Not too long ago (only about 30-odd years), it looked like the epic would be replaced in Hollywood by fantasy pictures. It wasn’t just Conan the Barbarian that we were seeing, but also stuff like The Beastmaster, Krull and The Sword and the Sorceror. The genre was going to conquer the world.
OK, what happened?
I guess a good fantasy film is really, REALLY hard to find. Especially nowadays … as the generally awful 2011 remake of Conan suggests. Have we grown up and/or out of this genre? Are we gravitating toward sci-fi more than fantasy?
Or are we putting them together, with hybrid works such as Avatar?
I’d like to think the standard sword-and-sorcery flick isn’t dead. It’s kind of a fun breed, despite a portfolio lacking in, well, high quality … something we can’t say about science fiction. To tell you the truth, I miss those silly old ’80s adventures. We don’t get so many of them today.
And it’s not as if there isn’t enough literature to support them.
I’m not saying we need something scriptless, with just a muscle-bound hero slicing his way through the reels. But I do think we could use something that brings back that 30-year-old spirit, the energetic aura that infused so many of those violent, magic-filled pictures. We could still use a dose of that, no? Or are we too old and wise to enjoy it?
Speaking for myself, old I may be. But too wise? Nah.
Could the greatest invention in the history of film be the subtitle?
I’m only kind of kidding. Where would we be without this wondrous tool, which has allowed those of us (including me) lacking fluency in various languages to enjoy works by Bergman, Kurosawa, Eisenstein, et al., without the burden of dubbing?
But that’s not its only benefit. Remember the time—not so long ago—when it seemed like all of the characters in movies set in countries outside the U.S. spoke accented English? Sometimes it appeared as if the accents didn’t need to be authentic … just unplaceably exotic.
We’ve evolved greatly since then, with subtitles informing a host of popular films—including those taking place in galaxies far, far away. That’s a positive step, though it doesn’t negate the continued bizarreness of time passing long enough in just a few scenes for any given protagonist to learn a native tongue quicker than a linguist devours alphabets.
I guess we’ll still have to take some things for granted. The language of the cinema almost makes me expect time to pass with a wipe in real life … or maybe with an iris. That it doesn’t isn’t disappointing; I just chalk it up to movie magic. Like I do the great subtitle—the silver screen’s own Babel fish—which has translated innumerable tongues for us, and in doing so, has improved the world. The folks behind this sadly unheralded art should be thanked.
We’d all be listening to forced, ambiguous accents without them.