There was a time when high fantasy in films almost meant soft porn. Whilst today’s fantasy loves to show some skin, it does not feel as gratuitous as watching these in the past. We almost had to hide these collections so as not to have people think we were into bondage or sexual violence.
The epic fantasy film was always my go to film growing up. They were the ones I always gravitated toward whenever I went to the video shop. One of the first videos I owned was Excalibur. It actually wasn’t a video. It was recorded of the TV and you had to fast forward the ad breaks. Which if you were there to record, you would have to pause it and hope to start recording at the right time when the ads finished. But I am not here to talk about the evolution in technology but the evolution in Fantasy.
When John Boorman released Excalibur, it became a cult classic. I still remember so much of that film and with every upgrade in viewing VHS-DVD-Blu-ray I always go out and purchase this first. This is MY soul film. This film got me into Knights, Castles, chivalry and oddly enough Superman (the ultimate Knight in shining armour) I loved the core concepts of Witches, Sorcerers, intrigue and the prophecies of the chosen one. They would draw me in every time. I just loved Sword and Sorcery films or as they are otherwise known as; High Fantasy
High Fantasy has grown from “The sword and the sorcerer” (another great childhood memory, 3 swords in one!!) days. It is no longer restricted to brushed paintings on the side of a panel van. High fantasy is now mainstream. The nerds have truly taken over but they have also dealt a blow to the past. There was an odd comfort to the bad qualities a fantasy film had and also it was acceptable to have some cheesy acting and dialogue because you were just happy to enter this world.
But along came Lord of the Rings to open the door to a general audience but then came Game Of thrones to cement the adult audience. Whilst I am not saying LOTR was a kid’s film but it was for all to see, GoT is the TV show that you get when the nerds of Excalibur, Sword and the sorcerer, Beastmaster and Conan the barbarian get a good budget. As I said up above, GoT has taken this concept and added class and made it acceptable for critics to love and for the non-nerd to enjoy. GOT has also upped the standard to such a level that we can’t help but look at some modern day fantasy and find it wanting.
This is what brings me to Beowulf. A film based upon the great archetypal hero within a great epic story!! I remember first watching the film when it was released, and I was blown away. This was a high quality version of my favourite novels, comics and paintings. With the luxury of hindsight and through the diamond lens that GoT created, the film now leaves me looking at what could have been.
Admittedly I look back at the Conan series and feel the same. However Arnold’s presence transcends the screen and you can’t help but take his journey. I refuse to watch “the Sword and the Sorcerer” for fear of destroying my youth. I do watch Excalibur to this day as Boorman proved that fantasy can be timeless with an epic score and setting that would not be dated, only mimicked.
It is amazing to see what LOTR and GoT has done for us. It has opened us up to the magnificent world of Westoros and middle Earth but mainly it has shown the Hollywood moguls that fantasy is not a sub genre but a lucrative industry. It has happened the same with Comic books films. We are at such a lucky time in our lives that we are able to have CGI show us what only Alan Lee could give us in glimpses.
So When you turn on your TV and see Sword of Shannara and multiple other fantasy films, Be thankful that GoT came along to be fleshed out by HBO, DB Wiess, David Benioff and of course ol’ George. We will never view Fantasy again with the shameful looks. We will stand proud and state I fought alongside Arthur, I traveled the lands of Westoros, I joined the fellowship and of course….I am the chosen one!!