My first rant!

So tonight we are going to try something new. I am going to pry open the blowhole and spew out the first (of hopefully many) internet rants. Pull up a chair, it's a long one!

Rant: Hollywood and The Fantasy Genre

While I love all kinds of movies, the fantasy genre is my most beloved; at least, when its done 'right'. No other genre gets me as excited to make movies, especially when there is an element of horror involved. There is something about swords, magic, ancient forgotten ruins, castles, and dragons, that have always captured my attention. Some day, far from now, I hope to become known for my putting out quality fantasy films and/or episodic series.

I should note, by fantasy, I mean swords, magic, knights, faeries, dragons, elves, orcs, and the like! Not science-fiction... space ships, lasers, alien creatures, and future technology. For some reason on the web, searching for fantasy genre films constantly brings up sci-fi; which drives me nuts! These are two different things people, quick lumping them together, aside from purposeful crossovers.

Don't get me wrong, I love sci-fi as well, and I will probably make some sci-fi productions as well. Fantasy versus sci-fi isn't the point of my rant though. What I really want to sound off about, is how fantasy films have been, and are currently, represented in the mainstream film and television industry. Only recently have I seen 'industry' productions that 'get it'. The fact is, most (thankfully not all) Hollywood fantasy genre films still to this day, frankly, suck cheese.

I blame the 80's! (probably a topic for another rant) There were so many bad, campy, fantasy films that came out in the 80s, that I think they poisoned the well for the genre going forward. Most of the films that came out during this period seemed like they were the pet projects of an aging porn producer with delusions of breaking into the 'real movies'. Though I suppose there are many other films from that era that seemed like they were made with similar aesthetics in mind. Yes, I know many of these films have a huge fan following, and don't get me wrong, I grew up watching them too, but the overwhelming majority of them were trash entertainment at best; and yes, I've seen them all. In my youth, I devoured every fantasy film I could get my hands on, even the ones filled with boobies and sex that I probably wasn't supposed to watch (which was almost all of them in the 80s). Although I enjoyed elements in many of them, even as a kid I always thought to myself, why do these have to be so bad...cheesy, schlocky and tongue-in-cheek. Why can't they be more I dunno, serious?
Like the sci-fi Star Wars, or Aliens?

I craved (and still do) for more 'serious' fantasy. I was going to rant harder on the fantasy films from the 80s/90s, but as I look back I keep remembering more and more good ones that came along over the years. I loved the Ray Harryhausen film, such as 'Clash of The Titans', and 'Jason & The Argonauts'. I also liked films like Conan The Barbarian (and Conan The Destroyer), Dragonslayer, and Willow, to name a few. But for every one of these 'good ones', there was a Beastmaster, Deathstalker, Barbarian Queen, or Sorceress. Even the best of them had at least some cheeze... sigh, but I guess maybe that was just the 80s.

But it wasn't until I saw Lord Of The Rings in the theater that I felt that, finally, someone got it right. Peter Jackson did so with such grandiose spectacle that it was impossible for the general public to not be awed. He will always have a special place near the top of my 'favorite filmmaker list' for achieving this... yes, even after directing the Hobbit films.

Game of Thrones

At this point, my rant would have likely gone off the rails by now and devolved into a series of spastic fits and shouting at the walls that would land me in a mental asylum. LoTR is good enough on its own to likely calm my fantasy rage, but something even better came along to cause by balled fists to unfurl...Game of Thrones arrived! To date, nothing has captured my sensibilities for what fantasy should be better than GoT. It doesn't fall under what I want to create exactly, but it carries many of the sensibilities I find appealing in fantasy film. Sweeping in scope, gritty, bloody, brutal, down to earth, unpredictable, and filled with jaw dropping moments. Set in a hauntingly harsh, unforgiving, medieval world, filled with high-drama, short and brutal battle scenes, terrifying supernatural elements, and amazingly-developed and ever evolving characters (for as long as they manage to stay alive). Sure, the show also has darkly misogynistic and horrifically depraved acts take place nearly every episode, but it's important that it does, many of these things (and worse) happened in our 'real' world during similar time-periods in history. I feel, that to not include them would rob the series of much of the weighty realistic tone and it would be profoundly lessened without their inclusion. It is an amazing show that can include a horrific scene of a woman and her baby be torn apart by dogs one moment, and then make you laugh, later in the same episode. Most importantly for me, are the fantasy elements. By holding back on grand spectacle, at least at first, and concentrating on the characters, the fantastical elements stand out when they finally arrive on screen. Watching GoT is a roller-coaster ride of emotions, and that's what makes it so much fun to watch.

