We’ve previously discussed some of the best fantasy movies of all time. Now we’re going to look at the opposite side of the spectrum.
The following films are not necessarily the “worst” of their kind, but they are major disappointments. In other words, these are fantasy films that had the potential to be great, but went bad somewhere along the way. I went into each film expecting something wonderful, and was left with a feeling of having been cheated.
In no particular order, they are:
Highlander 2: The Quickening
The original Highlander benefited from an aura of mystery and magic. Unfortunately, this sequel dispelled the mystery by explaining the origin of the immortals: they are aliens from the planet Zeist, where people have outrageous hairdos and ride on flying skateboards. A later director’s cut, entitled the “Renegade Version,” tried to remedy the damage by restoring the mystery. Yet it suffers from a lack of Highlander’s signature flashbacks, as well as an incoherent plot.
Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time
The first Beastmaster was a fun medieval romp from cult filmmaker Don Coscarelli. The makers of this sequel, unfortunately, decided to magically transport the Beastmaster to America circa 1990, where “fish out of water” hilarity ensues. There are lots of pop songs and sports cars, along with campy humor. This is one bad movie.
There is so much to love about Ladyhawke. The story is haunting and the cinematography is lush. Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer are perfectly cast as cursed lovers in medieval Europe. Sadly, this film suffers from what has been described as the “worst soundtrack ever composed.” The score is a fusion of pop synthesizer and Gregorian chant, with a twist of Disco for good measure. The resulting music is so distracting that it kills the mood of the film.
Masters of the Universe
As was the case with Beastmaster 2, the filmmakers chose to transport He-Man out of his fantasy world and into 198o’s America. The resulting film is painfully bad. While the great Frank Langella hams it up as Skeletor, Dolph Lundgren’s He-Man is a one-dimensional caricature of of the cartoon hero. I first saw this as a child, and can still recall the gut-wrenching disappointment.
Lord of the Rings (1978)
Director Ralph Bakshi‘s attempt to film Tolkien’s masterpiece fails on the level of storytelling. While most of the animation is great, as is the musical score, the plot is so chopped up that it is nearly incomprehensible to viewers who haven’t read the book. At times the evil wizard Saruman’s name is inexplicably changed to “Aruman,” and the final battle includes real actors fighting alongside animated characters. Worst of all, the film ends awkwardly and abruptly, without warning. Thank goodness Peter Jackson had the chance to do things the right way.
Conan the Destroyer
The original Conan the Barbarian was an epic tale of loss, vengeance and redemption. It took itself very seriously, and had layers of deeper meaning. This sequel, on the other hand, went in the opposite direction. It’s purposely cheesy and light, with no sense of importance or grandeur. The resulting film is entertaining but ultimately forgettable.
For me, these films were six of the worst disappointments in the fantasy genre. What about for you? Which films would you include in your list of fantasy failures?