With the imminent arrival of the next season of Game of Thrones, the time has come to take a look back at the cinematic past of the genre. The original idea was to put down a list of the best in fantasy-related cinema out there, but that was scrapped when I realized that the Lord of the Wings would likely fill slots one through four, and five and six as well when all the Directors Cuts and Special Editions are put in.
Besides, where’s the fun in that? It’s easy to out together a list of the best fantasy films put there, mainly because the list would be short. The sad truth is that when it comes to the moving image, the fantasy genre does not have a glorious record. For decades it was considered scifi’s embarrassing younger brother, which meant that the fantasickal visions that were brought to the screen glorious only in the reverse. There were exceptions, or course, examples of the genre that transcended the low expectations of the broader movie-going public, but for every Return of the King or Dragon Heart, there was a Dungeons and Dragons: The Movie, or Gor.
Yet ones man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Any work of art seen as crap at the time it came out can be seen later on as a lost treasure, a cult classic, an example of the “so-bad-it’s-good” genre so beloved by our irony-drenched generation…or at least a cautionary tale of how not to do it…
Dungeons & Dragons (2000)
Not so much so-bad-it’s-good as just-bloody-awful. Eagerly awaited by D&D fans around the world way back in the day, who were greatly disappointed (including your truly, who had to go back and see it twice just I could be sure what I was seeing was not a hallucination…)
John Norman’s series has attracted its fair share of controversy over the years. But this just offended everybody.
Masters of the Universe (1987)
There are ways to bring a beloved toy franchise to the silver screen. This is not one of them.
Yor, the Hunter from the Future (1983)
Cavemen, dinosaurs, and flying saucers shooting lasers. What’s not to like?
Batman and Robin (1997)
I confess I have a particular animus against this one, as I totaled my car on the way back from the theater. Appropriate karma for a disaster of a movie that took the 60’s TV series and went in all the wrong directions. Interesting fact: Joel Schumacher wanted to adapt Batman: Year One next. Not hard to see why the studio passed.