Tag Archives: George Lucas

Review: Strange Magic

Random clicking on YouTube unfortunately caught my attention with a female fairy singing Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” which led to much more clicking to figure out what where she was from, and then… I found myself watching a George Lucas film. Why do I do this to myself? Anywho…

Strange Magic tells the story of two kingdoms: the Fairy Kingdom and the Dark Forest. The border is marked by primroses, which are the key ingredient in love potions. However, they don’t exactly have much to do with each other after the main creator of those potions gets captured and locked away. But that’s going to change as the two fairy princesses and the goblin king get caught up in a tangle that only true love can undo.

…I’m not touching any of that to start with. I’m focusing on the good first here. The animation is pretty, if sometimes a little awkward. I think it comes down to character design when things get odd to look at. The quality is top notch, it’s just certain angles and character expressions. But then you will catch a second where it is just gorgeous to look at. I also applaud that the primroses…actually look like primroses. I’ve had to whack a few people who think a primrose looks the same as your stereotypical rose. And even if they don’t necessarily make sense, I think the two different environments are both gorgeous to look at, if for completely different reasons.

Also on my good list are the musical numbers. I am a sucker for music in films, and I find the way it was used in Strange Magic perfect. It’s a lot like films such as Happy Feet, where it is acknowledged that yes, this character is currently belting out a rock ballad, go with it. (Or in Bog King’s case, complain about it.) They picked some great ones for each situation, though I couldn’t decide if casting was done before they decided to include music, or if they just didn’t care about the quality of the singers attached. I think some of them were fine, others just obviously struggled. But there were also some hard songs in there, so I think even trained singers could have had issues with them.

Okay, now for my issues. The characters are sort of fleshed out, sort of…not. I mean, I love Marianne, and I love the idea of her and Bog… I’m not really feeling how it went down in the movie itself because world wise, it doesn’t look like the two species can work together…or does it? (More on this in the next paragraph.)  I feel like we were supposed to like the fairy king, but honestly I think I ended the movie hating him more than I hated Roland, who I know we were supposed to have strong, hateful feelings towards. Also, Sunny was a little creepy, not going to lie, in the same way that the fairy king was supposed to be this nice but not necessarily bright presence and instead there was a whole lot of passive-aggressive toxicity happening instead in what was supposed to be a girl-power type movie. Again though, I love Marianne, and Dawn at least stays true and consistent to her character until the shoe-horned ending.

Ugh, the world building confused me. I wasn’t sure what was going on with all of the other races, and if everything was supposed to be capable of being inter-species or not. Because if not, we’re going to have serious problems due to this whole need for a thing called heirs. But if so, why the big deal about the princesses ending up with non-fairies? Why are only fairies the options at the ball where Dawn is allowed to dance and whatnot? I don’t get it, and because it’s Lucas, I probably never will. Also, the Dark Forest and the Fairy Kingdom were really walking stereotype cliches and that was just painful. And made no sense as to why they were divided like that, or why there was THUNDER in the forest, but it was sunny in the fields of the fairy kingdom.

Oh, and more world building questions. Why does Sugar Plum Fairy look different from all the other fairies? Why do  primroses only grow at the border, that is a very silly rule for a plant that will grow EVERYWHERE,  speaking from personal experience. Why is the BOG King king of the Dark FOREST? Bogs and forests are not the same thing! Why do some of the goblins like Dawn’s singing but others hate it? How sexists are the fairies that Marianne is considered different/unique and yet why does Bog suddenly find her attractive when really, the differences between her and Dawn are REALLY minor as far as he would have been able to notice in the short time he’s known them? Why do all the men folk with fighting skills seem to live in their armor?

(And a stupid nitpick, why does everyone complain about Marianne’s hair being a mess when Dawn’s is soooo much worse?)

