80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Legend”

This poster is pretty epic. Unfortunately, the movie isn't so epic.

This poster is pretty epic. Unfortunately, the movie isn’t so epic.

I have embarked on a quest to watch a number of 80s Fantasy flicks and share my findings with you, dear readers. Today, we reflect on “Legend.” I’ve never seen it before, but was excited when I saw how cool the cover was. Anyway, here goes!

Review

What the devil did I just watch? [See what I did there?]

“Legend” starts off pretty well with some ominous discussion between baddies and then a beautiful look at a fantastical forest. I want to dwell on this for a bit: the movie looks really good. The sets are all highly detailed and interesting to look at, the makeup used for Lily and other characters has enough whimsy to sell it without being too cheesy or overdone, and the camera effects often highlight and emphasize the setting in just the right way.

Unfortunately, there is very little else that goes well. The dialogue is pretty poorly written (apart from the cool scene with a riddle and most of the lines the Devil gets to speak). The characters never receive any background story or development, which makes it extremely difficult to care what happens to them. It tries to come off as being fairly dark, but only seems to end up taking itself too seriously.

The worst thing, though, is how much of the movie feels like it is just added in to fill it up. At several points dialogue is repeated; at least one clip of a scene is shown twice back-to-back, large amounts of time are spent just staring at characters’ faces, and when characters do speak with the cheesy (or wooden) dialogue, they often do so for interminably long periods of time without any action to drive the movie forward. We are subjected to a very lengthy portion of the film dedicated to watching the Devil try to seduce Lily while Jack and friends move through the Devil’s stronghold, which highlights the decent dialogue written for the ultimate bad guy, but doesn’t do much for the other characters.

All this filler means that, as mentioned before, viewers never get a feel for why the characters act the way they do, what motivates them, or why we should care about any of these to begin with. Some of the characters are also exceedingly annoying, which doesn’t help matters.

Ultimately, I was left just wondering why I should care or what there was to care about. I know this one is considered a bit of a classic and is very well-loved, but I just thought it was overdone. At least it’s pretty!

The Good

+Solid beginning
+Beautiful scenery, makeup, camera effects, and sets

The Bad

-Some parts seem to drag on forever
-Lots of filler
-Not as epic as it should have been
-Very little connection to the characters
-Poor dialogue (and too much of it!)

The Verdict

My Score: D+ “Very little of ‘Legend’ is compelling or legendary.”

Conclusion

I wanted to like this movie very badly. I just didn’t. It is filled with, well, filler, has a very threadbare plot, and very little world development. The characters never grew on me and I never felt connected to the story. The best part about the movie is the sweet cover/poster.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

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80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Highlander”

The whole movie should have been in this setting.

The whole movie should have been in this setting.

I have embarked on a quest to watch a number of 80s Fantasy flicks and share my findings with you, dear readers. Here, we look at “Highlander.” I have not seen this movie before, but like just about everyone, I know THE quote: “There can only be one…” so it’s kind of like I’ve seen it. Okay, not really. Onto the review!

Review

Highlander giveth, and Highlander taketh away. The film has some scenes that are fantastic, but other scenes are just disastrous. The depiction of MacCleod’s wife growing old and dying was really touching, for example. But other scenes are drivel, such as the scene with the Kurgan driving like a maniac. It just makes me wonder what the heck the point of it is. The background story is intriguing and built up well, but then largely abandoned (what happened in the intervening years?).

Frankly, if the film had only been about the discovery of immortality, it would have been better. Perhaps it just bites off more than it can chew as far as the time it is supposed to cover is concerned. The concept of these immortals having to go around killing each other is a bit underdeveloped as well. Why? Other than the “Prize,” what have they to gain from it? Why must there only be one? Why can’t we all just get along? Alas, we are never treated with further explanation because we have to get dragged back into the 80s to fight Kurgan. On paper, it’s a good concept, but in practice I was left just wishing for more plot and less absurdity.

We just never get a chance to see whether the film is Braveheart or the Matrix, and I wish that the two points had melded together better. It really does have the feel of an awesome, epic movie at several points–during the training montage, for example–but then it is just dragged down by silliness. The world has a true feel of lore to it and behind the scenes, but I was left feeling like the curtain was never fully pulled away to see that lore. The hints we get in the flashback scenes are awesome, and the way the movie very slowly gives hints of what’s happening is actually really well done, but all the potential never fully comes to fruition.

Indeed, it seems to me that most of the “modern” scenes in the 80s are unnecessary and frankly kind of silly. We never get a sense of why the gathering of the Immortals needs to happen at that point in history or why there are so few remaining.

I really wanted to love this movie, and it fed me plenty of potential for me to love it, but it just didn’t cash in.

