Are The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit the best high fantasy movies ever?

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Post by Radaghast on Wed Sep 24, 2014 9:39 pm

This is the question Peter Jackson from Kochi, India asks on Quora.com.

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Post by Ringdrotten on Wed Sep 24, 2014 10:04 pm

That's not a valid question, because it's states that The Hobbit (the movie) is high fantasy, and all it can ever get credit for being is high garbage. As to LotR, I don't know if those films are high fantasy or not, but they are certainly three of my all-time favourite films. So yes/maybe and no? Smile

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Post by Eldorion on Thu Sep 25, 2014 2:39 am

The Hobbit ... absolutely not, why would you even suggest that.

The Lord of the Rings ... of course, how could you possibly think otherwise? Smile LOTR wrote the book on high fantasy, and when it comes to the world of cinema, there's hardly any competition.  Someone in that thread mentioned Conan the Barbarian, but I don't consider that to be high fantasy.  Granted, fantasy subgenres are notorious for no one ever agreeing on how to define them, but Conan (and Robert E. Howard in general) is generally considered to be the defining example of heroic fantasy, not high.  The majority of other fantasy films that come up in discussions of "best fantasy movie" are either not really fantasy (for example, It's a Wonderful Life) or they're more fairy tale than anything else (Stardust and The Princess Bride both come to mind).  The only real competition LOTR could face comes from Harry Potter or, if you're high, the Narnia films, but I don't think either suggestion merits a response unless someone on here really wants to argue for them.

(This assumes that you don't consider Star Wars to be fantasy, because if you do, it fits neatly into the high fantasy subgenre.)
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Post by bungobaggins on Thu Sep 25, 2014 2:57 am

LOTR the book is High Fantasy. I would classify the films as Pop Fantasy.

They were an enormous factor in bringing more fantasy films to the mainstream in the 21st century. Had they better represented their source material, I would consider them to be High Fantasy movies. But the emphasis is placed on the action set piece and the roller-coaster ride aspect, which is more of a blockbuster/mainstream/popular approach.

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Post by Eldorion on Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:01 am

Well here we get into the aforementioned mire of conflicting definitions.

Personally, I think the films meet the criteria most often associated with the genre(s) of high and/or epic fantasy.  They are set in a secondary world, they feature extensive worldbuilding (yes, really, they do), they deal with epic (large-scale) stakes, and have the scope of both setting and character to support a story of that magnitude.  They are undoubtedly also "pop" in their cultural orientation, at least when compared to the books, but I think they should count nonetheless.

You raise a good point about the films being much more action-oriented, but I think that is to some extent inevitable with the condensation to film form.  There are far fewer quiet moments in the film than in the book -- and certainly fewer than could have been possible if the filmmakers had had different priorities -- but the films take their time by (mainstream) movie standards.
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Post by halfwise on Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:15 am

There seems to be dramatic disagreement about the meaning of high fantasy.  Poking around, some people (wikipedia) classifies high fantasy as being defined by the wholesale creation of a secondary world.  Others (nearly everyone who doesn't write in wikipedia) classify high fantasy by noble themes versus the personal experience of low fantasy (Lord of the Rings versus Conan the Barbarian).

By the second definition, I wonder if the Hobbit as a book could be considered high fantasy.  It has glimpses of noble themes, but is largely a personal journey.

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Post by Eldorion on Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:19 am

I've read a fair number of competing definitions, and the best conclusion I could come to is that none of them are widely-accepted (though I think the "it has to be good vs evil" one is particularly stupid), which is why I try to boil down high/epic fantasy to just a couple of core elements.  The terms are usually used to mean "stuff like LOTR and maybe also Narnia".  I think that needs to be the starting point for any definition that is going to be similar to what most people mean when they use the terms.

Many people classify "epic fantasy" as different from high fantasy, but these are often the people who have like 20 different subgenres of fantasy on their list, most of which could overlap with any of the others. With this many terms floating around, I find it useful the sort the proposed subgenres by whether they refer to the setting or the story. For example, some people use "high fantasy" to mean good vs evil stories, but others use it to mean stories that take place in a secondary world which is separate and distinct from our real one. Some people use "urban fantasy" to mean stories set in cities, while others use it to mean stories set in the modern world (and yet other people use "contemporary fantasy" for that second definition).
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Post by bungobaggins on Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:28 am

The problem here is that we won't be able to answer the question, because we won't be able to settle on a definition. Smile Razz

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Post by Eldorion on Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:41 am

True enough. Laughing But really, what other candidates are there?  I can think of several similar fantasy movies (exact definitions aside), but none that make a very convincing case for greatness.
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Post by Radaghast on Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:36 am

Yeah, kind of stupid post on my part Laughing

My vote goes to Pinocchio, though.