Overall, eh. This is a film that was better in clips than it was once all strung together. I’d love to rewrite it and actually fix some of the mess, but that’s going to be a lot of work and probably not something I am going to invest the time in without the promise of a return. So definitely look up the different musical bits, you’ll get the idea of the story from there without having to cringe through some of the sexist and baffling parts.

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Review: Willow

…I wish I was reviewing something cool titled this. (I can think of a couple things that share this travesty’s title.) Instead, I have to delve into George Lucas’s insanity. Super. /sarcasm

Okay, so what exactly is this 80’s wonder movie about? A special baby is born, destined to bring about the end of a cruel queen’s reign. Obviously, the queen doesn’t want this to happen, so she sets out to kill the baby. A few shenanigans later, and she is put in the care of a humble farmer named Willow who has aspirations of being a great sorcerer…just struggles with the execution. He has to deal with a bumbling “great” swordsman, a warrior daughter of the queen, and a great sorceress who has been turned into an animal…which one tends to change throughout the film. They have to bring an end to this queen (despite it being the prophecy that the baby is supposed to do this), and… I don’t know. Live happily ever after?

Now, let’s get this out there. I have issues with George Lucas. I think he contradicts his own canon in everything he writes, which is one of my Cardinal Rules (Obey your own rules!), he tells stories about how things went in the story-planning process (or at least that’s the impression I’m under, I could be wrong), and he basically has no idea how to tell these great premises that he comes up with. And there is almost always a lot of potential in everything he touches. But then he just…throws it at us in this big blob and expects us to do half the work for him.

Where does that leave us for the plot of this movie? Well, in a quagmire from minute one and it just sort of gets worse from there. Seriously, it takes forever to find out who exactly Elora is, what impact she is supposed to have on this world, or even how we know that she’s the right baby just by looking at her. Characters go unnamed far too long so you’re left going, “That guy,” or “that girl,” rather than getting attached to them as characters. It takes most of the movie to get any proof that the evil queen is the one actually doing these horrid things, rather than just characters saying so (and seeing as they flip flop so much on what they are going to do, reasonable doubt can be given until that point). Most of the movie is Willow running around with the baby strapped to his chest or in his arms. And a young Van Kilmer running around in drag, half-naked, or in armor.

That helped make up for the rest. A wee bit.

Speaking of characters… Sigh. Not only were there severe portrayal issues that I’m not sure how to even describe without offending some ethnic or socio group. Not only could they not make up their darn mind what culture they were drawing from, either for armor or for culture. Not only did none of the characters show enough depth for me to really get attached. The one character who I almost started going, “Okay, I can work with this, there is potential here…” She was also his primary female protagonist. So she had to be involved in some romance. And since Lucas can’t write romance, he instead settles for ruining this strong, powerful character because she “falls in love” with Van Kilmer’s character and not only becomes an idiot, she becomes incompetent after a few lines of trite poetry. Just gag me. I like sap as much as the next person, if not actually more so, but it needs to make sense or at least have some build-up to it!

You may notice I’m not saying any of the character’s names. That’s because I have no idea how to spell them. I can guess. But this is what happens when you go with overly complicated fantasy names. People aren’t certain of the spellings, or in case of books, pronunciations.

The world was equally confusing. Again, no real cultural basis. Lucas did what Lucas always does and has to put “his” stamp on every single thing. So the humans aren’t humans, they are some clanky word. The magic chants are long, equally clanky, and even the characters couldn’t keep them straight. And while yes, I respect the facts of the technological limitations of the 80’s… The trolls were just sad. I got extremely grossed out by the way the magic transformations were done, since they were done just to be grotesquely as possible. I got frustrated with the swordsman juggling of his sword, trying to be fancy and show off that he was as great as he said. Every time he did it, I went, “Aaaand, you’re dead.” Weapon work as a whole though was far more realistic than usual, though some of the rest was comedic as all get out. There, there’s a minor pro to it.

So overall, I cringed and snorted my way through it. But Ginny has promised that the three books that follow the movie are love (okay, not the first one, but the other two!), so those are next on the list.