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Hollywood is Finally Doing Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films Right

Discussion in 'Archive: SF&F: Films and Television' started by Vortigern99, Jun 28, 2008.

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  1. Koohii

    Koohii Jedi Master star 5

    May 30, 2003
    Yeah, I know a lot of movies are missing from the list--that's just the IMDB quick search.
    Things like Hellboy, V for Vendetta, Sin City, 300, and so on. Can't believe Batman 1989 got skipped. Ooops.

    Yes, technology makes effects cheaper, easier, and better. In 1985, it took a cray supercomputer to render the FX for The Last Starfighter. Now just about any PC with capable for running Maya can do the same thing. Unfortunately technology isn't enough. Aristotle listed spectacle as the last and least important of the 6 principles of theatre.
  2. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    In the "Golden Age of Fantasy" thread, a helpful member posted a list of SFF movies from the 70s to the present (though he skipped the 80s, a hotbed of SFF flicks!). At all events, what follows is his list covering 2000-2008, which I've added to and corrected in places. Many of these movies are forgettable and some are plain bad, but there are a large number of quality films, and not a few masterpieces on display:

    0. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
    1.Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    2.Digimon: The Movie
    3.Dungeons & Dragons
    4.The Emperor's New Groove
    5.Il Mare
    6.Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
    7.Shaolin Soccer
    9.Black Knight
    11.Donnie Darko
    12.Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
    14.Kate and Leopold
    15.Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
    16.The Legend of Zu
    17.The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
    19.Monsters, Inc.
    20.Pokémon 3: The Movie
    21.Spirited Away
    22.Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
    23.Voyage of the Unicorn
    24.The Cat Returns
    25.Dracula, Pages From a Virgin's Diary
    26.Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
    27.The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
    29.Pokémon 4Ever
    30.Reign of Fire
    31.The Santa Clause 2
    33.The Scorpion King
    35.Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat In Space
    36.Tuck Everlasting
    37.Big Fish
    38.Bruce Almighty
    40.Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat
    42.Freaky Friday
    43.The Haunted Mansion
    44.Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
    45.The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
    46.The Medallion
    48.Peter Pan
    49.Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
    50.Pokémon Heroes
    51.Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
    53.Ella Enchanted
    54.Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    55.Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
    57.Howl's Moving Castle
    58.Night Watch
    59.Planet Earth: Dreams
    60.The Polar Express
    61.Red Riding Hood
    62.Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
    63.Shrek 2
    64.Spider-man 2
    67.Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light
    68.The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D
    69.Batman Begins
    71.The Brothers Grimm
    72.Bug Me Not!
    73.Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    73.A Chinese Tall Story
    74.The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
    75.Corpse Bride
    76.The Great Yokai War
    77.Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
    78.King Kong
    80.Nanny McPhee
    81.The Promise
    82.Sky High
    83.Son of the Mask
    85.Aquamarine Arthur and the Minimoys
    86.Beowulf & Grendel
    87.Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
    88.Day Watch
    90.The Fall
    91.The Illusionist
    92.Lady in the Water
    93.The Lake House
    94.My Super Ex-Girlfriend
    95.Night at the Museum
    96.Pan's Labyrinth Penelope
    97.Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
    98.The Prestige
    99.The Restless Cho
    100.The Shaggy Dog
    101.The Santa Clause 3
    102.Stranger Than Fiction
    103.Superman Returns
    104.Tales from Earthsea
    105.Wristcutters: A Love Story
    106.X-Men: The Last Stand
    107. Zoom
    108.August Rush
    110.Bridge to Terabithia
    112.Evan Almighty
    113.Fred Claus
    114.Ghost Rider Mark
    115.The Golden Compass
    116.Happily N'Ever After
    117.Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
    118.In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
    119.Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
    120.Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
    121.The Seeker
    122.Shrek the Third
    124.Spider-Man 3
    127.The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
    128.The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
    129.The Forbidden Kingdom
    131.Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
    132.Over Her Dead Body
    133.The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie
    134.The Spiderwick Chronicles

    Note that I insrted the Star Wars prequels and took out Adam Sandler's Click and something called The Hot Chi
  3. Koohii

    Koohii Jedi Master star 5

    May 30, 2003
    Well, if you add in animated TV, you get a complicated list of all the Bruce Timm DComics movies and shows, many of them extremely good, then you have teen titans, death of superman (honestly, how many times do we have to see him die?), and the 50s throwback movie.
    But we also get the marvel anime movies, which have also been good, the x-men cartoons, which ara a mixed bag, and otehr entries that were awful.
    Worse still, you'd probablly have to include Highlander: The Animated Series ("animated series" sounds cooler than "cartoon"), which made Thundar the Barbarian seem airodite, and Blackstar positively superb.
    And don't get me started on HeMan or SheRa.
    Mickey Mouse, Scrooge McDuck, and Goofy all had comic books as well before they were cartoons...
    Heck, why not throw in the smurfs? Animation is a slippery slope...
  4. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    I think leaving out TV animation is the way to go, while including theatrically-released animation. That way the decent Titan AE and Treasure Planet are in, while the Justice League and Batman/Superman movies, good as they are, don't really count.

