Exploring Dark Fantasy [Classics Vol. 2]



Continuing the exploration of more dark fantasy stories we will now look into three interesting movies that have a significant impact on cinema:

Wings of Desire (1987)

If you are a regular visitor of this site you will probably read about this film before on 5 Interesting Foreign Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films Vol.1. For those who are new to this film. Let’s see what it’s about. Released in 1987 “Wings of Desire” is considered one of the best films from the 1980s and cinematically and historically important to understand how radically Berlin has changed since the 1980s. The film shows places in Berlin that have since been destroyed or changed, including the famous Wall, a Bridge, and Potsdamer Platz. The film tells the story of invisible immortal angels who watch over Berlin. They listen to the thoughts of humans and comfort those in distress. One of the angels chooses to become mortal to experience what it means to be human.

The film was inspired by the art of that time visible around West Berlin which included statues and other pieces of art inspired by angels. The importance of preserving history in libraries and the German reunification are two important themes in the film. Years later both themes became extremely important as the film is among a few who shows footage of the old Berlin pre-reunification. The film was a call for German reunification, which eventually happened in 1990.

Directed by Wim Wenders the film was a financial success and was well received by critics. It became the most acclaimed movie of 1987. The film won for Best Director at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival and the European Film Awards. The film’s success paved the way for the sequel “Faraway, So Close! That was released in 1993 which explores Berlin post-reunification. In 1990 an Indian version was released titled “ Njan Gandharvan”. In 1998 a U.S version was released titled “City of Angels”. The legacy of the movie continues with a building designed by Jean Nouvel that features a design of an angel from the film observing the people of the Smíchov district in Prague.

Willow (1988)

Before “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” there was “Willow”. An American film directed by Ron Howard, Willow tells the story of an apprehensive farmer, Willow Ufgood, who plays a critical role in protecting a special baby girl, Elora, from the evil queen Bavmorda. I know this is a very well known film and you are probably wondering why it’s on this list. Let’s start with Willow’s journey. After leaving his home he is confronted with the realities of the world that he doesn’t agree with. Metaphorically it’s the little guy against the system. It is very difficult for him to find justice and his road is full of obstacles to overcome. The road of the little guy representing certain societies, minorities and even yourself is not easy to walk on. Is that fair when the road for others is an easy one?

The film was released at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival. The film did ok at the box office and received two Academy Awards nominations for Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects. The film’s visual effects influenced what we now know as CGI. At that time to create the transformation sequence the visual effects team, Lucan Film Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), could either use stop-motion or optical effects but they consider both to be too challenging to work with. So they decided to create a digital morphing technology.

The technology developed for the sequence was later used in other films like “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989), “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (1991) and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991). The film’s legacy remains alive with board games, video games, novels and a cult following. There were rumors for a possible sequel but until now, thirty years later, it still remains a rumor but seeing how technology has evolved one can only wonder how such a film will look like today.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

A film noir that combines animated characters with live action characters. How does that sound? Imagine a world where you could co-exist with the cartoon characters you know. Now you are probably wondering: It’s a cartoon, it should be alright. Right?

Well, this one has themes that include murder, greed, sex (to be fair more like sexual references), and genocide. It was made in such a clever way that kids of that time wouldn’t catch the adult references in the story. Today that’s another story. Believe me, I know. The film is based on the 1981 novel “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?” by Gary K. Wolf.

The story takes place in Hollywood during the late 1940’s, specifically in Toon Town, where toons, animated characters, and people co-exist. A private detective, Eddie Valiant, receives the challenging job to find proof that could exonerate toon Roger Rabbit who is accused of murdering a wealthy businessman. The challenge for him is that he hates toons and now has to help one.

All animation was done using cels and optical compositing. The animators used black and white printouts of the live action scenes, and the placed their animation paper on top to draw the animated characters. After the initial animation was completed, it underwent the normal process of traditional animation until the cels were shot on the rostrum camera with no background. Then the footage was sent to ILM for compositing to make the cartoon characters look three dimensional. It suddenly became too technical. Right? I know but it is just fascinating to know how the process was done. Even though it is not the first time that cartoon and live action combined, it is the first time it looks so real. One peculiar thing in the movie is the first official appearance of Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Warner Bros’ Bugs Bunny sharing a scene together.

Now let’s analyze the story a bit. Let’s start at the beginning with Eddie’s hatred of Toons because a Toon caused the death of his brother. Because of the actions of one character, the whole group is condemned. Sound familiar right? This behavior is very prominent in today’s society. When was this movie made again?

Roger’s wife works at a venue where toons can perform but only humans are allowed to see the show. That’s messed up. Rogers’s wife is portrayed as a femme fatale who doesn’t care for anything other than herself but that is not how she is. She is judged by her appearance when in fact she is smart, capable and likes humor, one of the reasons she married Roger. This resonated today in this digital era where people judge each other by how they look in their photos.

One peculiar thing is that nobody is questioning Judge Doom’s methods to handle Toons that misbehaved. There is no mention of Toon rights or Toon justice. It seems as if people are ok with it or choose to stay uninformed.

Now let’s talk about the physical and psychological abuse that the toons endure when they are working in Toon Town. At one point Roger can’t even react to save his own life as if he was brainwashed.

The film was critically well received and was a financial success. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards and won three for Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Film Editing. Richard Williams, the director of animation, received a Special Achievement Award for animation direction and the creation of cartoon characters. In addition, the film was nominated and won many other awards. The success of the film restored the interest in the Golden Age of American animation. The film was selected in 2016 for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being cultural, historically or aesthetically significant.

Which one is your favorite? Or maybe yours is not included on the list? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

, 2. Fantasy, A. Movie Recommendations
Hi There! I am Dira. A Sci-Fi Fan who wishes to share the love for Sci-Fi. Whether you know about Sci-Fi or not, on SFM&TV you will find interesting material to explore. I'll be happy to share with you what I know and to learn from you as well.

10 thoughts on “Exploring Dark Fantasy [Classics Vol. 2]

  1. These bring back some old memories! I have watched Willow so many times. I agree with you: its a fantasy classic. And in my opinion, the story should stay as it is. I’m not carving for a sequel but I would love to see new adventures of the descendants of the old characters if that makes sense.
    Roger Rabbit is still on my playlist after 30 years. There is something about that movie that remains relevant and yes, it is probably the points that you mention about the many themes the story touches.

    1. Hi Jane,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
      I am on the same boat as you about Roger Rabbit. Still watching it 🙂

  2. OMG- Willow is a favorite in our house. We watch it every couple of months! More than that, anytime someone new comes along, we have to educate them on it. The message that the movie conveys is so powerful. You mentioned The Hobbit, and Willow so conveys the same theme as the book (even the smallest person can change the future). Great post.

    1. Hi Chris,

      I have noticed that the fandom of Willow is greater than I thought. And you are right, in essence, both movies have similar messages.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and hope to see you around 🙂

  3. Definitely Classics! Who framed Roger Rabbit is a favorite at home. There is something about old movies that makes them interesting. Don’t you think so?

  4. I remember Willow from way way back. Its been a while since I saw that film. On the other hand I lost count of how many times I’ve watched “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. I remember the first time I watched it as a kid and as I grow older I understood the dark humor and adult references better.

    1. Hi Jane,

      I think many other people are on the same boat as you.
      Roger Rabbit is very popular as far as I know.
      Thanks a lot for coming back and commenting 🙂

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