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Tag Archive: fantasy movies


Review by C.J. Bunce

You probably haven’t had this much fun watching a rollicking fantasy movie this cool since you first saw the 1980 Flash Gordon movie starring Sam Jones, Max Von Sydow, Melody Anderson, Timothy Dalton, and Brian Blessed, accompanied by that memorable Queen soundtrack.  It shouldn’t be hard to believe–seven weeks from its premiere and Thor: Ragnarok continues to sell-out theater screenings across the country.  In a year full of so many comic book adaptations, and great ones at that, from Logan and Logan Noir to Spider-man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and even The LEGO Batman Movie, this was a great year for comic books on film.  But Thor: Ragnarok rivaled them all from an entertainment standpoint.  In many ways Thor: Ragnarok is a natural progression from both the past Thor films and the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.  But something about director Taika Waititi’s vision for Avengers Thor and Hulk in this latest film changed how the MCU can entertain.  Instead of focusing on the events that the earlier Marvel entries–and comic books–are best known for, events like Civil War, Waititi returned to the reason we all turn to superheroes for entertainment:  it’s because we like the characters.  The end of the world is coming for Asgard, three great villains are wreaking havoc for our heroes, but Taikiki does something novel.  He puts the setting where it belongs: in the background.  And so we get closer to Thor, Hulk, Loki, Valkyrie, and even Thor and Loki’s sister Hela, by watching them interact.  The result is a film that should be vying for the top spot with the likes of Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Logan, and Spider-man: Homecoming, on your comic book movie best-of shortlist.

Waititi really accomplished something difficult here.  It’s not often the third film in a series completely exceeds the prior films (although it’s certainly arguable Spider-man: Homecoming trounced four prior Spider-man movies).  The Incredible Hulk and Hulk were hardly comparable to Thor: Ragnarok as a Hulk movie (sans title only).  And Thor and Thor: The Dark World weren’t remotely as memorable as Thor: Ragnarok.  So what made it all come together?  Clever dialogue from a tight script for one.  And each actor needed no time to take their characters and march forward.  Chris Hemsworth’s cocky God of Thunder has always sported a humorous side, but partnered with Tom Hiddleston’s on-again, off-again baddie Loki, and a Bruce Banner after he’s stuck in “Hulk mode” for two years (played by Mark Ruffalo), Thor: Ragnarok is every bit the next Avengers team-up film–it may as well be called Avengers: Ragnarok.  It’s also a buddy comedy.  Why not?  In the comic books the serious and powerful characters of Hulk and Thor have always been less accessible than the rest so how better to reach audiences?  And why not take that most-comic book of tropes and let them have their hero battle in the ring?  Many comic book readers have been waiting for this film for a long time.

The entire art design and sound should be credited with the film’s success, too.  Classic Jack Kirby imagery and style can be found throughout the production design.  Funky psychedelic colors, lights, and imagery make this a fantasy film, as opposed to a superhero or sci-fi movie.  Action choreography appears like it’s torn from the panels of a comic book page.  Dazzling fantasy costumes by Mayes C. Rubeo (The Great Wall, John Carter, Avatar, The Librarian) include Cate Blanchett’s Hela destroyer outfit, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie/Scrapper 142 outfit, Idris Elba’s Heimdall in Robin Hood garb, and Karl Urban’s iridescent Scurge armor.  Music by Mark Mothersbaugh (The LEGO Movie, Lords of Dogtown, Fanboys, 21 Jump Street) includes audacious, sometimes triumphant, sometimes hilarious choices.  And Magic Sword’s “In the Face of Evil,” Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” and Gene Wilder’s “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, were simply inspired inclusions that made the characters and film exactly how we want these characters to look and feel: Cool.

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In the realm of fantasy, magical talismans are often the key to a character’s actions or journey, part of the goal, such as destroying the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings, and they typically bestow power on their owners, such as Dorothy’s shoes that can transport her home in The Wizard of Oz or even King Arthur’s sword Excalibur, which bestowed him rule of all of Great Britain.  J.K. Rowling’s world of Harry Potter includes many magical objects, including the horcruxes.  Even more integral to Harry Potter’s journey and all the wizards is the wand.  A major scene in all of the books and films is Harry obtaining his wand from Ollivanders–“T’aint no place better,” says Hagrid.  And the wand chooses the wizard, according to Mr. Ollivander.

Sometimes fans must wait for all the information they want about their favorite films and characters.  It’s been six years since the last Harry Potter movie premiered, but fans of the franchise at last have a photographic guide to the key wands designed for the principal named characters.  This week Insight Editions releases From the Films of Harry Potter: The Wand Collection, including new photographs of 66 actual movie prop wands.  Seventeen thousand wand boxes were created by the prop makers for the shelves of Ollivanders wand shop in Diagon Alley, according to the book, quoting late set decorator Stephenie McMillan.  After the wands were each designed by art director Hattie Storey and concept artists including Adam Brockbank, Alex Walker, and Ben Dennett, then supervising modeler and prop maker Pierre Bohanna would create a single “original” of each wand, which would be later be duplicated in resin or rubber for stunt work in multiples depending on the need of the production.

From the Films of Harry Potter: The Wand Collection begins with a brief discussion of the in-universe use of wands as written in J.K. Rowling’s books, along with an overview of the behind the scenes production creation of the props with interviews of cast members and prop makers.  The bulk of the oversized book, an elegantly designed hardcover in a long 12 x 6 inch format to allow for close-up photography of each wand, includes a brief description of the wand, the character wielding the wand in the film, and discussions with actors, designers, and excerpts from the source books.  Hagrid’s lengthy wand is featured in a double-sized pull-out image, the wand sporting his trademark umbrella component.  Another pull-out includes multiple handles of the Death Eaters, and another includes detail of the unique handle of the wand of Jason Isaacs’ character, Lucius Malfoy.

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