This week I’m shifting gears and moving on to the fantasy part of the list. This was actually really difficult. I’m not as big a fan of fantasy as I am of scifi. I get bored easily with castle intrigue and swashbuckling and dragons terrorizing towns. Not sure why. And for some reason, fantasy seems to be harder to categorize. Well, that’s not accurate. It seems harder to narrow down because it’s too broad to begin with. “Fantasy” could mean anything, really. Anyway, I did my best. Here we go:
Labyrinth – 1986, Jim Henson
David Bowie and puppets, y’all. What else is there to say? Seriously. I don’t have a lot to say about this movie besides finding new and exciting ways to overuse the word “awesome.” It’s a life skill. I think this is probably the darkest thing that Henson ever made. That may be because Brian Froud did the production design, but I like to think that Henson, in all his cuddly loveliness, had to have an appreciation for the dark and scary, right? Because there are no happy endings without something bad happening in the first place. And I like that it’s a kind of chivalric quest story, a rescue mission to find an innocent who can’t defend himself against a mob of monsters led by the weirdest creep to ever unnecessarily burst into song. That’s good stuff.
The Neverending Story – 1984, Wolfgang Petersen
This one is tremendously important to kids who grew up in the 80s. And while I love the book, it should be made clear that the movie only covers the first half of the story. You should really pick up a copy sometime. It’s way weirder than you think. This movie is great because it’s so meta. I love the idea that a kid could be so obsessed with books and other worlds that he ends up not only getting pulled into them, but influencing them, finishing the story, becoming the hero. How many times did I wish for that when I was a kid? Still do, occasionally, if we’re being honest.
Legend – 1985, Ridley Scott
An amalgamation of several different fairy tale tropes, this is basically a good versus evil story. But what I like about it is how this version of those stories aren’t sanitized or made safe at all. Fairy tales are cautionary tales, after all, and should be scary as hell. Bloody, if possible. Plus, this movie’s got a very young, pre-crazypants Tom Cruise as a spritely forest creature who talks to unicorns. Isn’t that just the best sentence ever? Tim Curry plays the Darkness, a sort of devil guy with absolutely fantastic horns. Oddly, while he’s only in the last little bit of the film, his role seems to be the one thing everyone remembers about it. Because it’s that awesome.
Mirrormask – 2005, Dave McKean
You may not know that you know Dave McKean’s work, but you probably do. He’s done illustrations for Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Grant Morrison, and most recently Richard Dawkins. He’s an incredible artist, and I hear that he’s a pretty good musician, as well. So this movie made the list because it’s visually stunning and the story is new and creepy and weird and written by Neil Gaiman. The main character is a child circus performer who finds herself transported to another universe, while that universe’s version of her is in the real world wreaking havoc. I love a good world-hidden-within-our-world story, not to mention a creepy circus. Freaking delightful.
Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail – 1975, Terry Gilliam
I’m convinced that this is the most important non-spaceship-adjacent film in all of geekdom. What’s funny, though, is that I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe it’s the Arthurian legend-y-ness of it, the medieval castles and sword-slinging and all that blah blah. But I don’t think those things are themselves inherently geeky, are they? Up to the point when dragons enter the picture, anyway. The only thing that makes this movie super nerdy is that the fans are super nerdy, and super nerdy about this movie in particular. It’s a vicious cycle, but I don’t know why it exists. This and their other movies should be wildly popular across the board and genre be damned, but that’s not the case. Mystery of life, I guess. None of that matters, though, because the guys from Monty Python are/were bloody geniuses and everything they made is comedy gold. That’s the bottom line.
Tune in next week for the shocking conclusion! Same blog time, same blog channel.