    Anyway, this isn't a cut-and-dried list. I tried that in the Golden Age thread and it just didn't work. Other people will always want to include what you excised and exclude what you put in. There's a degree of subjectivity to this.
  5. henchman24

    henchman24 Jedi Youngling star 2

    Feb 22, 2008
    I don't really think its fair to give "hollywood" alot of credit for exploiting other forms of media for profit, and being successful at it. Take Harry Potter for example....with a built in audience of millions who read the books, and the level of technology at the disposal of big budget filmakers...all it takes is a functional casting department, and the ability to not completely suck.

    Its less about this amazing evolution from poor to quality filmaking, and more about having the tools to produce realistic visuals, because if we are all honest, thats all we care about. I am sure lots of Spidey fans are here, but its not like the acting in those movies is even good, casting is sub par at best. With the same director/script/cast/score in a movie made even 10 years ago, it would be as good as the live action Spidey tv show.

    Saying hollywood is finally doing things right is not accurate.

    Better to say they have tools to mask the poor quality of the work continually being produced.

  6. Koohii

    Koohii Jedi Master star 5

    May 30, 2003
    The acting in Spidey's films is not up to much? What, just because Tobey McGuire was rehasing his character from Pleasantville? With even the same opening line?
    "Now he's wearing that dumb power-rangers mask/but he's scarier without it on..." --Weird Al

    Yes, it's the technology that's making the movies possible. As with LotR, it isn't going out on a limb because they have such a huge base in mainstream culture--just about everyone with English as his/her primary language (and many for who don't) has read or at least heard of the book. Honestly, can you imagine going into a public library or even a small bookstore and not finding a copy of at least one LotR book? Probablly not. Now, are they going to have Conan novels? probablly one. Red Sonja? a little shakier.

    Another example:
    Most people have heard of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles thanks the the cartoon and various movies (whatever you may think of them).
    Now, how many people have heard of Adolescent RadioActive Blackbelt hampsters?
    Even more obscure: Naive Interdimesional Commando Koalas?

    Could they make movies of ARBH? sure. Technology isn't a problem. Have they? No. and NICK isn't even on their radar. Now, making those would be a risk.
  7. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    Okay, instead of the blanket term "Hollywood", I'll give credit to the specific screenwriters, film producers, production designers, special effects artisans, casting directors, film editors, costume designers, directors, sound technicians, camera and light operators, and anyone else I've left out who deserves credit for helping to craft excellent genre films over the last 10 years.

    I can't speak for you, but as a writer I care about characterization, dramatic stories, engaging material and a degree of verisimilitude. As an artist I care about the aesthetics of any given costume choice, background scenery, shot composition, or photographic stock. That you confess to only or mainly caring about "realistic visuals" does not make it so with anyone else.

    I cannot disagree more. If any of the above negative-minded complaints were true, then we would see across the board the poor quality of such films as League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Catwoman, Blade 3 or 10,000 BC. Instead we see that these represent the troughs, while projects such as Iron Man, Batman Begins and the Potter series consistently represent the peaks of what can be accomplished with the tools now available. Such tools include liberating FX technologies and an understanding on the part of the filmmakers of what makes these kinds of films work.
  8. Koohii

    Koohii Jedi Master star 5

    May 30, 2003
    The casting in Spider-Man was excellent, except for the primary characters. McGuire was mediore, Dunst was weak, and kid Osborne was just a whiney crybaby who made Luke & Anakin seem like macho teeth grinders. Was that the actors' fault? the Director's? Don't know, don't care. Someone should have spotted the problem and done something to solve it.
  9. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    Well, I like Maguire, especially in 2, where he's got some chops. Dunst -- well, she is who she is. She gets the job done and she's easy on the eyes. I could almost agree about Franco, but he's so intense in 2 (again, it's all about 2 for me) that I forgive his whininess in 1. 3 dropped the ball, no questions there, but that film was a failure on almost every level, including the performances.

