I once thought that there could never be too much fantasy in a movie, but I’m really starting to think twice about that. It’s becoming a bit too common for movies to be all about the special effects. That’s been happening for a while now, so no surprise there. However, some of the fantasy movies that are coming out today look like the entire movie was shot on green screen.

I have a problem with that for a few reasons.

1. If the movie is extremely effects-heavy, that means it’s probably trying to make up for lack of something else. And more times than not, that something else tends to be story. So you’re stuck watching a lot of explosions blowing up people for whom you care nothing about. But, hey maybe that’s what you find entertaining? For me, nothing could put me to sleep faster.

2. The reason most people love fantasies is because of the fact that they look like your reality with a bit of a twist. Think about it. Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, Firefly: all movies or tv shows that look pretty much like it could be your world with a little bit of magic blended in to make you almost think it could be real. If it’s entirely computer generated, it almost feels a little too far-fetched.

A good fantasy is grounded in reality. It’s the only way we can connect to the story and believe the world that is presented to us. Sometimes that grounding can happen in the story and/or the values of the characters, so it wouldn’t matter how fantastical it appeared. But like I said before, most stories tend to be lacking when the effects are over the top.

Now, I may be over generalizing here, but my point is that there is a balance that must be had. Fantasies are starting to look a little too squeaky clean for me. They look sterile. Lifeless. I can’t connect to that!

Here are some examples.

Alice in Wonderland

It all started with Alice in Wonderland. It seemed like a safe bet because it was a Tim Burton film. I remember when I first saw it. I left thinking there was no wonder left in Wonderland. The story just wasn’t there.

Oz the Great and Powerful

This one has been getting so much publicity, it makes me wonder about it. Marketing is a great tool, but when it’s pushed at us too forcefully, there is something wrong. This film doesn’t look like any of it was shot away from a green screen. There is nothing in this world that reminds me of reality.

Remember the old Wizard of Oz? It was so much easier to be swept away in that movie because it was more grounded in reality. Oz the Great and Powerful is just piggy backing on the original to sell tickets. We all know it. Why support the lack of originality?

Jack and the Giant Slayer

Judging from the trailers, I would say this one is at least filmed in some natural settings. It looks to be the most natural of the three. However, I don’t think it’s any different in that the effects are covering up the fact that this is piggy backing off of a well-known children’s tale. Snow White and the Huntsman was a hit, and now they’re trying to make as much money off of the fairy tale stories as they can.

Just because there are a ton of special effects and computer generated worlds does not mean that it is going to be a world of fantastical surprises. It’s almost an easy way out these days. Making a story interesting, relatable, and unpredictable is where it gets tricky. If all that was there, would the movie need so much of a disguise?

What movies do you think are “too fantastical?”

Rachel M Taylor

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Rachel is a writer/director. She loves character driven movies and really good cheese.

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