Mar 25, 2012

Myths, monsters and fantasy movies

The summer quickly approaches, and with it a glut of expensive blockbuster movies. One of those movies is called Wrath of the Titans and if you click on the movie title you can have a look at the amazing effects.

Wrath is a sequel to a movie called Clash of the Titans which itself is a remake of a movie from the 80's. That movie, the 1981 Clash of the Titans was, at the time, the best fans of fantasy movies could hope for. The movie marked the final time Ray Harryhausen created the stop motion effects for a movie.

Harryhausen was a pioneer and undoubted master of stop motion special effects. During the late 50's and early 60's his effects allowed Hollywood to bring fantastical creatures into movies without relying on a guy in a rubber suit. For fans of fantasy movies this was a amazing time: Sinbad fighting a 35 foot Cyclops, Jason and the Argonauts battling Hydra and an army of skeletons, Bronze statues coming to life and cowboys capturing dinosaurs. Harryhausen brought the legends and myths of the Greek gods and other fantasy stories to life on the big screen.

I came along in the 70's and I grew up watching the 50's and 60's fantasy movies on British television. The 70's brought another couple of Sinbad movies with effects by Harryhausen, including Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger which featured several memorable stop motion moments including a final battle between a Sabertoothed Tiger and a 15 foot tall monster with a horn on its head. It was heady stuff for a small boy and I loved it. Many monsters were slain in games after those movies and with Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, a lifelong interest in the stories of the Greek gods was started.

Despite looking very dated nowadays, those early stop motion movies were an amazing leap in special effects and without those movies many great fantasy and sci-fi stories would never have been made. The time that followed the original Clash of the Titans brought along a handful of fantasy movies, some of which are considered cult classic but even being kind, lack the kind of punch the Harryhausen movies did. Budgets were tight and so the special effects looked every bit as cheap as you'd expect, although it was clear there was an audience waiting for the effects to catch up to the imagination.

Eventually CGI came along and despite a huge pile of cheesy looking straight to DVD and cable TV monster movies it was still apparent that audiences wanted to see heroes do battle with giant monsters. Jurassic Park marked a pivotal moment for fantasy fans because it showed dinosaurs and actors in the same space and the CGI effects made it look entirely believable. Soon, Hollywood was clamoring for other monsters to put on screen and when Lord of the Rings: Return of the King snatched up every Oscar it was nominated for it was clear that special effects had finally reached the point where they could show what writers could imagine.

It took a few more years before the Greek gods came back but in 2010 they did with Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and the remake of Clash of the Titans. Sadly for all the great effects, the stories lacked any punch. They both made money and both have generated sequels but I for one hope that more effort is made with the actual story now that they have some of the best special effects to work with.

2012 sees not only the return of Perseus but a massive increase in movies based on fairytales, another section of the fantasy genre that had gone under realized until effects caught up with the ideas. This year alone Jack the Giant Killer, a pair of Snow White movies and a Hansel and Gretel movie are coming out.

I'm secretly hoping for a remake of Jason and the Argonauts and looking forward to see if other interesting stories make it to the big screen like maybe a proper telling of the Hercules story. I think done properly these would be fun and exciting movies to watch.

I remember so vividly watching Jason and the Argonauts and those skeletons popping out of the ground to fight the crew of the Argo. At the time it was just about the coolest thing I'd seen. I hope the modern effects can also bring some of that wonder and perhaps fuel further interest in those great stories.

Despite the remake of Clash being a bit dull, I'm going to give Wrath of the Titans a chance...and I'll let you know how it turn out.

Do you enjoy fantasy movies? If so, tell me about it. You got a favorite? Comment below!


GSY

1 comment:

  1. I like this Post Gus ,
    i like fantasy movie's but not as much as my husband so we watch very often.
    My Favorite of this kind of movies and i know going to laugh is "Back to the future" the 1st 2 parts, but Doros which is more into this movies he saying that "Space odyssey 2001" is one his favorite at the time.
    Offcourse on this days he has a lot of cool like "Star Trek","Stargate","Star Wars" and i have none.I prefer old classical movies and not much to fantasy,but i remember i have a lots of fun early 90 watching "Xena Warrior Princess" & "Hercules" thats it.
    Thanks for the great post Gus!
    Staury

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