Today I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And while it was an enjoyable film, full of pretty much exactly the sorts of things a Star Wars film should have – space battles, lightsabre fights, and so on – there were some things that really stood out when I’d had a little time to think about it, which undermined the story quite significantly.
This post contains major spoilers, so if you don’t want the film spoiled, do not read.
Continue reading Fridge logic of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (SPOILER WARNING)
Oz the Great and Powerful hit cinema screens today. It tells the story of Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a circus magician who, through events reminiscent of those in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, gets transported to the land of Oz where he is assumed to be the wizard and is tasked with defeating the Wicked Witch, before becoming the wizard of Oz later encountered by Dorothy Gale.
The movie is a fitting tribute to the 1939 film adaptation of L Frank Baum’s novel, the Wizard of Oz. It begins in black and white, mimicking the earlier movie starring Judy Garland, and upon reaching the land of Oz not only achieves full colour, but also widens from a 4:3 aspect to widescreen, a nice trick hinted at in the black and white segment by small, brief elements exceeding the 4:3 aspect frame. The colours thereafter have a brightness that similarly reflects those of the 1939 movie; indeed all the visuals make a very obvious nod to the famous predecessor.
Continue reading Review: Oz the Great and Powerful
Vampire movies have been quite popular recently. Well, they’ve always been quite popular. If you only count those with some link to Dracula, there are dozens. Vampires are a staple of horror movies, as well as, increasingly, fantasy action movies, abandoning audience fear in favour of a good villain for the protagonist to fight – or a cool supernatural being for the protagonist to team up with. (Oh, and this is not really a how to article, I just wanted to get as many puns in the title as possible and that’s what I could think of).
Some movies do vampires very well indeed. Some manage well enough. But as with all genres, there are some that are just terrible movies. Just really awful, mind-bogglingly so. And for some reason, I’ve deliberately gone and watched some of these.
Continue reading How Not to Suck: three soulless vampire movies
The Last Airbender, directed by M Night Shyamalan, is a live-action adaptation of the western animated series Avatar: the Last Airbender. It tells the story of Aang, a young boy who was trapped in ice for a hundred years. Aang is the fabled Avatar – capable of learning to manipulate all four elements, air, water, earth and fire, in a world where other “benders” can manipulate one element each. It is his quest to correct the imbalance in the world created by the Fire Nation’s invasion of the EarthKingdom and Water Tribes and destruction of Aang’s people, the Air Nomads.
The movie covers the first series of the animation, in which Aang and his new friends, Katara and Sokka, travel from the Southern Water Tribe where Katara and Sokka live to the Northern Water Tribe so Aang can learn Waterbending, dodging Fire Nation forces including the exiled Prince Zuko who wants to capture Aang to restore his lost honour, and General Zhao, who seeks to destroy the moon spirit in the Northern Water Tribe’s city in order to destroy Waterbending, which draws its powers from the moon. The first series, and the movie, end with a battle in the Northern Water Tribe city between the Waterbending defenders and the Fire Nation fleet.
Time constraints and cuts
The film condenses a lot of story into a short period of time. The first TV series consists of 20 episodes of 22 minutes each – for a total run time of over 7 hours. The movie, by comparison, is 103 minutes, less than a quarter of the length. As such a lot was cut. With some episodes in the series that cutting is entirely welcome. But the harshness of the cuts meant that some of the character of the world – in particular the Earth Kingdom through which the characters travel – is lost.
Continue reading Adaptation Review: The Last Airbender
In my earlier article, Films every fantasy fan should see, I listed a few must-see fantasy movies and explained what makes them so essential. But I don’t feel five films is enough, so I am adding a few more.
I had this on video cassette as a child and it was my go-to film when I was ill or sad. It always cheered me up. As I got a bit older, jokes that had previously eluded me now left me sniggering sheepishly. It’s a film that has everything: a princess to rescue, a dragon, a tyrannical ruler, a big scary ogre and a talking animal sidekick. But it had fun with these elements, it twisted things around and made it all fresh and new and modern.
Continue reading More great fantasy films to watch
This will be somewhat of a mixed review, because The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of three rather long installments chronicling Bilbo Baggins’ adventure in Middle Earth, is somewhat of a mixed film. I will avoid spoilers for those who haven’t seen it yet and haven’t read the book, though I consider the start safe.
Director Peter Jackson chose to start with a prologue giving the background for this quest, the story of how Erebor, greatest city of the Dwarfs, fell to Smaug the dragon. This is the whole reason for the quest: thirteen dwarfs, the wizard Gandalf and little Bilbo Baggins the quiet, respectable, titular hobbit, go on an adventure to retake the city under the mountain from Smaug. It is not how Tolkien chose to begin the tale, but it worked well enough, though perhaps went on a little too long, and in general prologues seem to work better in film than in print.
Continue reading Review: the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Fantasy as a genre is varied; it can encompass tales of love, tales of a small group of heroes saving the whole world, or tales of young characters leaning an important lesson. It can encompass both comedy and tragedy and every point on the spectrum in between, and everything from the epic to the bizarre.
But because of this breadth of the genre, selecting films from within it that should not be missed is difficult. I have presented here some of my favourites, films which are the epitome of fantasy and which showcase the very best of the genre. This list is not definitive, and I will almost certainly write another with some more examples of great fantasy films in the future. But for now, here are five great fantasy films that really shouldn’t be missed: Continue reading Films every fantasy fan should see