Live Action Fantasy: No Longer Just For Geeks

Live action fantasy films are dorky, with all the elves, magic, unicorns, sorcerers, and the like.  It used to be if you were an adult wanting to watch live action fantasy you were a geek, following the gospel of Tolkien, dreaming of the Shire, and treasuring your collection of figurines and Highlander films.  What other things are considered fantasy?  Vampires, werewolves, Thor, wizards?  Robots from space (maybe)?

Wait a second. It seems these days those characters have become very popular in human culture, geeks and normal people like these.  Let’s examine this shall we?

Something happened in the last decade, Willow became cool and lines were being blurred, we can attribute that to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, still dorky, but safe for non-geeks to watch and enjoy without losing any pride.  We can also give credit to the rise of the superhero film, the vampire sub-culture, and Captain Jack Sparrow for making it “okay” to enjoy the fantasy genre.  Let’s face it, the last ten years have not been good ones for this lovely planet of ours.  People want to see how worse they have it in Asgard, how terrifying and lovely it must be to live in Middle Earth, fantasize about being turned into a beautiful immortal creature or escape out of Davy Jones’ Locker.

But all of this is “old hat” I say, because a new rise in the live action fantasy genre is taking place.  Fantasy films have always been geared towards both sexes, as of late it is being angled towards women and girls.  I grew up on Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Mary Poppins.  I even vaguely remember TV’s live action “Beauty and the Beast”.   Girls love fairy tales, and recently the studios remembered that women grow up, but at heart, we still love fairy tales.

It is a fact that vampire lore has sparked a new surge in the fantasy genre.   As a somewhat, hopeless romantic female and a gothic, little dweeb, I have read all the Twilight Books. Not because Stephanie Meyer’s books are good, but because they are an easy read and romantic (as chaste as that romance may be) and her take on the “vampire” is one I hadn’t read before.  When I want something more graphic and overall badass, I watch HBO’s “True Blood” and when that gets to be too much, I watch a show that found perfect middle ground between the two, the CW’s “Vampire Diaries”.  Even more recently I started watching MTV’s “Teen Wolf”.

Am I getting a little burnt out on vampires and werewolves?  Me, no, never, but are other, more mainstream young women?   Yes, probably.   Young girls and women everywhere have gotten a taste of what we geeks and goths have been enjoying all these years, and it is making Hollywood and authors billions, if you throw Mr. Potter in the mix, we could settle our national debt. I may be overstepping with this, but it’s a lot of money.

So where does Hollywood turn to next, to keep this new appetite for fantasy fed?  They turn to the 200+ year old compilation of tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, along with other classic fairy tales.

We recently were given Catherine Hardwicke’s “Red Riding Hood”. As droll and unexciting as they made the story, and as dizzying and bad as Hardwicke’s direction is, she did achieve the look.  Hardwicke comes from an art direction background and really that is what she should stick to.  According to the film grossed $89 million worldwide, a flop.

We also had this take on Beauty and the Beast;  I never saw it, so let’s just skip over this one…

Coming fall 2011 we have the TV series, “Once Upon a Time”, on the ABC network.  Ginnifer Goodwin plays the Snow White character.  This looks like a really fun show, still confused on how it can be a whole series, watch the trailer below.  Where there is a Prince Charming, women will be watching.

Speaking of Snow White, there are two Snow White films schedule to be released next year in the spring.  One presented by Relativity Media LLC.  Set to star Julia Roberts as the evil queen, and newcomer Lily Collins as Snow White and directed by visual mastermind Tarsem Singh.  Here is a snippet from Relativity’s press release.

(Beverly Hills, CA) June 15, 2011 – Filming on Relativity Media’s comedy action-adventure Untitled Snow White will begin on Monday, June 20, 2011, under the stylish direction of Tarsem Singh (Immortals, The Cell).

In Relativity’s Untitled Snow White starring Oscar®-winner Julia Roberts and breakout star Lily Collins (The Blind Side), an evil Queen (Roberts) steals control of a kingdom, and an exiled princess (Collins) enlists the help of seven resourceful rebels to win back her birthright in a spirited adventure comedy filled with jealousy, romance, and betrayal that will capture the imagination of audiences the world over. The film also stars Armie Hammer (The Social Network) as the object of their affection, Prince Andrew Alcott, and Nathan Lane (The Birdcage) as the hapless and bungling servant to the Queen.

[More details HERE]

This next one, I’m a little more excited for.  The film stars the bland, but for some reason people love her, Kristen Stewart and Chris “Thor” Hemsworth.  Stewart will be Snow White and Hemsworth will be the Huntsman, hence the film’s title, Snow White and the Huntsman.   Scheduled for release on June 1st   2012, the film is being produced by Joe Roth (Alice in Wonderland) and with direction from Rupert Sanders.  Sanders is a creative guy, this will be his first full length feature film.  (Look at some of his stuff here.)

Charlize Theron will play the evil queen.   The “Dwarves” are played by an amazing ensemble, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Eddie Izzard, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan and Stephen Graham, if you don’t know these men, look them up, they are all badasses.  Sam Claflin, whom we saw in this summers Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stanger Tides will be playing our prince.  With art direction from individuals behind the Harry Potter franchise, this also gives promise.   The basic plot is that the huntsman is ordered to take Snow White out to the woods and remove her heart and finds he cannot do it and in turn becomes her mentor.  Together they plan to vanquish the evil queen.  It has also come to light that this will be a trilogy…  In an interview with EW Joe Roth said this about Snow White, “She starts out not as a damsel in distress, but innocent, and after 11 years of imprisonment by the evil queen, she escapes and learns the ways of a warrior in the woods.”   Kristin Stewart and warrior don’t really go hand in hand with me.  What is she going to do, spew her awkwardness onto the queen, rendering her without a personality?

We also have Jack and the Beanstalk, well, not really.  Brian Singer’s 3D Jack the Giant Killer is slated for release on June 15, 2012. (Here is a link, and some photos from the set.)  I know Jack and the Beanstalk is pretty lame, but throw Ewan McGregor in the mix along with Mr. Singer and you have me roped in.  It is said  to be a pretty straight forward love story involved, no triangles, because in fairy tales there is always one true love.

I’ve saved the very best for last, it’s a film not just for ladies, but it is so cool I have to mention it.  We have Hansel and Gretel:  Witch Hunters set for release March 2012. After their traumatic encounter with a witch years earlier, Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton) are now, that’s right, witch hunters!!!  Directed by Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow watch it.)  Hansel and Gretel is being shot in Germany, in 3D. Here are some photos from the set, and take a look here to spy our super duper hot stars in costume.

Fantasy is no longer for little kids and dweebs.  Evil witches, mysterious realms and all around blatant, magical make-believe is 100% mainstream now.  In the last decade we’ve had Enchanted, The Brothers Grimm and Alice in Wonderland.  Can you think of any other live action fairy tale movies or shows I haven’t mentioned that we can look forward to or watch now?


Molly Montgomery

Molly Montgomery was introduced to genre film by her dad as a kid -- if it was "Forbidden Planet" or Tod Browning's "Freaks", she can't remember which was first. She began her love affair with Vampires at age 11, and at age 12 she stopped sunbathing. A background in theater, filmmaking and sitting on her tush makes her a fairly knowledgeable nerd.

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