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Why Fantasy Movies are Failing - article

Discussion in 'Film & Television' started by Devor, Aug 27, 2013.

  1. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I go with the first explanation - most of them suck.
     
  3. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

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    I would also go with the first and a bit of the second. I might be a bit ignorant there, but I don't see much difference. Studios allow a bad movie to happen, you can't say it's not their fault.

    Now, the third explanation is so, wait, what? Then all the games, animations (2d and 3d) that have magic well presented in a visual medium are just hallucinations of my part?
     
  4. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    It's kind of striking how many of them are failing, though.

    I want to say that it's because the special effects cost sets the bar of success higher, but so many of those movies are just below par.
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yeah, that's the issue I think. No movie that I saw from that list of failed fantasy movies was very good. If anything, they relied too much on special effects at the expense of developing a good story and good characters. Science fiction movies fall into that trap as well.
     
  6. Asterisk

    Asterisk Troubadour

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    It's sad... fantasy movies deserve to succeed. I agree with the first and third explanations. I hate it when magic and/or characters are cheesy.
     
  7. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    I'd say all the explanations have a point. (Yes, including the look of magic. Even superheroes have a human form leaping two buildings for every laser fired, so the effects folks are on more familiar territory. But monsters and magic are pure CGI.)

    Devor added one more, cost. A Mortal Instruments "taking in only about $14 million on a $60 million budget" is only a failure because of the second part. If these were locked-room mysteries or other low-cost genres, they'd be hits-- but I'd agree, most of that article's list of movies deserved to fail, not to lowball their way to profit. :)

    I'd also add, that any movie is a massive trimming and summarizing of any novel it's based on, and fantasy usually depends on its "epicness" to give it momentum. No matter how much mythology you try to squeeze in, it's a whole different experience, and only the better filmmakers can summarize that much that well. (Note that the article praised Game of Thrones, on TV-- just a better medium for long-term quality.)

    But I think all the problems (except those two, budget and detail) can be tied to one thing: fantasy's still a very new genre for Hollywood. They turn out zillions of cheap crime films, rom-coms, and all the rest, but at least they've made those, so there's a lot of "institutional knowledge" on how to do all the pieces of them. (In theory. They can still get anything wrong, it's Hollywood.)

    Even sci-fi is more familiar to them, especially since they can treat it like any other gunfight. We say Star Wars was half fantasy and point out the rise of D&D and anime, but for decades what these inspired was Aliens, Terminators, Blade Runners, and so on leading the SF pack-- but only an occasional Ladyhawke.

    Hollywood just hasn't done many fantasies, period, not enough per year that get enough attention to counteract the un-learning and muddling that go on when one movie's lessons try to carry over to the next. A solid filmmaker who's been given free rein can pull it together anyway, but only by their own force of will. And, that list of film successes was for the three biggest franchises, so we see books with sheer quality, followings, and/or clout can provide (or bypass) those needs.

    We'll see.
     
  8. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I get an immediate feeling from a trailer if I think a fantasy movie is worth seeing or not. Very rarely do I see a trailer and say "That looks awesome" and it actually ends up being crap. Fantasy movies need to be visually stimulating first and foremost. If the special effects look bad, then that may be one reason people don't go see it.

    Another thing is that many fantasy movies don't have any kind of engrossing plot or engaging characters. And word of mouth is still one of the main ways people communicate about movies. If your friend says "This movie had some awesome characters" then it may encourage you to go. If your friend says "It was pretty boring really and all the characters were just card-board cut-outs" then you'll probably not go.

    As the article says, it's a lot of hero's journey kind of stuff that's not done in any sort of inventive way. Oh, I'm a wizard? I need to go on an adventure. Oh no, my uncle died. I must train on my own. Travel, travel, travel, fight a giant centipede, dark lord showdown, end, *fart noise.*

    People have seen these kind of movies over and over again. Unless you're making something that has the built-in fanbase (like LotR or Twilight) then it's going to be hard for fantasy movies to overcome this. Countless remakes don't help matters either.
     
