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VINE VOICEon 29 September 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There are two sides to Katherine A Fowkes' The Fantasy Film. A chunk of the book is taken up by a very dry investigation into the genre itself, an attempt to understand it and a defence of it. Right from the off, Fowkes has to answer questions over the genre's very existence. Can a genre labelled 'fantasy' ever really exist? Plagued by hybrid classification, mainly with horror and science fiction, it's an awkward genre. All cinema that isn't based on true events is fantasy of some kind.

In its purest form a fantasy film is when the action on the screen is only taking place in the head of an individual or a collective. Dorothy doesn't really follow the yellow brick road, George Bailey doesn't really get led through an alternate reality by an angel. (And by the way, what a big head with an overinflated sense of self-importance George Bailey is.) Fowkes (and, in fairness, most right-thinking people) extend this basis to that which is impossible In The Real. The book offers a solid explanation but falls in danger of being too didactic and amorphous.

Then, just when the book threatens to become overbearing for all but the most hardcore of readers, it changes pace and offers ten case studies of films that go into detail about individual aspects of the genre. They are:

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Harvey (1950)
Always (1989)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Big (1988)
Shrek (2001)
Spider-Man (2002)
The Lord of the Rings (2001-3)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
Harry Potter I-VI (2001-2009)

How much you enjoy this book will largely depend on your appreciation of the above films. These chapters are prone to not only losing touch with the genre but the medium as a whole, as you may see from a number of them deriving from literature. The list appears to respect the laws of chronology with the exception of Big. I'm not entirely sure if there's a valid reason for this. Moreover, we're denied a hefty portion of cinematic history from 1950 to 1988. Fowkes' selection is overloaded with entries from the 21st century. The 1980s were huge on fantasy and the special effects of that era were a major player in the fantasy film's development. To be honest, I would have loved this book unconditionally if it had spent a chapter discussing The Neverending Story. At the other end of the scale, it's also a shame that this 2010 release doesn't get to discuss last year's Where The Wild Things Are at all and only mentions Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in passing as forthcoming.

I studied film during various semesters, so I approached this book as I would have back in the old university library: divulging the key points and unique angles and scanning for quotable material. Unfortunately, the most quotable lines I found were from those from others which Fowkes herself quotes in the book. This isn't to say her own ideas aren't fully formed or her writing is inadequate, far from it, it's just that finding anything that would allow me to add this to an essay bibliography was a bigger chore than I'd have cared for as a student. However, the research is of the standard that will have you seeking out the entries in the book's own extensive bibliography section.

The Fantasy Film serves as a good introduction, written with heart and soul, but by its own admission that it 'only skims the surface of a vast terrain', it doesn't make it into 'if you only ever read one book on fantasy film, make it this' territory.
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VINE VOICEon 5 September 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
All film is fantasy since it gives the illusion of reality though it is experienced, for the most part, on a two dimensional screen giving the illusion of a 3 dimensional world. It is a world that we instantly buy into from the first time the curtains draw back and the lights in the theatre dim. Indeed in our current troubled world it often happens that we invest more "reality" in that shadowed world than in the real one.

Katherine Fowkes new book takes us on a journey both fantastical and historical through some of her own favourite fantasy films, many of which have established the iconography of cinema itself. She generously apologises to the reader if she has left out a favourite film but had she satisfied everybody she would still be working on volume ninety-two!!

I browsed the book with great interest noting the films she has decided to analyse not only for their intrinsic pleasure but for the ongoing influence they have had particularly in the genre.

Her academic "ontological ruptures" were a great beginning; the way that should fantasy invade our own beings we are off on an adventure to Oz, Hogwarts, second star on the right etc We take as read the real world around us but don't we all long for mystery and the unexplained to lighten our lives?

The two chapters of the book that I concentrated on for this review were the ones that dealt with The Wizard of Oz, the great Grandmommy of them all and the Harry Potter sequence that has brought a whole new fan base to the fantasy film.

Before this book the only really serious treatise on the Wizard was Salman Rushdie's bfi booklet that spoke of the disorientation of the "stranger in a strange land" Fowkes discusses her "rupture" as Dorothy is literally ripped from her safe (but dull=monochrome) existence in Kansas to be transported over the rainbow to an hallucinogenic Technicolor dream of a world where anything and everything is possible. It is not difficult to see Wizards enduring charm and influence at any time of national depression.

In Harry Potter children meet adults in a series of very pleasurable cinematic experiences. Box office queues looked like those from the halcyon Star Wars days.
The phenomenon of HP has surely been written about elsewhere but only now is the true effect of the films being realised as the series is coming to its close. We all need a bit of magic and the HP films have it is spades, indeed it could be claimed that they have revitalised the industry and also send us back to our own early engagement with the magic of literature and the literature of magic.

