: Fantasy

Posted: November 16, 2010 in Article, Top Lists
Tags: , , , , , ,

I fantasize about a world where I can get an intern to write intros for me.
I’m trying to cast a wide net with these selections, but this week I failed. Most of these were made within a few years of each other. I put it down to the fact that my formative years coincided quite nicely with a renaissance in fantasy filmmaking. A couple of obvious things like The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of The Lost Ark aren’t here because they’ve already been addressed in last week’s entry.



Bambi
Based on the Austrian novel, Bambi, A Life in the Woods, this movie manages to mostly apply to the spirit of the original story. While straying fairly far from the actual text of the book, the Disney team did play a lot of attention to the actual anatomy of the animals they were drawing and produced a far more realistic looking movie than normally seen at the time. While it was actually a failure upon its first release (bad timing, WWII, I blame Hitler) the movie was a huge technical step forward for Disney and they made their money in 47 when they released the film. There is actually a lot of impressionism in this movie. You don’t notice because it’s mostly done in the background and during action. Experimentation on this film would lead to technical marvels later. I’m still calling this a fantasy though, because deer and rabbits don’t talk.


Clash of the Titans
Not the crappy remake, the Harryhausen blessed original! What do I need to say about this movie? The effects are awesome, the acting is subpar, the nudity is rampant for a PG movie and Medusa gets her head chopped off! Do you really need more than that? This is a movie for the kid in you, it really is. I am transported back to another time when watching this thing. It’s a great movie, but only if you just let certain things go and let the movie flow. Otherwise, it’s kind of crap. But hey! Flying horse! Most the girls I know love that stpid flying horse.


Ladyhawke
Why do people complain about the rock score? I love the score for this movie. It doesn’t sound like every other damn movie score out there and it’s pretty cool on its own. I like the music! The movie is based on some French story or other, but that’s less important than the fact that the movie is just good. Taken purely on its own merits, this is a great movie. That is, once you let the helmet thing go. Yeah, they look like they’re wearing modified motorcycle helmets. No idea where that came from, but it really hurts the film.


The Promise
Now, this is a silly movie. It really is. A silly, little movie with a lot going wrong. HOWEVER! It looks great and it’s awesome to watch with a group of friends who are in high spirits and ready to MST3K the hell out of a movie. Silly, stupid, delightful, fun, these are all things that describe this movie. I like it! It’s got flying kung-fu, pretty girls, interesting settings and a sort of story book aesthetic that I think sets the mood quite nicely.


Highlander
Because it’s Highlander. Say what you will about the sequels, many have, many times. The first one though, was excellent. Not a perfect movie by any stretch, but a fascinating and engaging movie none the less. Possibly better because of potential than execution. It’s a great little movie and a great action/adventure film. Just stay away from the sequels and only approach the TV show with protective clothing on. I like the TV Series, but it’s not the best thing ever.


The Dark Crystal
Okay, some people like this movie better than others. I’ll admit that I like it better than it deserves. It’s got a lot more vision than it had the ability to execute that vision. The movie could have been truly great, but a few effects errors and a couple of story problems keep it from being truly great. However, it deserves to be championed because it is a good movie, just not a great one. It wants to be great, it almost gets there, but in the end it doesn’t quite reach its goal. What’s nobler when all is said and done? To reach higher than you can achieve and miss, or to reach for what you know you can get and not stretch too hard to get it? I don’t know, but I like this movie and there is greatness within it, just not as a whole.


Conan the Barbarian
This is actually less a creation of Robert E. Howard’s books and more a filtering of those stories through the Sword and Sandal prism. There is more of the old Hercules movies here than a real view into Howard’s mind. However, it’s still a great fantasy movie and well worth watching.


Beastmaster
Another fantasy that looks more like the Sword and Sandal epics than traditional fantasy movies did. Coming out shortly after Conan, this has long been looked at as a rip-off movie, which is a shame since it can easily stand up on its own. The problem is, in both tone and story, it could have come right out of one of Robert E. Howard’s books and it looks a lot like Conan. What with the nudity, the leather, the desert setting, the loin clothed hero and all. Still, it’s a good movie and worth watching, if for no other reason than because how often do you get to watch ferrets steal a woman’s clothes?


Sadko
This Russian folktale turned movie is two parts wondrous vision to behold and one part utter batshit. Even when you know the tale of Sadko, various parts of the production just go places that you wouldn’t expect. It hits notes that feel gloriously insane sometimes, particularly the underwater disco. While the story is interesting enough, it’s really the visuals that sell this movie. Aleksandr Ptushko was just so far beyond what anyone else was doing at that time, the only comparable film maker is Walt Disney and even his films seem to pale in comparison to the magic that’s being thrown on the screen here. I could suggest at least three other Ptushko films to you, Ilya Muromets, Sampo and The Stone Flower, which I’ve seen part of online but as the version I found on youtube didn’t have any subs I had to parse out what was going on. Point is, seek this thing out and enjoy it.


Strings
One of the more complete and consistent visions of a fantasy world I have ever seen. While in many ways a proof of concept movie, it’s still an engaging and interesting take on a classic tale that anyone who is even remotely into fantasy has seen a hundred or so times. I say proof of concept because I find it impossible to imagine another story where this technique could be used beyond a sequel, and the story is told in such a way that there really isn’t anywhere for a sequel to go besides being more of the same. Still, this is one of the more beautifully constructed movies I’ve seen in a long time and evocative of a sort of filmmaking that feels lost in the modern world. You could just rent it and leave it at that, but you probably should buy it because things this amazing need to be supported.

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