  9. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

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    IMHO:
    1. the studios either pick a great script and scrimp on effects, or pour all the money into effects and invest nothing into story.

    HP and LOTR invested in good script and good effects.
    Game of Thrones shows a weekly television show can maintain effects and script and still be profitable.

    I think there are too few Fantasy smart movie makers and too many that think they can throw junk out there and make money from fantasy starved simpletons.
    You can't throw chain shirts on people and use laser lights as magic beams and strobe lights to make movies and have some writer want-to-be write a script and expect people to see it.

    Last good fantasy movie?
    Hobbit? Wasn't as good as I expected, but better then the rest of the junk.

    It is sad a television series making 10 episodes a season can make better fantasy then a full spectrum movie. Granted Game of thrones isn't high in Fantasy right now, but the dragons were realistic, the shadow warrior and ice men were good.
     
  10. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I don't think the problem is with the genre. I think the people who did those movies were just looking for quick cash-ins. Call it "Next Syndrome". Constantly looking for The Next Harry Potter or The Next Lord of the Rings rather than just making a good adaptation. The result: badly made films that butcher the source material in many cases. The Last Airbender and Percy Jackson being particularly egregious examples of taking great source material and botching it up. Inkheart also really disappointed me because I loved that book and the film adaptation was just lazy. Of course, some films never had a prayer from the beginning. Eragon was... well... Eragon. And the adaptation was less imaginative than the book in every conceivable way. (Think about that for a moment.) And the Golden Compass's sneering anti-Christian vibes probably wouldn't fare too well in America even without executive meddling.

    But I think the author is cherry-picking just a bit. Aside from dismissing three massive movie franchises out of hand, she outright ignores other successful films that could be called fantasy like Rise of the Guardians, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, Brave, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Narnia (which I would consider reasonably successful even though she doesn't). There are probably others I've missed. Fantasy as a genre isn't doomed to fail. But bad/lazy attempts at it definitely are.
     
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  11. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    Note that several of those are animated fantasy. I think filmmakers have pinned down several ways to create believable magic in an animated medium. (Pirates of the Caribbean and Narnia, though, are successful live-action.)
     
  12. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Point well taken. But I think the statement that "fantasy isn't doing well at the movies" is at least misleading if not patently false. It's mostly lackluster efforts and slipshod adaptations that are failing. When a good fantasy movie comes out, it tends to do rather well, just like any other genre. It's not as if a bunch of great fantasy movies came out and still flopped. The movies listed as unsuccessful generally deserved to be unsuccessful.
     
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yeah, bad movies are just bad. The Golden Compass, which some people liked well enough, was weak overall in my view. I don't think antichristian elements entered into it though. There is plenty of audience for it, regardless, and the books did well in the U.S. The movie just wasn't very good.
     
  14. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

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    The Golden Compass was a big disappointment. I couldn't understand why they toned down many scenes to the point of changing the story–including the ending–but kept a bloody flying jaw. Just... wtf.

    "Hey, it's a movie for children, but it can be badass too, I swear! Here, take this jaw right in the face and shut up!"
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yeah, it wasn't well done. And the theological issues don't really come into play significantly until the third book anyway (and what there was of them in the first book were mostly absent from the film, as I recall).

    The filmmakers just screwed it up. If they'd been more faithful to the books and tried to build the characters and stories, it probably would have done better.
     
  16. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    But the question is, how likely is it that non-animated fantasy will get mangled, and why? The odds do look bad.
     
  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    You need a screenwriter and director who will be faithful to the source material I guess. They like to put their own spin on things.
     
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  18. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

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    ...and you must not believe that casting famous actors and throwing in a bunch of money for CGI will translate into instant success.
     
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  19. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    The odds look about 50/50 to me. That's not so bad.
     
  20. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    But not slavishly faithful if they are adapting from other media. Films and Books are different mediums and need to be treated differently. As an example, for me the book "1984" is very good, but the films of it have been poor. "Brazil" gets the tone and feel of "1984" right for me.
     
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