Fantasy films like “Lord of the Rings” boast noteworthy qualities other projects lack. They feature gorgeous on-location shoots (New Zealand’s green valleys and towering mountains) and elaborate costumes and makeup (hand-woven capes, dresses fit for regal elves, gruesome orc maquillage). They allow for more absurdity and nonsense than non-fantasy projects; you don’t have to obey rules of logic or gravity. A viewer’s imagination is free to run rampant. There’s also a rich history behind fantasy stories – such films are usually adaptations of beloved book series, thus they are merely companion pieces, a further opportunity for readers to immerse themselves in another world. Finally, fantasy films employ a lot of people: extras in gigantic battles sequences, special-effects technicians who invent digital creatures and little people who don’t get cast often enough (Peter Dinklage as Tyrion on “Game of Thrones” or John Rhys-Davies as Gimli in “LOTR”).
The genre is wonderful for children, who are hugely influenced by the books and films they’re exposed to. Movies like “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Harry Potter,” “The Princess Bride,” “Labyrinth,” “The Goonies” and “Spirited Away” are filled with noble principles, character evolution, instances of bravery and loyalty, and lessons about conserving and protecting our planet.
The real world is disappointing. Lots of things are tedious. You never get to meet a wizard or a talking horse. But fantasy takes you away from all that. It’s often dark and complex – most fairy tales are filled with death, gloom and impossible tasks – but good is always rewarded.
— Anya Jaremko-Greenwold
It was 2001 and I found myself in a movie theater watching “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” on a friend’s suggestion. Vaguely recalling British-ish accents, swords and CGI-ed beasts, the only thing I clearly remember was some guy with a chiseled jaw and flowing brown hair of the breathtaking variety making some soliloquous speech to his friends and the dialogue was so stilted I looked around with my is-this-not-a-comedy face. I excused myself to the can then sat the lobby for 25 minutes, because staring at popcorn under a heat lamp was way more entertaining.
When it comes to books and movies, call me unimaginative but I go for the recognizable, I go for the world I live in: Suburbia, New York City, U.S. history, the 20th century. I go for Middle America over Middle-earth. I’ve spent so much time and failed so often trying to understand the rules of my real surroundings that I simply don’t have the desire to learn the rules of some made-up netherworld. I need to somehow place myself in the setting, which is hard to do when a little person is wearing the weight of the world in makeup and prosthetics and speaking with a comically wicked voice.
Some might say that if I’d read the books, I might better appreciate the movies. There are two main reasons this seldom happens: Fantasy books are always 8 inches thick and the type smaller than the footnotes in a David Foster Wallace book, to which I say hail no.