  10. henchman24

    henchman24 Jedi Youngling star 2

    Feb 22, 2008
    The reason why I disagree with this is not because I think any of the above things arent great. If Harry has a great costume, good makeup, quality dialouge to deliver, and a visionary giving him direction....but his wand is spewing a light show straight out of Flash Gordon.... you me and everyone else will fail to notice all of those positives. The Harry Potter films like so many others, are truly lacking a brilliant quality that would "make me believe" without being spoon fed all the fancies.

    Really "good" sci fi/fantasy films of the past had to be so good, or executed with such precision, that your mind is not drawn to the cracks in the facade. FX is a crutch that modern genre films rely on a large % of the time. The lack of brilliance that I find may be a chicken or the egg scenario with modern films...because they dont have to be...but this is how I find it regardless.

    My respose to this goes with my initial observation about the Potter books and a built in fan base. The FX in catwoman/blade/B.C. etc....are as good as any successful film basically...but who wants to watch a movie about catwoman?

    Having the tech to mask a poorly done version of a story that everyone is interested in, is not the same as having the tech to mask a poorly done version of some drek no one cares about.

    So again I say "hollywood" isn't finally doing things right or better. I am still under the impression that if Spidey was made in a time when a realistic CG figure couldnt be placed on the screen, the movie would be laughable. Reference the scene in Spidey 1...when the goblin is attacking that parade/festival deal. The part where spiderman is running down the street being shot at, and then casts a web and takes off. That is one of the few action sequences with an actor in the suit doing a live action stunt, and its pathetic. An entire movie of that quality proves my point.

    Sorry for the long post =)
  11. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    We'll just have to disagree. The Potter series, for example, drew me in as brilliant cinema, especially the third film. I was not part of the "built-in" audience of fans of the books, and yet I loved the movies from the get-go as classic examples of children's fantasy films. Perhaps you are distracted by the pretty lights sparking out of the characters' wands, but I for one am looking at more subtle layers of aesthetic craftsmanship, dramatic conflicts, and believable, nuanced performances.

    As to your question, "Who wants to watch a movie about Catwoman?" -- the answer is "Everyone -- if it's a good movie!" However, as we all know, the Berrie movie was decidedly not. You seem to be confusing a premise or an idea with the execution of that idea. Either a film is well-made and entertaining, or it isn't. An excellent, riveting, true-to-the-source Catwoman movie could be made, but so far it hasn't been. I use this as a counter-example against your assertion that since filmmakers have CGI and good FX, they can just churn out good movies one after the other. Obviously this is not the case.

    If it were, then we wouldn't still have bad genre movies.
  12. Mastadge

    Mastadge Manager Emeritus star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jun 4, 1999
    Gotta disagree here. I'm also not a "built-in" Potter fan. I thought the first two films were mediocre at best. The third was the best of them. The fourth was pretty pictures without much substance. The fifth also looked good but simply didn't work very well as a coherent film for me. I have no desire to watch any of them again, though someday I may conceivably watch the third as part of a Cuaron marathon.

    And for once I agree with Vortigern. I wouldn't mind a Catwoman movie at all. This particular Catwoman movie just happened to be unbelievably awful.
  13. Koohii

    Koohii Jedi Master star 5

    May 30, 2003
    I like Good movies, particularly good fantasy movies. WHen I find them.

    Went with some friends last night who wanted to see Hellboy 2. Well, I hadn't seen the first one, but OK.
    It was... amusing, if slightly weird. Del Toro has a style with his critters that repeats Pan's Labyrinth, but isn't a Henson.
    Now, the previews before the movie...
    The Mummy Army of the Dragon looks good. First Mummy movie was great. Second was a major letdown. Never say "Scorpion King" so can't comment. This looks like they've rediscovered what made the first one good. No promises, but I'm cautiously optimistic.
    Quarentine: looks like Blair-Witch camera work, overly gritty film, and a bunch of frelling idiots locked in a house by a conspiracy-freak post 9-11 millitary. I'm betting this movie is incrediblly stupid, but just the trailer was causing me severe eye problems, so I won't be watching it.

    Don't remember what else.
  14. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    I'm a Henson... does that mean I'm instantly awesome?? :D
  15. The2ndQuest

    The2ndQuest Tri-Mod With a Mouth star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Jan 27, 2000
    Only if you get me the head of Pilot, a Sam Eagle muppet or one of those limb-removing critters from Labyrinth. ;)
  16. henchman24

    henchman24 Jedi Youngling star 2

    Feb 22, 2008
    I think we both have different opinions about brilliant/not when it comes to certain films, which may be a part of our disagreement with stuff like Potter =)

    Just to clarify about the highlighted...I dont think FX allows for the churning out of good movies at all. My point was that a majority of the movies are still really bad, its just easier to cover up low quality script/acting etc... with these effects.

