Inspired by the thread on favorite fantasy movies (http://www.sffworld.org/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3262&highlight=movie), I thought I'd put up a little theory of mine and see what people think.
It's no secret that, with the (big, huge, exceptional) exception of LoTR, fantasy movies -- good or bad -- have tended to bomb at the box office. SF movies on the other hand, thrive -- both the good and the bad. I've never been able to figure out why. This is especialy strange when you consider that Star Wars is nothing but a standard-repetoire fantasy archetype.
If it's not storylines, I got to thinking, might it be setting? And then it struck me that it might just be the suspension of disbelief factor. Fantasy more or less evokes a mythological past, one the audience knows didn't happen. SF, on the other hand, brings up a future that just might.
Film being such an in-your-face representational medium, maybe people just find it easier to stomach the idea of aliens that just might -- who knows? -- land someday than dragons and mages they know for a fact never existed.
Those are my two cents (or maybe fifty...). What do y'all think?
October 4th, 2002, 03:47 PM
Moving this to TV/FILM where it will get the love and attention it deserves.
October 4th, 2002, 03:56 PM
Well I'm sure there are other reasons but for me one is that fantasy movies on the whole just look neater and more visually pleasing. I usually hate looking at aliens but the ships and uniforms and costumes make up for it most times. The fantasy creatures we usually see, at least in the past, looked awful. I cannot think of a decent looking dragon at the moment. Moreover, the best thing about fantsy movies visually often is usually the scantily clad heroine but that does tend to take points off the intelligence meter.
Anyway I'm not sure I really like that many sci-fi movies ahead of fantasy ones. Of course there are the Star Wars movies and Seconds for sci-fi but on the other hand fantasy offers The Princess Bride, The Wizard of Oz, and The NeverEnding Story amongst others. I think I like fantasy movies more.
October 4th, 2002, 04:39 PM
I think Bond makes an excellent point. In fantasy, the effects were never really able to keep up with the setting.
Monsters and dragons usually looked cheesy in the extreme.
Conan looked good, and LOTR of course was visually brilliant. Maybe now with the success of LOTR and better effects technology, we can see some more quality fantasy.
and of course the Indiana Jones' and as quite lighter movies the Mummie(..returns) as well as everyone's new favorite "Gladiator" deserves some mentioning.
Of course it boils down to what type of Fantasy you want to see on the big screen. Is it really more difficult doing a decent Fantasy Movie than creating a SF one? Probably if your SF standard is somewhere in the likes of an 2001:Odyssey where the movie lives on suspension and slow action. But SF-movie goers today want more too ! Fast-paced action scenes, strange but still believable aliens, odd worlds and what not to keep ILM busy for months. It could be done for Fantasy as well but SF just seems to be more mainstream and probably attracts more visitors, so it is what is being produced more often.
Not that there arent SF failures either, Lost in Space (the new one) and Red Planet didn't do all too well as far as I know.
Star Trek and Star Wars thrive because of their fan base, not necessarily because of their "stand-alone" quality.
Personally though I like to watch SF rather than read a book, while I read more Fantasy than I could watch. Still I like good Fantasy movies and I basically stopped reading SF some years ago.
October 5th, 2002, 06:51 PM
I think it's a very interesting and logical point you make jfaustus, and after giving it some thought, I think I'm going to have to agree with you.
Unfortunatly modern society has bred many harcore skeptics, but the nature of mankind allows them to be at least hopeful when doubtfull.
Cool thread. :cool:
October 5th, 2002, 07:44 PM
OMG, Draxinusom! Can i pleeeeeease just point out that 'Braveheart' is history, not fantasy! I have no doubt that details were twisted to make the story into a better film, but William Wallace, Robert Bruce etc etc were very real men (which, imo, makes it an even better film than if they hadn't - but a very sad one :()
(Sorry for jumping in - but Braveheart is one of my fav films, and that part of Scotland's history interests me, so i couldn't help but shout.)
On the whole, i have to agree with you theory that many ppl want at least a little plausibility in the films they watch - and, in many cases, in the books they read to, imo.
October 5th, 2002, 08:09 PM
No offense taken, however, may I in turn point out that although I too immensly liked that move (heck half a meter to my right the movie-poster hangs on the wall !)
you should be aware that the Person "William Wallace" did really exist. HOWEVER, what he had done or not is not readly proofable.
I once read that he lived during a very different time period than the "hot phases" where Scotland was constantly fighting England.
So although there might be some truth to it, there is much legend, myth and folklore.
I think it is quite similar with our national hero (I'm Swiss...) Wilhelm Tell (often "William Tell" in english languages) who is attributed opposing and finally killing the local Govenor of an oppresive outlandish Emperor.
(shot version of the story here) (http://www.pbs.ch/eng/tell.html)
However everything that recent ressearch in that field showed was that a man by that name *might* have existed and *might* have been just an outlaw against those in command at that time. Nothing more. So it boils down to much myth and folklore and if you ever watched a rumor "evolve" by passing but a few people nowadays, you can get a fairly accurate guess at how such stories must have come to pass.
Still I can of course not proove anything but I do look at it as Fantasy not as History. It does have a historical background but so does the movie Gladiator which however was purely fictous.
October 7th, 2002, 10:10 AM
I think Draxinusom is right about Braveheart. Whilst William Wallace did exist and as far as I know the battles actually happened, often the events and even the outcomes of the battles were changed. As far as I can remember the Scots only beat the English once at the Battle of Strirling Bridge where the English heavy cavalry were bogged down by the marshes surronding the Bridge.
I could of course be talking rubbish (I haven't done Scottish history since primary school) but it all makes for a good story!
PS: William Wallace being Australian, that has to be fantasy...
October 7th, 2002, 10:44 AM
I don't know if we're talking about failure of modern fantasy films here or just in general, but there was a certain Mr Ray Harryhausen who did the effects for many movies including the Sinbad series, Jason an the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans and even a pre-Jurrasic Park story called "Valley of the Gwangi" (which was about a lost world of dinosaurs in a (relatively) modern era).
He alone seemed to keep the fantasy genre alive in films due to his "stop-motion" animation techniques.
Fantasy hasn't been much cop since then and it could have something to do with the lack of special effects required to reproduce fantasy realms until recently.
The original LoTR animated film (currently being slated in another thread) was the best that could be done for it's era, but I would hope that with today's CGI magic and the success of LoTR, there will be a resurrection of fantasy on the big screen which will give it the attention it deserves.