Fantasy films are films with fantastic themes, usually involving magic, supernatural events, make-believe creatures, or exotic fantasy worlds. Fantasy films often have an element of magic, myth, wonder, escapism and the extraordinary.
Early Fantasy Films
- A trip to the Moon (1902)
- The thief of Baghdad (1924)
- The Infernal boiling pot (1903)
- The Impossible voyage (1904)
- The wonderful wizard of Oz (1910)
Subgenres of Fantasy
- Traditional Fantasy (also called Epic fantasy or high fantasy)
- Historical Fantasy
- Urban Fantasy
- Paranormal Romance
- Romantic Fantasy
Convention #1- Journeys and Quests
Journeys and quests are a popular convention in the fantasy genre, and are undertaken by aspirational, escapist characters. These characters are trying to solve a problem that they are in, and has to go through many obstacles that they encounter in order for them to solve the quest or journey. This all takes part in their journey, and usually involves them trying to defeat evil/villain/opposing team. In 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone', he is on a Journey/quest to become a powerful wizard that he has the potential to become, and to learn as many spells and to expand his knowledge further. He is also on a quest to protect himself from Voldemort (powerful wizard who killed his family), and to defeat him. He needs to face many obstacles along the way in order for him to defeat evil and to be protected. Some of the obstacles that he encounters include dangerous creatures and evil spells, that create a barrier around Harry from winning. In the 'Labyrinth', Sarah sends her brother to the Goblin King (David Bowie), and regrets this decision. Her journey/quest during this movie is to save her brother from the Goblin King, therefore she has to go through the maze. The maze is filled with all sorts of obstacles and unexpected problems, as it has a mythical flare to it. She also meets many strange creatures along the way that try to help her get to the end of the maze. Journeys and quests add to the fantasy genre by creating an interesting storyline because it gives a supernatural feeling and the audience can meet new codes and conventions. E.g. mythical creatures, blue/green/gold fantasy lighting, dutch tilts, fog/mist/smoke and more. It gives the audience a sense of the outside world, and makes them more intrigued and captured into the films. If this convention was missing from fantasy films, there would be no storyline to fantasy films. The fantasy films wouldn't be interesting, and the audience/viewers would not be intrigued at all. The journeys/quests is what grabs the audience's attention, and is what sucks them into the supernatural world. The audience gets a glimpse of what it might be like in other worlds, and they get to escape from reality, but if there was no journey or purpose, then the storyline would be very plain and boring.
One significant characteristic that is shown throughout most Fantasy films is the unexpected hero. The unexpected hero is generally a young child or orphan. The reason they do this in fantasy films is to make it more interesting and surprising for the audience/viewers. It always involves the child on a journey or quest, and for them to defeat evil. This also makes the audience feel sympathy for the hero, as they are only innocent and humble characters, so therefore their good characteristics contrast with the negative traits of the evil characters. In the movie 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone', Harry Potter is the unexpected hero. He is an orphan and is only a child, but soon realises that he is the chosen one. He has the potential to become a very powerful wizard, and he is the only one that is stronger than evil. Voldemort tries to defeat him, but in the end Harry will always be more powerful than him. This is surprising to the audience, as he looks very innocent and weak, but Harry soon turns into a courageous and brave young wizard whilst gaining new skills and knowledge of magic. In 'Labyrinth', Sarah is made the unexpected hero. We as the viewers do not think of her as much at the start, as she is very innocent and petite looking. She is purposely made out to be very innocent, we can tell as an audience by the way she dresses, the frilly dresses, plaited hair, knee-length socks, toys in her room etc. There is a turning point during the film, where she shows her determination and her bravery to bring her brother back into her life. From here, the audience did not expect her to be the hero. The unexpected hero adds a new dimension to the fantasy genre. From other genres, we can automatically tell who is going to be the hero who wins at the end, but during fantasy films, we don't know who will win in the end. It is always a battle between good vs. evil, but we aren't sure who will be the stronger player, I find this the most interesting part about fantasy films, because characters are the most important film elements during a movie. The unexpected hero creates a new view for the audience, and makes the viewers favour the significant character over any other character. If there was no unexpected hero in a fantasy film, then it would be very different. We would be unclear as to who is the main characters, and there would be no build up to the ending. Everything would be too predictable, and nothing interesting would have happened during the movie to make the audience want to view more.
There is an on-going theme throughout the fantasy genre that expresses Appearance vs. reality. This can mean several different things, and is used to compare and contrast the outside world with what life really is like. In Harry Potter and the Philsopher's Stone, Hogwarts is a prime example of this theme. Harry thinks that Hogwarts is just an ordinary school for witchcraft and wizardry, but really, there is more to that school than he thinks. There are mysterious magical spells and all sorts of mythical creatures that lurk behind the scenes. Harry soon realises that everything at Hogwarts is not what it seems, and it is more dangerous than he thought it was. Another significant example of appearance vs. reality in the movie Harry Potter is the contrast between Privet Drive and Hogwarts. Privet Drive is the street that Harry lives on, and is portrayed as very dull, boring with ugly and bland houses. This setting is particularly important, as they specifically chose dull colours and dull lighting to shoot the scenes on Privet drive. The reason they did this was to contrast it with Hogwarts, as they conveyed Hogwarts to be very grand and superior, with bright and colourful lighting with lots of people buzzing around with excitement and there is a lot going on. They have transported the viewers from reality, and taken us to a different, exciting world where everything is in contrast to the real world. In the "Labyrinth", Appearance vs. reality is an important theme that runs throughout the whole of the film. Sarah has to go through the labyrinth in order to get her baby brother back and save him, and when she goes through the maze, she doesn't expect what she is going to get. Everything in that maze is not what it seems, and the movie teaches the viewers a moral that we have to look closely at everything in order to see the true meaning. Sarah thinks that what she sees is whats really there, but she doesn't look close enough to see what the Labyrinth really is. It is filled with all sorts of magical tricks and creatures, and warps our minds into this unknown world. The theme of Appearance vs. Reality is a special theme that is not seen throughout many other film genres, and it makes the storyline of each movie so unique and intriguing for the audience, that they just want to see more of it. Its like a sense of escapism for the audience, and we get to experience a whole new chapter and story of someone else's experience/life. If this was not included as a convention in the fantasy genre, then the genre would be very tedious. It would not include any real storyline, and we would not realise how interesting otherworldly settings may be. We would not be as interested in fantasy films, and we would be oblivious as to how different supernatural settings are compared to our everyday lives.