    As a fan of comics, one of my biggest problems is oversaturation/spin offs and such. Half of the characters that get there own projects aren't worthy of it (this is purely opinion on my part, but its how I feel). This isnt such a big deal for a comic, it isn't a million dollar sink if it flops. Catwoman for example, is great in Batman arcs as a counterpoint/love interest/villain/ally, but as a stand alone character I don't see it. I apologize to any die hard Catwoman fans.

    This is a huge part of the FX we make movies because we can...sometimes not even considering if it "should" be done. Can you imagine the pitch meeting for the Halle Berry Catwoman project.

  17. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    Well, yeah, you've got some good points there. The Catwoman movie, which had been in development since 1992 or so, probably would not have been made if relatively cheap VFX had not been available, and/or if other superhero movies had tanked. But ya know, some of these are going to be stinkers. I still hold by my assertion, or at least my opinion, that we've got a lot more good and great stuff coming out of Tinseltown than we used to back in the day. I was there, and I remember looking forward to movie after movie that just sucked hard, long and bad if it was ever officially released at all (Conan 2, FF, Captain America, etc.) Now we've got project after project that not only gets made and released with a big budget and spectacular effects, by and large these films are crowd-pleasing gems that are brilliant on one or more levels.
  18. henchman24

    henchman24 Jedi Youngling star 2

    Feb 22, 2008
    Its funny you mention the Captain America flick. I had completely forgotten about it until I saw a clip on you tube set to "America...F yeah" from the team america puppet movie. It was hysterical, and at the same time painful, as Cap is my favorite superhero =/ That movie is possibly the worst ever made, at least in contention for the title. Worth watching the you tube video for a giggle though.
  19. Koohii

    Koohii Jedi Master star 5

    May 30, 2003
    There's an indie Canadian movie called "SideKick". Very low budget. Not the greatest acting, but passible. It does one of the best jobs of believable SuperHeroes in the real world.

    There are very few special effects scenes.

    It works because the writing works.
    I actually recommend it (doesn't happen very often).
    And it is available from Netflix.

    >>Rereading CatWoman: Defiant graphic novel
    Yeah, not really that good as a stand alone.
    Marvel used to try things out by releasing 2, 3, or 4 issue limited series to see if there was enough interest to make a larger line. Transformers managed to run 84 issues in a 4-issue limited series. A bunch of spider-man allies & enemies got 4 issues, and that was it.
  20. Merlin_Ambrosius69

    Merlin_Ambrosius69 Jedi Master star 5

    Aug 4, 2008
    I just watched Zemeckis' Beowulf (my second viewing after the initial theatrical showing), and I must opine once more that this is a brilliant, unusual and imaginative fantasy film that has been woefully underrated. It's not perfect: the music is underwhelming for the most part, the faces are not as expressive as either real human faces or traditionally animated faces, and it isn't as emotionally affecting as it aspires to be. But overall it is excellent, especially the last 20 minutes in which the dragon runs amok and we learn the secret of Grendel's paternity. Fascinating stuff, beautiful to look at, punctuated with spectacular action, Beowulf deserves higher acclaim than it's gotten.
  21. Chancellor_Ewok

    Chancellor_Ewok Force Ghost star 7

    Nov 8, 2004
    Agreed. Beowulf was a great movie. Angelina Jolie's breasts make everything better. :p
  22. Merlin_Ambrosius69

    Merlin_Ambrosius69 Jedi Master star 5

    Aug 4, 2008
    Even rendered in CGI with gold dripping off them...!

    Jolie said she was surprised, and a little embarrassed, to see what they did with her character, Grendel's mother. She was shown production sketches of the lizard woman manifestation whom we only see glimpses of in the finished film. She did not realize she would be rendered almost 100% nude!
  23. Chancellor_Ewok

    Chancellor_Ewok Force Ghost star 7

    Nov 8, 2004
    Yeah and coloured gold! :p
  24. JediTrilobite

    JediTrilobite Jedi Master star 7

    Nov 17, 1999
    I'm jumping into this a couple months late, mainly because I didn't see this topic earlier. Vortigern99 - Your list is interesting, but I think you're lumping higher budget along with higher quality. Visual appeal is certainly something that's come a long way, and as George Lucas has pounded into our heads over the past decade, it allows filmmakers to do far more than what they used to be able to do.
    I think that listing 10,000 BC, Spiderwick, the Incredible Hulk Jumper, Prince Caspian and Indiana Jones as fine offerings is overly generous, especially when you note that they're better than 95% of the movies of the past decade. While this comes down to any given person's personal appeal, one man's trash is another's treasure, I think this is misguided. A movie can be loved by more people than those who dislike it - look at Spiderman 3, for example. Big movie at the box office. Still a crappy movie.

