From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Fantasy Movie Music is Often Tragic not Magic

There are so many things to mock about your average fantasy movie.

For some reason, movie studios have traditionally treated fantasy films on about a level with porn (and slightly below homemade horror movies) in terms of plot, acting, dialogue, costuming, puppets, wigs, gratuitous nudity, men poking everything that moves in one way or another, and special effects (often involving dubious fluids). There are a few notable exceptions, of course, but fantasy movies are all too often embarrassingly bad.

But one cringe-inducing area rarely discussed is the music.

One of the worst offenders in recent memory was Kull the Conqueror, which actually improved my opinion of Heavy Metal in comparison.

Clearly, Kull’s “luxurious” locks should be cut into a mullet.

When it comes to fantasy movies, multi-fret guitars are worse even than multi-bladed swords.

guitar2

Sadly, Ladyhawke does little better in the music department, even though it is a much better movie overall. (The real synth groove starts 1:00 minute in. The rockin’ guitars kick in at about 2:00.)

And relative production values of the films seem to have little to do with it. In comparison with Kull, for example, there’s Krull, which actually has a great score.

Sometimes, rather than horrible orchestrated music, they use remakes of popular music that are pointless and blander than cold oatmeal in a Florida buffet. Case in point:

The Craft.

And then there are movies that are on the fence (or perhaps qualify as guilty pleasures) because they are borderline musicals with mixed musical results.

Labyrinth, for example.

In many of these cases, the musical choice disrupts the period feel of the movie and jars the viewer of out of a potentially immersive experience. The synth and guitar music mentioned earlier certainly does that for me. Or you have a movie that deliberately tries to insert popular culture into a McEuropean fantasy setting.

Such was the case in Knight’s Tale.

I don’t want music that evokes a feeling of driving down the freeway in an old Trans Am T-Top, the wind blowing through your mullet and making your rat tail whip out behind you as you pump your hands in the air. I want music that evokes a mythic and magical age. Is that so much to ask?

Heck, I’d almost prefer to hear Orff’s Carmina Burana “O Fortuna” used yet again rather than another guitar solo.

In short, most fantasy movies have enough of an uphill battle. Let’s not make it worse with crappy music.

Randy Henderson stays crunchy in milk. His fiction has appeared in Alienskin Magazine, The Harrow, and From the Asylum. He likes milkshakes. He recently graduated from Clarion West. He has a robot monkey army. And most importantly he has won the prestigious “Fantasy Friday Blog for a Beer” award five times (to date). For his genre-related musings, go to his blog.

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