The Opening Scenes of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
In recent years the fantasy genre has undergone a huge revival.
Whereas it was once reserved for children's books of fairy tales,
fantasy in both literature and film alike is increasingly becoming a
more mainstream genre, enjoyed by people of all kinds.
Fantasy films are probably the most frequently stereotyped genre of
all. They tend to involve things such as Dark Lords, magicians, quests
and otherworldly creatures. But only when all these are believably
portrayed are they interesting films. Fantasy films that have failed
badly because of this (in my opinion) include 'Labyrinth' and
High profile fantasy films released in recent years include the 'Harry
Potter' series and 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy. Both were based on
sets of books, which were first released as films at around the same
time- December 2001. People are forever comparing the stories, and the
two groups of fans can be impressively passionate as they argue their
cases. But which film is truly superior?
The 'Harry Potter' books are credited with saving the genre and
introducing it to a wider audience, with their accessible storylines
and language. However, The 'The Lord of the Rings' is widely believed
to be the grandfather of all modern fantasy novels, despite earlier
efforts, foremost those of William Morris (of wallpaper fame) and Lord
Dunsany. Before the publication of the trilogy, in the 1950s, fantasy
writing rarely reached publication.
Traditional settings for fantasy films include mostly parallel
universes, and other worlds, where the normal rules of reality need
not apply. Fantasy films have the element of surprise- the viewer can
never predict exactly what is going to happen next. Although 'The Lord
of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' uses this traditional
stereotype (and don't forget, it was the tale that set the
stereotypes!) 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' begins in a
nice row of thoroughly modern little terraced houses with neat little
lawns and cars in every driveway. The scene is set during the night
and everything is very quiet. The street lights provide a misty feel
to the place- until an old man (whom we have just watched walking down
the road) rather dramatically puts most of them out using a small
device not entirely unlike an ornately carved lighter, thus providing
an ethereal glow for the ensuing conversation. The most immediate
questions that spring to mind are 'What is that 'Put-Outer?' 'Why on
earth would the man want to put the street lamps out?' and 'What
exactly is this eccentric-looking old man doing in a nice, normal
place like this Privet Drive anyway?' This...