The Good

+Pretty cool premise
+It’s SO 80s
+A lore-filled world oozing potential
+Solid backstory…

The Bad

-…which is never really fully cashed in
-Really weird scenes
-Some terrible dialogue
-It’s SO 80s

The Verdict

My Score: “An uneven film that is at times awesome, but at other times terrible.”

Conclusion

One of the most inconsistent and frustrating movies I’ve seen. Lots of potential and some cool scenes make me not sad I watched it, but I could stand to skip about 1/2 the movie and then have that 1/2 filled in with more cashing in on the premise.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Clash of the Titans”

Cheesefest or Epic?

This poster: Cheesefest or Epic? The jury’s out in my opinion.

I have embarked on a quest to watch a number of 80s Fantasy flicks and share my findings with you, dear readers. Next up is “Clash of the Titans” (1981). This is another one I’d never seen before, so how does it hold up as a first viewing after 34 years?

“Clash of the Titans” surprised me by not being terrible. I’ll admit it, I underestimated it. I was dubious. Some early 80s movie about Greek mythology with a suitably strange cover? When the film started with a rather poorly overlaid shot of a bird that jiggled awkwardly around the screen as the credits rolled, my trepidation increased.

But then the story got rolling. Zeus is portrayed as a manipulative and frankly creepy patriarch deity (oh right, basically what he was believed to be in real life!) with a penchant for sleeping around and playing favorites. The struggle between the will and manipulation of the gods and the lives of the mortals and demigods that are thrown into the mix is a pretty interesting substory throughout the movie. It’s never explored as deeply as it perhaps could have been, but this isn’t a movie about philosophy now, is it? The theme was portrayed well enough simply by following the plot. I liked it.

The plot continues to be interesting throughout, as we follow Perseus through a pretty epic quest to claim a kingdom and break a curse upon his betrothed. The story never really seems to lag, which is a major plus, but it also draws you in as a viewer to keep watching. Bubo, the clockwork owl, is a pretty neat character as well.

Did I mention Maggie Smith was in this? And it’s over 30 years ago! I barely recognized her. Scratch that, I didn’t recognize her, but my wife did and we were delighted to see her. But she’s not the only one who did a good job acting; frankly, for a movie that could easily have gone way over the deep end into being a cheesy laughing stock, the acting across the board was pretty solid. I never felt the urge to laugh at the actors, even when some of the lines could have seemed absurd (though Poseidon’s “underwater” scenes are pretty silly). Good job, cast!

There were a few downsides to the movie. Characters sometimes seemed to have little-to-no motivation for various actions, many of the special effects don’t hold up very well at all, random nudity is distracting and unnecessary, and some moments of the plot are just a bit too convenient. Also, although it’s called “Clash of the Titans,” the “clash” is really just using Medusa’s head to defeat the Kraken. I kind of wish there had been some epic titan vs. titan battle of huge beasties, but alas.

Overall, “Clash of the Titans” was a pretty epic plot that was entertaining to watch.

The Good

+Interesting story
+Cool interweaving of Greek myth into the plot
+A clockwork owl, Bubo
+Shows how the Greek Pantheon was messed up 
+Well-acted despite some pretty silly moments

The Bad

-Special Effects don’t hold up well
-Random and unnecessary nudity
-Insufficient motivation for some of the main characters
-Multiple literal and figurative deus ex machina moments
-Left me wanting titan vs. titan battle

The Verdict

My Score: B+ “Although some aspects don’t hold up after almost 35 years, it is a pretty epic adventure with some fun story moments.”

Conclusion

“Clash of the Titans” was surprisingly good. Not any kind of all-time great, but a decent plot with some surprising reflective moments and decent acting sold it well. I’d watch it again.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

80s Fantasy Movie Review: “The Black Cauldron”

80s movies have awesome posters

80s movies have awesome posters

I embarked on a quest to watch through Tor’s list of 80s Fantasy. I have only seen an embarassingly small number of the movies on that list, and have decided to rectify that! Here, I review “The Black Cauldron,” yet another one I haven’t seen before! But I did read the whole series of books! There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

They really don’t animate movies like they used to. Seriously, “The Black Cauldron” is stunningly beautiful. There is so much detail in each scene that it is easy to catch yourself just looking at the scenery rather than paying attention to the film. But that would be sad, because the story is pretty solid too.

There’s something inherently awesome about having an assistant pig-keeper as the hero of a story, but the other characters, from a silly bard to a sarcastic princess, are each fun in their own way. It’s the kind of film that makes you want to peel back the layers to examine it further because it’s truly compelling. I enjoyed the fact that it seemed like no one character in the movie could have accomplished everything on his or her own–they each needed the others to succeed on the quest.

