Fantasy is Dead

Yesterday I went and saw the latest, and final, movie in the Harry Potter saga — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. I’ve been looking forward to it, even though I knew it was a bittersweet affair. The finale, according to my wife (who actually read the books), was going to be huge! Does Harry defeat Voldemort? Do Ron and Hermoine finally hook up? So many questions waiting to be answered! Yet, once it was over…it would be over.

On our way to the theater, I said to my wife, “Do you think it’s a coincidence that the final Harry Potter movie came out during the final space shuttle flight?” Of course, she did not see the connection. However, to me the connection, whether purposeful or not, is there. Fantasy is dead.

I’ve been noticing a downward trend in movie making the last several years. All the really “good” movies have been remakes. The movie houses seem to be more concerned about cashing in on sequel after sequel, each worse than the last. It is becoming increasingly rare for there to be a movie that is truly unique. That offers audiences something new. That lives up to the hype.

At the same time, we seem to be willing to bid farewell to our place in the space race. China, India and Russia have all expressed interest in putting a man on the moon in the next few decades. And we are turning our backs on it. When Atlantis returns to terra firma later this week our ability to send men beyond our atmosphere will be gone. With only a sketchy and virtually unfunded idea for a follow-on program, the United States’ position as the leader in space exploration will be in jeopardy. And with it the hopes and dreams of this generation.

How many of us, regardless of generation, fantasized about going into space? Whether you were born during Mercury, Apollo or the ISS era, that fantasy has been there. And it’s always been a real fantasy, regardless of reality.

And that’s what fantasy is, really. It’s dreaming. It’s thinking of other times, places, or possibilities. Witches and wizards aren’t real, but they have been a part of our cultural lore for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Space travel used to be just a fantasy. Heck, even just flying like a bird was just a fantasy at one point and now it’s fairly commonplace. Fantasy, it can be argued, leads to innovation. And even the unreal world of Harry Potter helps to hone our fantasy muscles. It helps build the imagination. And that can springboard into pushing real boundaries.

What do you think? Do you think we are entering a new dark age? One where humankind has lost it’s ability or drive to dream? Are we more interested in just entertainment, and not forcing ourselves to think…to dream…to attempt the impossible?

  • Profound observations there "Neerd. (shakes head)

    I'm gonna just go sit on the couch and drown my sorrows in Otter-Pops for the rest of the week.

    • chrystlubitshi

      i agree; profound observations

      –also, thanks for reminding me about the large box of "flavor-ice" in my basement freezer

  • Maymar

    I might be making myself "That Guy," but Inception makes for a decent case of fantasy not being dead – it was hugely successful, pretty fantastical, and not a blatant remake/sequel.

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      Yup that and Wall-E too. Dearthair makes a good argument, at least one I hope is true.

      • Maymar

        Hell, I'd throw a lot of the Pixar movies in there.

    • skitter

      I expected nothing from Inception, and it blew me away.
      A masterpiece.

      • TechieInHell

        Hear, hear! Inception is definitely one of my all time favourite movies. Something finally bumped Sneakers out of the top spot.

  • Deartháir

    Personally, I suspect there's a spiral effect forming. An absence of creativity led to a bunch of movies that were either remakes or just reworkings of existing stories; the public liked a lot of them, and started to search for more of them. At the same time, new, original movies were seen as a "gamble", and so studios weren't willing to sink as much money into them. As such, they usually sucked. The public, then, became wary of movies they knew nothing about, not wanting to spend the mortgage payment on a night at the theatres without knowing what it's about. Studios saw this, and new, original films became more of a "gamble", and they started to re-hash more recycled content. People got used to it, and ignored more of the original content.

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    • OA5599

      The marketplace for films has changed. In the 70's, when Jaws caused the term "blockbuster" to become attached to mega-successful films and Star Wars had unprecedented box office and licensing revenue, movie theaters usually had one or two screens, and the film would play in first run for months.

      Now you get 30 screen megaplexes playing a dozen films for a few weeks to the crowds (or empty stadium-style seats), and three months later the home video comes out. A new, original movie will get lost in that environment. I think many of the original stories are instead being produced for other venues like HBO. The producers might miss out on the chance at upside from a monster hit, but they'll pretty much know all the financial details beefore the cameras roll instead of risking their careers and fortunes on the whims of herd mentality.

      • P161911

        Also in the 1970s you had your shot at a movie theater, then/or maybe get it picked up by one of the THREE TV networks for a couple of showings (if it could be edited down to family friendly), then maybe get it played on the Late Late Show by local TV stations. If you didn't make it in those three venues, tough luck.

        Now you have dozen plus screen theaters, home video, (legal) streaming video, and dozens of cable networks.

        • OA5599

          Audiences have changed, too. In the pre-television days, people used to dress up to see a movie. It was a social event.

          Today, movies still our social events, if you define "social" as chatting with your friends, using your phone (calls and text messages), and walking in and out of theatres because the movie for which you actually bought a ticket ended three hours ago. I lost count of the number of crying babies when I saw Cars2, and not one of their parents thought to remove the infant to a less disruptive spot.

          It seems like the only films worth watching at the cinema today are ones action-packed enough to drown out whatever activities are taking place three rows in front of you.

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          • P161911

            The action packed movies that you described are the only ones worth seeing on the "big screen" to me. The moive needs to justify the ginormous screen and sound system. I'm just as happy seeing a comedy or thriller/drama on the TV at home a few months after it comes out. The only reason I would see something like that in a theater is social, ie the wife wants to see it too.

            Another big reason people went to the movies in pre-television days was to get out of the heat and go somewhere air conditioned. Don't forget newsreels too.

    • skitter

      I found some great data when I did a paper on that for a film class. Apparently, in the past decade, only 22 percent of the films released have turned a profit. 35 percent of these pictures, or a mere 6.3 percent of the hundreds released each year, account for 80 percent of profits. Painting a similar picture to that of profitable movies, 39 percent of movies released account for 80 of studio losses.

      De Vany, Arthur. Hollywood Economics: How Extreme Uncertainty Shapes the Film Industry. New York, NY: Routledge, 2004. 215

    • I think you may be moonlighting as a Hollywood insider.

  • dmilligan

    As far as science and innovation go, and this includes our space program of course, America seems to be entering a dark age. Our government is turning into an oligarchy (if it isn't already) that wants the peasant classes (you and me) to be less informed and educated, and therefor more easily led. Look at some of the polls on how many Americans believe in evolution, and then what people in other industrialized nations believe:

    And that's just an example. Our governments continue to cut money from education budgets, college fees get higher and higher, and fewer people can get a proper education. That's not the formula for success for a country that wants to innovate in science and technology, much less lead the world in those fields.

    • Plus 1 trillion

      Those in power must love mainstream America's obsession with celebrities (and "celebrities") and the umpteen thousand reality (pffft) TV shows floating over the airwaves and along the wires.

      If there weren't so many more people checking TMZ every morning than there are CNN, BBC or whoever your favorite news outlet might be, the Man wouldn't be able to get away with murder (at least the figurative variety) the way he is now. And unless an overwhelming majority of the Mildred Montags of the world snap out of their trances soon, our civilization will keep growing poorer (in more ways than one).

      *Steps off soapbox*
      *Goes to kitchen for a drink*

  • aastrovan

    Intelligent post and intelligent comments.