I watched Stardust this weekend, an excellent fantasy tale of love and adventure peppered with action and magic. It got me thinking, how come we don't see such films these days? Stardust came out in 2007 and I remember watching it at a time when magic and fantasy were hot commodities. The Bridge to Terrabithia and The Spiderwick Chronicles are a few examples of fantasy films that came out at around the same time as Stardust. At one point it seemed that almost everyone was trying to capture some of the success of the Harry Potter and Lord of The Rings franchises with attempts at Eragon and Percy Jackson adaptions but that trend is almost entirely fizzled out now. I keep a record of every film I watch in the cinema, and looking back over the last two years I noticed that the only truly big fantasy films I've seen were the Hobbit movies. Lets take a look at why this could be:
Change in audience preferences
While at one point, magic/fantasy was a huge draw and arguably the dominative genre in the industry, it seems that said position has now passed on to Superhero/Comic-book films. They are simply what's "in" right now and what everyone loves. The lure of magic, fantasy and other worlds simply isn't as strong as it once was. Many argue that the film industry undergoes a lot of trends and phases and while right now we're in the superhero blockbuster phase, that will eventually fade too, as the audience tires and makers run out of ways to keep things fresh. Despite being critical successes and having praise showered on them, Stardust, The Bridge to Terabithia and The Spiderwick Chronicles all failed to crack $100 million at the domestic box office and were financial disappointments.
Slips in Quality
Outside the Harry Potter and Lord of the Ring's franchises, no fantasy films in recent years were met with universal acclaim and appreciation. Sure, The Hobbit films cumulatively racked up almost $3 billion in box office but that's still less than what the Lord of the Rings trilogy managed more than a decade ago with no 3D and smaller foreign markets. While the Narnia films were impressive at the Box Office, they didn't garner much goodwill with critics or audiences and the box office returns eventually declined which is why we haven't seen another sequel since 2010's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. While the first Percy Jackson was met with a mixed to positive response, the second one was greeted with negativity and thus there still remains a cloud of doubt over whether or not we'll see a third. Eragon, a franchise with huge readership and potential to be the next big thing, had a movie adaptation that was not a hit with audiences (to say the least) and the backlash ensured that Eldest, the second part never found its way to the big screen. The ratio of successes to failures in the genre has definitely made studios less inclined to take risks on these movies. Inkheart and The Golden Compass are other examples that didn't do justice to their source material and were both critical and commercial disappointments. The list goes on and on.
The biggest fantasy franchise currently in existence lives on the small screen. Game of Thrones as a television show has ascended to becoming a pop culture phenomenon. It also started in the year that Harry Potter ended. Could it be possible that people are just content with getting their fantasy fix in the comfort of their homes? Once Upon a Time is another magic-oriented show that's done increasingly well and will go into its fifth season.
Since we bid farewell to Harry in 2011, The Hobbit films have arguably been single-handedly keeping the magic alive. Now with those wrapped up too, who do we count on? The answer is of course, next year's much awaited Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This movie is incredibly important since its success in a time dominated by superheroes could reinvigorate interest in fantasy. However, its failure could potentially be the metaphorical final nail in the coffin for the beleaguered fantasy genre. However, with J.K Rowling herself on writing duties, David Yates coming back to direct and academy award winner Eddie Redmayne starring - I'm not afraid to be optimistic and hope for the best!
What do you think? Is magic and fantasy really not as relevant as it used to be or am I missing something here? Sound off in the comments below!