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Post by Eldorion on Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:38 am

I'm actually glad you asked it, because this kind of arbitrary ranking and definition is the sort of thing that I love to do in my free time. I've actually thought about this exact question at several points in the past. Razz
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Post by bungobaggins on Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:44 am

Radaghast wrote:

My vote goes to Pinocchio, though.

I love you


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Post by Radaghast on Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:51 am

Cool

There are also a couple of Miyazaki films I'd mention: Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle.

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Post by Eldorion on Thu Sep 25, 2014 5:05 am

I don't really see how any of those count as high fantasy, even taking into consideration the definitional mushiness already discussed. scratch Fantasy in general, sure (and they're good picks!), but when I think of high fantasy, I'm imaging more quests and wars and political turmoil and the like.

Speaking of Miyazaki though, Princess Mononoke would seem to fit the bill, and might actually eclipse LOTR for me depending on my mood.
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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu Sep 25, 2014 9:29 am

Fire and Ice? That count?  I like this still, although admittedly it was the animation which originally drew me to it, with Bakshi's rotoscoping finally paying off. But I also love the Star Wars style assault on the Ice Palace on dragons at the end (love the music for that bit too, ad the 'whoomp' noise the dragons make going by the camera- its at 1.06.10 for the start of that bit).


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Post by Mrs Figg on Thu Sep 25, 2014 2:06 pm

I would say LOTR and Game of Thrones are High Fantasy, as is Excalibur the film. I would say that my personal definition of HF is based on chivalric codes mixed in with faerie eg Elves and fantasic beasts like Dragons etc and concerned with epic battles vaguely medieval in style.
The Hobbit book could be HF in that it has an epic battle and a Dragon, and it concerns ME, but its far more whimsical and intimate than classical HF. I think it was a huge mistake of Jackson to try to force a HF movie out of it though.

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Post by halfwise on Thu Sep 25, 2014 2:54 pm

How about this: if Odo would approve of it, it's high fantasy?

Cuts through the crap, but only works in Forumshire.

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Post by Bluebottle on Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:13 pm

I'd say it's a very good question, Radaghast. As it not only has you contemplating the obvious, as in the quality of the Middle Earth movies, but the whole genre and wether there actually is any comparable works that could function as competition. Which leads you to contemplate the whole nature of what High Fantasy is, both generally and in movies in particular.

A most worthwhile post, I'd say. Nod In that it makes you think.

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Post by Bluebottle on Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:27 pm

The thing about definitions is that you pretty much just have to choose one, wether by making a new one or picking an existing one. And, of course, all your deliberations will be coloured by the limitations of the definition, but there really is no other way forward.

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Post by halfwise on Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:42 pm

Define "forward".

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Post by Bluebottle on Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:48 pm

"Not backwards"?

Because even when you're moving to the side you're moving to somewhere new. Shrugging

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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu Sep 25, 2014 5:01 pm

I often move to the side, then to the other side, then I fall over drunken

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Post by bungobaggins on Thu Sep 25, 2014 5:18 pm

I think that maybe the LOTR movies are the closest we've come to seeing High Fantasy in a movie.

Hobbit movies are pure kitsch.

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Post by Radaghast on Thu Sep 25, 2014 5:21 pm

Bluebottle wrote:I'd say it's a very good question, Radaghast. As it not only has you contemplating the obvious, as in the quality of the Middle Earth movies, but the whole genre and wether there actually is any comparable works that could function as competition. Which leads you to contemplate the whole nature of what High Fantasy is, both generally and in movies in particular.

A most worthwhile post, I'd say. Nod In that it makes you think.
Thanks, BB, though all credit is due to "Peter Jackson" from Kochi, India Laughing

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Post by bungobaggins on Thu Sep 25, 2014 5:23 pm

Radaghast wrote:
Thanks, BB, though all credit is due to "Peter Jackson" from Kochi, India Laughing

I'm just picturing PJ sitting in the editing room trying to feel better about the mess he made, so he goes online fishing for compliments. And then he's like "Oh, I can't say I'm from New Zealand cuz then they'll all know." Laughing

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