The story is actually pretty dark, though, when you think about it. Much of the imagery used to convey the story is also super creepy, especially the Horned King! The notion that the Black Cauldron requires death in order to be appeased makes your skin crawl too.

The main problem with the movie is that there is never any real sense of the consequences of the activity of the heroes and villains. We never see anyone besides the main cast as “good guys” so we don’t know who it is the Horned King might be trying to conquer. Nor do we know why he wants to conquer so badly.

Overall though, the movie is charming, beautiful, and foreboding. It’s got a solid plot and good characters. Another winner! These 80 fantasy flicks are sweet!

The Good

+Visually impressive
+Captivating story
+Initially compelling

The Bad

-No sense of a broader world
-Seems pretty creepy for kiddos
-Characters never get fleshed out much

The Verdict

My Score: A- “Dark but uplifting, ‘The Black Cauldron’ was a blast to watch.”

Guest Verdict (Wife, Beth): A  “All the childhood nostalgia!!”

Conclusion

“The Black Cauldron” is a beautifully animated and well-written story of heroism from unexpected places. I’m glad I took the time to watch it.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Ladyhawke”

ladyhawke

Even the movie poster is stunning.

I embarked on a quest to watch through Tor’s list of 80s Fantasy. I haven’t seen many of those flicks, so I figured I’d watch through. Next up is “Ladyhawke,” yet another one I’ve never seen before–to my embarassment! There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

“Ladyhawke” is, at its most basic level, the story of a curse. Two men–a corrupt bishop and Etienne of Navarre, the Captain of the Guard–fall in love with a woman–Isabeau d’Anjou; one is rejected and decides to curse her for spurning him. Thus cursed, the woman is a hawk by day, and the man a wolf by night. Fearing endless torment, the man decides to kill the one who has put them in this condition, and thus begins a quest which leads to the curse being broken at last.

But “Ladyhawke” is way more than that. It’s got true love, adventure, escape, fighting, revenge…okay I’m not talking about “The Princess Bride,” but this is a fantastic movie. Basically everything goes right. Seriously.

But let’s get this out of the way–the thing that goes “wrong” is the music. It’s not terrible, but it’s almost 100% 80s synth-rock. I’m sure it seemed like a great idea at the time, but it has not stood the test of time very well.

With that out of the way, let’s explore what went right. First, the movie is stunningly filmed. The angles in each shot are just awesome, often with characters silhouetted against beautiful landscapes or sunsets. Second, the story itself is compelling and epic. It’s a true fantasy, and it feels like a fairy tale that I never knew about [it apparently is one, by the way]. Third, the characters are endearing and extraordinarily well-acted, particularly Mouse–the cutpurse comedian who dialogues with God throughout the movie–played by Matthew Broderick. Fourth, you get the idea–go watch the movie!

The humor from “Mouse” was sustained throughout, but there were a number of truly epic one-liners that just had me laughing with glee. I don’t want to reproduce them here both because they really should be watched and because some of them are only humorous contextually. I could see this becoming a movie I start to memorize and use lines from, though.

The story itself holds up remarkably well, for as simply as you can write it out. Again, this is largely due to the strength of the characters. Etienne is clearly distressed by the cursed condition and is driven to vengeance while Isabeau holds out hope. Mouse deftly inflames their love even more. Something about the curse itself seems simultaneously sad and awesome. If only they could morph into those animals at will rather than having it tear their love apart.

Seriously, this movie was amazing. I immediately purchased it (having gotten it from the library).

The Good

+Interesting main plot with just enough feeling of a “fairy tale”
+Great characters that are each well-acted
+Absolutely stunning cinematography
+Genuine humor that never takes away from the movie
+Fantastic dialogue

The Bad

-80s Synth Rock doesn’t quite seem to fit the tone of the film

The Verdict

Grade: A “A super epic fantasy movie that just blew me away. ‘Ladyhawke’ is AWESOME.”

Guest Grade (Wife): A “It was absolutely delightful all around.”

Conclusion

“Ladyhawke” is a tremendous film.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Willow”

willow

They don’t make movie posters as epic as they used to. This is SWEET!

I embarked on a quest to watch through Tor’s list of 80s Fantasy. I haven’t seen many of those flicks, so I figured I’d watch through. Here, I review “Willow,” another one that I had never seen before. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

“Willow” is the story of a prophecy- one that says that a dark Queen–Bavmorda–will be overthrown by a child. Naturally, the Queen decides to check for all the children to see if they might be the prophesied one, but also naturally, that one is born and many people manage to work together to smuggle her away. Then, she ends up with Willow, part of a Nelwyn–race of little people–community. After they decide to take the child elsewhere because she’s not their problem, Willow gets embroiled in an adventure to protect the child alongside Madmartigan, a great swordsman (and seeming ne’er-do-well). Along with some Brownies and other characters met along the way, they protect the babe and Willow–the aspiring Sorcerer–saves the day.

