Is special effects making or breaking the fantasy genre?

tumblr_nagzsvgqUx1t3g0gjo1_1280Is the fantasy genre being overdone and is that the fault of today’s special effects? I ask myself this question because of the rash of TV programs being thrust at us this year. You have a myriad of television fantasy choices from Once Upon a Time, Atlantis and Grimm to almost every other show on the CW Network. Add to that the shows that try for historical accuracy like Vikings, The Bastard Executioner, and The Last Kingdom.

Add to that the surge of superhero movies and television, fantasy is at its prime. CGI and motion capture has made it easier for production companies to do fantasy epics. When you look at the sprawling scenery in the upcoming Shannara Chronicles, you realize how far we’ve come in special effects. You couldn’t get images like that over 30 years ago.

But at the same time, computer software has made it easy to make a halfway decent movie. The Internet is loaded with low-budget movies and shorts by freelance, home-taught movie makers using their iPhone or Galaxy cellphones that put some of these multi-million blockbusters to shame.

In some cases, the story lacks for the sake of the effects. The one thing you never, ever forsake is the story. They need to be grounded on a well-written script to carry it from beginning to end.
The one positive thing I have to say about special effects is how it’s bringing stories you never thought you’d see to life on the big screen. Could they have done Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit movies 30 to 40 years ago! Doubtful.

In a recent interview, Academy award-winning producer and director Steven Spielberg said that “the superhero movie goes the way of the western.” As much as I hate to disagree with a personal inspiration of mine, I must.

For the first time, comic book fans can finally see an accurate portrayal of their favorite characters. No spandex or rubber costumes, bad blue screen effects, but actually stepping into these fantastic worlds.

Like I said earlier, don’t make a movie for the sake of the special effects. It needs that great story to back them up.

When I began writing Forever Avalon, I was inspired for the magical flying galleons in my story by the animated movie Peter Pan. This week, the movie Pan hits theaters and flying ships are an essential part of the story. The effects are spectacular and I can’t wait to see it.

This scares me a little bit, though, because I don’t want people thinking I copied the movie or think it’s overdone. This may be another detriment to the fantasy issue. We’re all experiencing “group think,” having the same ideas and using them in our stories. Because special effects today means “anything is possible” so we let it all hang out in our stories.

I know I’m “heating a dead horse” but I think I need to really press this point. We need great stories with great effects, not vice versa.

Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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