Today: May 27, 2024

What Fantasy Films Taught Us

Fantasy as a film genre is probably the most open-ended, anything goes genre. However, if you look closely you’ll find some recurring tropes, so FilmJuice’s Nadia Attia decided to pinpoint the top ten for your future viewing delight.

The goodies wear white, the baddies wear black.
In case you were ever confused as to which side you should be cheering on, look for the one in white – he/she is usually the good guy; the wise one (Galadriel, Yoda), the hero of the quest. The girl in white is the virginal princess about to be sacrificed. The man in white is the good wizard…you get the picture. The ones in black are the villains, the lurking, creeping evil creatures of the night or the characters that work black magic. Boo, hiss! There are exceptions of course – you wouldn’t want to come across Narnia’s White Witch on a frosty night.

Evil likes to live in a cave/mountain.
Everyone knows that Trolls and Dragons live in caves or under mountains, as does that ‘ancient evil’ that shall not be named. Countless times our hero is warned to ‘stay off the moors’ or ‘stick to the path’ but their relentless quest drives them onwards and downwards. Why on earth anyone would want to risk exploring these geographical black spots who knows, but thankfully there’s always a solitary stone castle on hand to offer a bit of welcomed shelter…

Dragons are trouble.
OK, that’s a little unfair, not all dragons are trouble. The good dragons in The Flight of Dragons do battle with the bad dragons to defeat the evil wizard (who, incidentally, wears red). And Eragon’s pet dragon saved his skin on many occasion. However, they leave a whole lot of mess in their wake. Most dragons also expect a human sacrifice or two and like nothing more than to barbecue a whole village, especially one made of wood and straw.

Playing games is risky.
In the fantasy world, if you find a dusty box, or book, in the corner of an attic or junk shop don’t assume that it’s innocuous (Jumanji). If someone in a mask invites you to play a drinking game don’t assume you’ll end up BFF’s after a nice cup of wine (The Princess Bride). And seriously, if you do have to go adventuring in caves make sure you’ve learned your riddles by heart.

The dead don’t stay dead.
Usually, Ghosts will help the hero’s progress by appearing at just the right time to offer sage advice or a pep talk. But sometimes all they want is to suck face (Harry Potter). Also, one can never be sure that a character is truly dead – often they can be revived with a kiss, a ring or electric shock therapy.

The girl is always more than she seems
There are lots of princesses and chosen ones within the fantasy genre and they all harbour a gift of some kind. You can tell that she’s a special one if she can talk to animals, if she carries a mark or if she glows (Stardust – Main Picture). You can expect big, big trouble, however, when said girl ‘comes of age’. Who knew puberty was such a cataclysmic threat to the world?

Shapeshifting is second nature.
Men become wolves or bats, sorcerers cast spells that turn people into pigs, witches turn into owls (Daywatch); it’s pretty much animalistic chaos in the fantasy world. Surprising, then, that characters don’t think twice about the hearty feast of deer/boar/rabbit/ox they happily tuck into just before a climactic battle…

Be careful what you wish for.
Speaking words out loud in a fantasy film can result in many unwanted adventures. The hero might inadvertently offer up a family member to the goblins (Labyrinth), or come face to face with a loud man with bad teeth and worse dress sense (Beetlejuice).

Never underestimate the ‘little’ guy.
The ‘little guy’ is both literal and figurative. He’s the real hero in your fantasy tale and he has the element of surprise on his side as his enemies underestimate his strength, resilience, intelligence or nobility. He’s the hardy Hobbit or the put-upon dwarf (Willow). But he’s also the lowly farm-hand (The Princess Bride), the bumbling apprentice (1981’s Dragonslayer), or the gormless ‘boy next door’ (Legend). In fantasy, the geeks and underdogs rule.

The world as you know it, is under threat.
The humble fantasy film is also an allegory for the perilous times that we live in – surrounded by environmental destruction and the constant threat of war. These fears are translated into black blobs (The NeverEnding Story), tyrannical reptilians (The Dark Crystal) or a horny Tim Curry (Legend) who wants to banish daylight forever. That is, unless a word is spoken, a rock mended or a unicorn is saved. Poor old unicorns, what did they ever do to deserve such persecution?

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