Wait, what? I thought the kid was supposed to defeat the Queen! Well never mind that. And really, never mind basically any attempt to be serious about anything in this movie. After an opening that seemingly promised epic adventure, we are delivered a kind of silly, whimsical journey of Willow’s own discovery of himself as a hero.

But you know what? You don’t care. The movie is just that fun. So many scenes stand out as just being uproariously ridiculous, like when Madmartigan and Willow go swooping through the snow, with Madmartigan ultimately getting turned into a solid block of snow. It’s silly, it involves sword fighting, and it’s amazing. Time and again the film delivers huge action scenes that are infused with all kinds of silliness, and as a viewer I really didn’t mind. It just works. Part of what makes it work is that a great decision was made to leave virtually no time for the viewer to sit back and reflect on the plot. It’s just action followed by more action followed by hilarity, all in a continuous cycle. Another part that makes it work is that it is so genuinely humorous. Only rarely do the attempts at humor fall flat.

What does’t work so well is finding the audience. It’s clearly aimed at kids–Lucas himself apparently said so–but there is some pretty creepy stuff like the dark magic or some weird transforming trolls that are super gross. Also, there were clearly some scenes in which you as a viewer are supposed to be taking the movie more seriously… but you just can’t because of the context of the whole movie. It at times wants to be an epic fantasy, but it has sold itself so much on the comedy side that it can’t rebrand itself enough to be taken as seriously as it would like.

What does work, though, is the underlying theme of the “little person” against the overall evil and injustice in the world. No that wasn’t supposed to be a pun! But it works! Anyway, it’s a good story of Willow finding in himself more than he thought was possible, and a story of how one person can change the world.

“Willow” is one part epic adventure, one part a journey of self-discovery, and two parts silly. Whether that is a good thing or not is up to you.

The Good

+Genuinely hilarious moments
+Virtually no downtime between action scenes
+Great opening scenes
+Fun characters

The Bad

-Takes itself far too seriously for its content
-Some scary scenes make it hard to figure out what audience the movie was made for
-Somewhat enigmatic resolution of the plot

The Verdict

Grade: B+ “Oscillating constantly between ridiculous and taking itself too seriously, ‘Willow’ is a treat.” 

Guest Score and comment: My wife gives the movie a B+ “‘Willow’ was a delightful if somewhat absurd fantasy story.”

Conclusion

Silly and fun, “Willow” is an enjoyable adventure.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Labyrinth”

labyrinth-posterI have embarked on a quest to watch a number of 80s Fantasy flicks and share my findings with you, dear readers. Today, we reflect on Labyrinth. This is one of the many on the list that I had not seen before, so I’m coming at it fresh.

The movie does many things right. The intro scene is just great, and the premise is a perfect set up for a childhood classic. It just feels like a perfect movie for kids to watch with the setup of Sarah having to watch the “annoying” younger child, Toby, along with her drifting into fantasyland, and more. It’s got 80s movie written all over it, but in a good way. The premise with Sarah having to make her way through a labyrinth to get Toby back is fun. Plus, David Bowie is a pretty awesome Goblin King.

The sets were also pretty cool to see, and some of the costumes were really neat.

Let’s just get this out of the way: you can’t unsee David Bowie’s pants. Every scene it’s like they decided to accentuate a certain masculine feature of the man by means of strangely fitting garments. One might even argue that his pants are the true antagonist of the movie. I’ll just leave it there.

There are also some really inexplicable scenes, like the one with the weird fire thingies that throw their heads back and forth. It’s just weird, extremely long, and obnoxious. Other scenes also seem to be really drawn out to the extent that the movie seems to absolutely crawl at times.

All that said, though, this is another 80s Fantasy Flick I wouldn’t mind seeing again. It has an undeniable charm and real sense of fun throughout that is absolutely necessary for a movie like this.

The Good

+Fun childhood fantasy story
+Intriguing premise
+David Bowie
+Good sets

The Bad

-Often feels bogged down
-Many weird scenes
-David Bowie’s pants

The Verdict

My Score: B- “It’s weird and it really drags at times but the sheer amount of charm the movie possesses makes it fun to watch.”

Guest Verdict: “It’s hard too go to far wrong with fun music and lovable puppets.”

Conclusion

“Labyrinth” is a fun movie I wouldn’t mind seeing again, particularly with the ability to skip through some of the unnecessary scenes.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.