    Science Fiction and related genre movies have come a long way in some regards, mainly in how they are presented. However, I've noted that a lot of these films, while successful at the box office and have spectacular special effects, they tend to lack when it comes to their stories, and in a number of cases, are adaptations. Of your initial list, 80% of them are based off of a prior work. To me, this suggests that there is a distinct lack of creativity in the movie world, as there are very, very few original (if they can be called original) works nowadays. The one (ONE!) that comes to mind recently is Pan's Labyrinth. Getting up and going over to my shelf, I can also say that The Fountain is one that'll fit that list as well.

    This isn't to say that adaptations aren't bad. Solaris is one that comes to mind, as well as Children of Men, The Prestige, and Minority Report that, in my opinion, are some of the brighter films to have been produced lately.

    There seems to be an inherent dislike of older movies, I've noticed, especially among the younger generations, who seem to prefer glamorous special effects over storytelling, which, in my opinion, is the true strength of Science Fiction and Fantasy, not the visual aspect. The big budget thrillers and blockbusters are fun to watch, but I've found that they can be predictable and loud. They don't make you think or really force you to pay attention.

    The older films, while tHere are some absolutely awful ones out there, tend to be stronger (I'm not talking about the B-movies). There's no film that's come out recently that has rivaled masterpieces such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or Forbidden Planet or Blade Runner. The Fountain, Pan's Labyrinth, Children of Men, maybe someday, but it has yet to be seen whether they'll stand the test of time. Even Star Wars is up there, despite its flaws.

    I do have to agree with RX_Sith - I think that the best Science Fiction you're likely to find on screen is some of the television series that have come out. Battlestar Galactica, LOST, Firefly, Heroes - these have some very good parts to them, as they are primarily story driven, not special effects driven.

    I generally agree what Mastadge has said, and there's not a lot that I can add to there.

    Chancellor_Ewok - I somewhat agree here, because there is a push for some of these bigger movies to get awards. Peter Jackson was turned down twice, while Heath Ledger died. How much of this is due to public pressure to see someone get what is their perceived due? I'm not sure that LOTR deserved the massive amounts of praise that it recieved (although they were very good movies), and while Ledger did a fantastic job and in my view deserves the award, will he win it based on his performance or out of sympathy?

    Back to RX_Sith - I think that it's not just the toy markets, it's the push (in retail in general) to brand everything under the sun. We've got tie-in books, toys, games, etc for just about everything nowadays.

    The2ndQuest - I'd say that Science Fiction, because of the abilities of moviemakers, is experiencing a bit of a boom at the moment. It's a bit of a shame beause it means
  25. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    In fairness to myself, I never listed 10,000 BC as a "fine offering"; au contraire, I mentioned it as one of the failures. You're not the first to suggest that I'm equating budget with quality, but I've said repeatedly that the two are not the same. Spider-Man 3, At World's End, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, 10,000 BC, The Island, and so on, are proof positive that bad, big-budget genre movies are still being made. All I'm saying is that apples to apples, comparing the bulk of SFF movies from any given year of the 70s, 80s or 90s (with the exception of 1981/2 which was a banner year) to those of the last 8 years, will show that we've got a greater quantity of excellent genre films now than we ever did back in the day.

    First, what do you mean by "how they are presented"? Are you talking about production quality, cinematography, mise-en-scene (what's actually filmed in-camera, i.e. props, sets and costumes), and other aesthetic elements such as shot composition and editing? Because those elements are essential to what makes a good, effective film, and are part of what I mean when I say there are more excellent SFF films today than there were pre-2000. Comparing, say, Prince Caspian to say, Clash of the Titans (which I hold as one of the genre masterpieces of the 80s), we see that all the elements I listed above are superior in the more recent film. Clash is awesome and I love it, but its aesthetic qualities -- "how the movie is presented' -- are simply not as developed, as lush or as photo-realistic as those in Caspian. Caspian is a better-crafted, more aesthetically beautiful film.

    Second, I fail to understand the premium you're placing on original -- that is, not adapted from pre-existing -- material. Either a movie is good or it isn't; whether it derives from something else is immaterial. Also, you seem to be overlooking the fact that many genre classics of previous decades -- from Superman and Batman to Excalibur and Conan to Aliens and The Terminator -- are also based on pre-existing works. Hollywood has been using novels, comics and other films as the basis of its movies for decades.

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