This volume with its striking cover owing as much to the recent "Wicked" musical as to the original source of the wicked witch of the west, that scrumptious character who gave a whole generation nightmares, is a truly excellent study of the fantasy film and I shall definitely be returning to it time and again as well as rewatching the films discussed in it.
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VINE VOICEon 16 September 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
- however, I found this book a fascinating study of the fantasy film. From Shrek to Harvey and LOTR, the author (Katherine Fowkes)covers a variety of films that one might not consider classic fantasy movies. She also considers a variety of viewpoints from Bettelheims' psychological stance on the fairy tale to a modern critique of the sexism and racism inherent in more modern fantasy fare - Harry Potter, LOTR and various 'superhero' movies. Each chapter is titled after a movie from a particular genre, teasing out various threads for inspection, in a way that makes you look at the genre in a new light, even if you don't like certain films. Intelligent and erudite but never condescending (as so many writers are re: the fantasy genre) this work looks at the fantasy film with an fresh eye and will be much appreciated by fantasy buffs across the board.
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VINE VOICEon 10 September 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Let's make it absolutely clear what this book isn't.

It isn't for the novice and it isn't for the casual fan.

It isn't a comprehensive survey or intended as a reference book.

It isn't intended as any form of definitive statement on fantasy film.

It isn't a light read.

What it does seem to me to be is both an introduction to fantasy film (and literature) for the intelligent novice and an opening of the debate of what exactly is a fantasy film. As such it is aimed at those with a serious interest in film such as students and academics rather than the general public. The opening chapters cover the history of fantasy (literature and film) and an analysis of what exactly fantasy as a genre is as opposed to its bedmates Science Fiction and Horror. It then continues with a critical analysis of ten fantasy films (including Spider-Man which I would argue is SF, unless you want to create a separate genre of comic-book movies). You'll probably have a job finding it on the shelves of most public but not university libraries.

The author, Katherine Fowkes, has read widely while researching the book and quotes liberally from numerous writers. As these writers often have different ideas on the nature of fantasy indicates clearly that she is interested in opening up the debate on the subject thus the book is most effective as a source-book of ideas. That it is so much about differing ideas is what gives the book its strength allowing the reader to do their own evaluating and on this level it's very stimulating albeit sometimes a little hard going.

For some reason, which I can't quote chapter and verse on, I have the feeling that she doesn't really get the written form of Science Fiction, at least not at its high end; she does have a grasp of. that hideous conflation, Sci-Fi which is generally applied to SF films, very much the low end of SF, though I'm displaying my own prejudices here.

For its target audience this is an excellent learned and thought-provoking book though, as its author I'm sure would be the first to admit, it's not by any means the final word on the subject.
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VINE VOICEon 31 August 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Odd because its quite a serious subject but done in such a brief and limited way as to be of no use to serious students of the genre. And too serious for those with only a casual interest.

The book itself gives the game away, really. A very dull cover (boring green with a black picture of a generic witch), small sized book and running to only 174 pages.

The 'references' and index run to a further 25 pages and the book includes 22 black and white pictures.

The films covered are:

Wizard of Oz
Harvey
Always
Groundhog Day
Big
Shrek
Spider Man
Lord of the Rings
The first Narnia film
Harry Potter 1-6

So a wide range of films and a wide range of styles.

I wasn't familiar with all the films and some I haven't seen for many years and one or two (IMO) frankly didn't need to be included such as Groundhog Day.

Upon reading the LOR entry (my favourite film here) I did find it interesting and Katherine Fowkes made some observations that I hadn't really noticed before, despite being a big fan of the books (believe it or not I hadn't really noticed how much the films glorify war, and how much that is at odds with Tolkien's whole purpose behind writing the books)

So I guess the book might have some uses but I'm unconvinced its worth buying.
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VINE VOICEon 28 November 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have to be honest- I wasn't sure what to expect with this one. But an interesting journey into the world of the fantasy genre has actually opened my perspective a little. The first half of the book is tough going and no doubt one for those who are in the industry or teaching etc., but the latter part of the book really shines- especially when outlining how the fantasy genre and the examination of it links to films such as Lord of the Rings (I found this particularly interesting), Narnia and Big (for example). Heavy going at times and certainly one for the more academic or those interested in the finer details of film- but not too tough for us normal folk and definitely worth reading. I can't help but recommend this book!!
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VINE VOICEon 8 December 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I don't usually read critical essays but there is much to interest and absorb in this author's work. I hadn't actually seen some of the films referenced, which was somewhat of a drawback.

I especially enjoyed the parts dealing with the role of children in the fantasy genre. I had not previously considered many of the aspects cited as similarities and plot characteristics and found her ideas thought-provoking enough for me to look at some of my favourites in a new way.

It is a little slow in places, but that's probably my limitation.
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VINE VOICEon 9 June 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a well written overview of the fantasy genre, probably aimed at film students but readable and enjoyable enough for the casual reader. The author describes the roots of the genre in myths and folk tales, and compares and contrasts with horror and science fiction. The highlight is the in-depth analysis of The Wizard of Oz, showing the repetitions and parallels throughout the story.
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on 16 December 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a very good book that studies an overlooked genre - the fantasy film. It is an area that i particularly enjoy in film, and i have seen all but one of the films looked at. It is an informative, if sometimes a little over serious read and is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys fantasy films, or film in general
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