As a side note, Game of Thrones also it has boat-loads of boobies, and sexually charged scenes, yet somehow manages to escape being smothered in the 80s cheeze that buries most of the aforementioned fantasy films.

Game of Thrones fan-boy mode off... Now Back To The Point...if there is one!

But for these few shining examples, I feel that the film industry is more out of touch with the fantasy genre than any other. Fantasy has an outrageously large fan base, that, for the most part, aren't being catered to. I feel that most of the writers and directors that are hired work on such films, often don't understand the genre. Even post Lord of The Rings, they continue to approach the creation of fantasy genre without taking them seriously, and as a result they miss the mark and continue to bomb at the box office. Even some of the more recent attempts, take Conan The Barbarian (2011) for example, as an example of this; and although it had an pretty good opening act, the remainder was uninspired, and as a result fell flat on it's face (it cost $90 million to produce and earned barely half of it's budget back).

I have come to the conclusion that fantasy films need to be made by the right sort of director, and even then, the studio has to step back and let them be creative. I don't feel that Fantasy fits within the normal business model for Hollywood. In order to keep fans of the genre satisfied, they can't just keep cranking out remakes and sequels (don't get me started on that, its a topic for whole other rant). To make a fantasy film that gets people excited, I feel that it you have to take chances, create something new, instead of another Orcs vs. Humans fable. Or execute it so earnestly, that it's quality can't be ignored. As a fan, I can smell it all over a film when the subject matter isn't taken with extreme seriousness. However, modern Hollywood isn't keen on new... new is risky after all. Oh, but at least they tried. After the success of LoTR, a lot of the studios began to see dollar signs on anything with a dragon, orc or elf. LoTR was such a big hit, that they leapt to crank out Narnia's, and a bunch of other random book adaptations. As always happens when something does well at the box office, the studios try to force it into being the industries new cash cow, to be milked until it's teats bleed.  They really tried, cranking re-make's and sequels to old fantasy films, and of course, most of them flopped. After a string of these, almost all of which bombed, they mostly pulled the plug on fantasy again. How many fantasy blockbusters do you see on the horizon right now? The only recent one I can think off was Warcraft, which, although the reviewers tore it apart, wasn't half bad. Even the The Hobbit films should have by all rights, been really good. But the studio had make a bunch of bone-headed decisions (like screwing around with and finally changing directors and forcibly stretching a much shorter novel than LoTR into three films). They also rushed them to meet holiday deadlines. Good, fantasy can't be rushed, imagining things properly takes time, both on the writing level and the production.

Fantasy more than any other genre comes from the imagination. Imagining things takes focus, and inspiration. Unfortunately it is very difficult to balance imagination with traditional business thinking. It's very difficult to create something from your imagination if your being rushed under an impossible deadline. Don't get me wrong, I believe the two can co-exist, but to make fantasy, the business side must be handled differently, more patiently than for other types of film. Considering that producing fantasy genre films is my personal goal I'll let you know how that works after making a few. Who knows, I could end up being the 'Ed Wood' of fantasy directors by the end!

At least in my experience, I believe that people such as myself who have a love for serious fantasy, love the unknown. I want original stories set in original 'deeply layered' worlds, filled with mystery, drama, and adventure. I want people making these stories to view them as seriously as I do, and I believe that without that level of dedication it can be felt through the entire film. Sure, I will watch pretty much anything based on fantasy, but only because there aren't enough 'serious' fantasy productions to be choosy. I am sure the same goes for any other of the underrepresented genre's, except there are few if any. Sci-fi suffers from the same problem, but to a lesser degree. At least sci-fi has Star Wars, Terminator, Aliens, Star Trek and a host of other examples. Horror has buckets of good films! The only other genre (actually sub-genre) I feel is more underrepresented is the Post-Apocalyptic, sub-genre of Sci-Fi. (I have a few projects in the works that fit into this category as well).

I will say one thing in the studios defense. Fantasy (and sci-fi for that matter) is the most expensive, and I believe, difficult genre to produce. Fantasy requires more props, costumes, and VFX to pull off well, than pretty much any other genre. This also makes it that hardest to take risks on from the business standpoint. I must be mad to want to do this, especially while living in the arctic, and on a no-budget level, but I can't help myself. This needs to be done.

It's like picking up a sword and heading into the dragons lair. Sometimes you just have to man up and head in, even if your bones end up serving as a cautionary example to other would be adventurers.

Ok, I'm all outta rant for today. I feel like I wrote a small book, and I hope that somewhere in there I even made a point. But there it is, my first rant.



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