Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Fantasy is Back Part 4 of the Trilogy with 33.333% extra FREE!

Hey Hey

As Promised the 4th and final part of my fantasy series for the Sci-Fi channel's website is now up.
 It ran a little long so my editor, Pete (great guy even if he needs to watch more Miyazaki films!) wisely trimmed a bit off the end. You can read the whole blog here, but as always I'd love for you to check it out on the site and leave some comments.

Fantasy is back a Trilogy in 3 + 1 parts. Pt 4

Fantasy was taking the 21st Century by storm, in much the same way that Science Fiction had the last quarter of the 20th Century. Harry Potter raced to its third movie, (the first actually decent movie), and Lord of the Rings was reaching its glorious, Oscar laden, climax. The first, probable, result of their success, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the extremely long titles had arrived to the surprise of most in Hollywood and to the pleasure of the movie going public. Its supernatural themes setting it and its even more successful sequels firmly in the Fantasy realm shared with Sinbad, rather than the pirate / swashbuckling movie pirate realm.

So there we were, in the era that was supposed to see a Star Wars trilogy leading Science fiction swiftly back to the top of the box office, with not one, not two but THREE fantasy film series proving more popular than the legendary sci-fi goliath. In the meantime Universal rushed out a Mummy sequel, it was another financial success and a children’s favourite, but one does wonder what might have been if they’d shown any amount of patience and allowed time for a better story to be written and, let’s face it, better effects to be rendered. There were other missteps rising out of the rush to make all things fantasy into movies.
The brilliantly conceived, but only partially realised Van Helsing was much more of a financial success than the media would have you believe; it was also more entertaining than certain sources suggest, but it was flawed. It was perhaps a victim of two, very important faults. Firstly, the film simply tried to do too much. It may have been better to add more meat to the bones of the many characters in the film and split it into two or three movies. There’s a lot of potential “untold” story and character development hiding behind the special effects sequences, even the Cartoon prequel could actually have been added to the start of the film lending more time and care to the Mr. Hyde chase. The second was t he casting. Sometimes a person can be TOO good for a role. Hugh Jackman is a fantastic actor, perhaps still a little under-appreciated in some quarters. His portrayal of Logan / Wolverine in the first two X-men films is dead on, (Yes Wolverine is about 30cm shorter than Jackman and his berserker side and killing skills have been used sparingly or not at all in the movies to date) but I defy you to fail to be moved when Rogue asks Logan if it hurts when he extends his claws and Jackman replies softly, “Every time”, the voice pitch, the expression, all of it is note perfect; as his attitude and desire to learn who he is. For those of you thinking “Hey Everton, wake up! You’re doing it again, get back on topic, we’re reading Fantasy, not X-Men!” I say HAH! I am still on topic, you see VanHelsing, as written by Stephen Sommers is basically Wolverine with Blade style gadgets and a slightly better, less amusing, attitude. Also you could argue better hair. So having watched the supreme X2 a year earlier we watched an inferior movie with Wolverine running around, looking for his past, without his Adamantium and yes turning out to have a very bestial dark side.
As mentioned above Van Helsing did not reach the financial heights of the Mummy films but was still a significant money maker.
The studios continued to rush into any fantasy related media in the hopes of making, not only a big movie, but of replicating the “franchise” success of the Rings and Potter movies. The dark is rising; his dark materials, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Chronicles of Narnia and more were all rushed into production. So far only the Narnia series has definitely achieved Franchise status, thanks to the baffling response to The Lion The Witch & the Wardrobe. There was certainly a Christian push given to the story because of Aslan’s Christ like resurrection and other Christian themes thought to run through the book, but after the Lord of the Rings, and even the post Chris Columbus Potter movies, it was incredibly blah. Not awful, the source material is too good for that, but made with a decided lack of imagination. Tilda Swinton’s White Witch added much needed class, but pretty much everything else, from the flat direction given to Aslan’s voice, through the uninspired realisation of the “magical” creatures and the failure to realistically portray onscreen one of the most difficult parts of the book to believe. Not the creatures, or the reincarnation or Narnia itself. It’s the battles. You see 4 kids with no experience of any of the martial arts, not even fisticuffs. Yet the get pitched into the middle of a brutal war. Not just any war but one with fearsome creatures, with the strength of 10 men, and claws and swords and teeth. With no training at all they join battle and despite looking like children trying to hold weapons that are just a little too heavy and that they don’t quite know how to use. There really didn’t seem to be any imagination there.
Maugrim, the head of the White witch’s secret police is a wolf. That’s it, just an ordinary wolf; Ok he could talk but other than that just a regular, rather sledge dog looking, wolf. Now anyone who’s seen 300 should remember the storybook wolf at the start of the tale; Giant, with demon like eyes and death black fur. That’s what Maugrim should have been like, perhaps a little smaller but much more the “big, bad, wolf “of real faerie tales than a cute petting Zoo specimen. The far superior Prince Caspian made only 60% of the final gross of the Wardrobe movie, perhaps adding weight to the argument that the first film was less than satisfactory. Disney dropped their association with the “franchise” but Fox quickly snapped up distribution rights and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader is being filmed as you read this. (Well unless it’s midnight, or you’re reading this a year from now.)
So here we are at 2009. Two more tales from Middle Earth are on the way in the shape of two films based on The Hobbit. The final Harry Potter book is also being split into two films. A remake of Clash of the Titans is due in March 2010 and we have another Pirates of the Caribbean movie on the way. However it is a proposed trilogy of films based on a children’s cartoon that could prove to be fantasy’s Next big thing. More on Avatar: The Last Airbender or The last Airbender as the movie is known in “A Tale of Two Avatars” part II.


  1. As always I like your articles. What a great "job" you have. (But I think it's to much fun to qualify as a job.)What's your opinion on miss Swinton in "Constantine" ? In Narnia she were the only one who fit the part if you ask me. Where did they ever find those children ? Well they can't all be Freddie Highmore or Dakota Fanning : )

  2. LOL.
    I can't deny it, it is a lot fun. :) It's great to hear from you again too.

    It is 2009; surely we can clone Freddie Highmore and Dakota Fanning by now!

    Like you I think Tilda was the only one who was cast correctly in Lion, Witch & the Wardrobe. Even Aslan wasn't quite right. Constantine is a strange one. There's a lot of good ideas and imagery in that film. She was better Narnia and Michael Clayton but I seem to remember liking her in Constantine too. She's another of those that just adds an extra 30% of class to pretty much anything she's in.

    As for Narnia the bad news has to be that it's the younger two who are left for the rest of the Chronicles (assuming the Magician's Nephew and The Horse & His Boy remain unfilmed). It was tough competition but they were the worst of the four!