There appears to be a growing trend in fantasy in the world of film and television, with producers finally realising that such ideas need not be confined to the images of childhood. Long gone are the shoddy sets and ludicrous outfits that once populated these genre films (a loss to all those who like their warrior women clad in nothing but an unpractical armoured bikini). The sfx. which were advanced in the LOTR trilogy and the healthy profits these films generated has managed to promote the adult fantasy film and allow writers and directors to concentrate on weaving tales that satisfy a grown-up audience without pandering to simplistic 'moral hero' stories.
A case in point is 'Pan's Labyrinth', a tale of childhood, but one very much overshadowed by the barbarity and horror of an adult world. The film is able to discuss war, torture, infanticide, assisted suicide, power, corruption and ideologies left to fester, amongst other things. All of this is set against a classic quest fairytale that is brought to life through prosthetics and careful film making. On television the BBC's Torchwood (primarily sci-fi but one episode contained fairies), regularly touches upon sex both gay and hetero and the manipulation of such adult themes plus it includes an openly bi-sexual man as the main character.
I've always been attracted to and enjoyed fantasy/mythic stories set in the 'real' world (Neverwhere, Constantine etc). By doing so authors have to deal with realities of modern life which makes the magical elements of these stories appear more...well, magical. In my own writings I have (so far) wanted to look at the issues which affect us today, whether these are social or political, but place them within a mythic framework. The written word has always done this with fantasy novels as more often than not they are aimed at a well read audience, but these ideas are (normally) pared back for any filmic interpretation.
With the release next year of Gaiman's 'Stardust' let us hope this theme continues and that the thirst for intelligent yet thrilling fantasy work keeps coming.
Read this week: Scar Night by Alan Campbell.