Saturday, September 01, 2007

We just saw the movie Stardust, based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman.

An interesting thing has happened since the critical and box office success of the Lord of the Rings movies - Hollywood has finally come around to taking fantasy movies seriously. In the 1980's, fantasy movies were meant to be quick, cheap money makers mostly aimed at either kids (see Krull or Beast Master) or very stupid adults (see Conan the Barbarian or The Sword and the Sorcerer). They were more likely to have novelizations than to be based on novels. Even as special effects got cheaper and more effective, major studios did not spend the time or energy to work on decent stories and acting to go with the new effects (see Dungeons and Dragons).

The major change after the success of the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies seems to be that Hollywood has realized that it has a ton of quality source material available to it. One of the anticipated Christmas releases for this year is an adaptation of Philip Pullman's Northern Lights (under it's American title The Golden Compass) and the previews before Stardust included The Spiderwick Chronicles and an adaptation of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising, recently renamed as The Seeker: The Dark is Rising (presumably to cash in on all the successful films with colons in the title).

This increase in the number of fantasy films has also allowed for a little diversity to slip in - not all of the films have to be large scale epics like Lord of the Rings. Instead some of the lighter novels, like Stardust, can be developed. The creators were fairly obviously trying to duplicate the feel of the mix of comedy and action from The Princess Bride, the best fantasy film released before Lord of the Rings, but with only mixed success.

is enjoyable but not a classic like those movies. Sadly, it looks like it will not make back its $70M budget. A few more expensive failures like that and this new golden age of fantasy films could quickly draw to a close.

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