Every actor or actress in Hollywood got their start somewhere. But sometimes, prolonged and successful careers have come out of arguably one of the most interesting and creative film genres – fantasy films.
I happened to run into a friend the other day who is a major fan of one such movie and we got to taking about the subject. That being the case, I thought I’d take a quick look back at a few that really stood out for me, especially in the 1980s, and the starts that now enjoy household names who were part of these very cool projects.
The Princess Bride – 1987
Arguably one of the most beloved fantasy films of all-time, this fairy tale/action/love combination directed by the talented Ron Howard showcased Robin Wright (before she became Robin Wright Penn) and featured the long-time Criminal Minds series star Mandy Patinkin.
Labyrinth – 1986
With a creepy, evil David Bowie as her rival, movie fans discovered the beautiful and talented Jennifer Connelly playing the role of a 15-year-old unexpected heroine. While the movie didn’t do well at the box office, it has since enjoyed a massive cult following.
Willow – 1988
Although he had a few earlier roles (including in the film Top Gun with Tom Cruise) Val Kilmer began to capture the eyes and hearts of fans in this unusual adventure.
To date, since the 1989 “Batman” film starring Michael Keaton and the legendary Jack Nicholson, there can be said to have been seven follow-ups including the upcoming “The Dark Knight Rises.”
While many may argue that the Dark Knight Trilogy if you will, can be considered a separate series of films than its several predecessors, for this purpose I’m going to classify them in the same grouping.
Clearly the aforementioned 1989 film set the standard. The 1992 sequel “Batman Returns” was a decent follow-up but as is typical, sequels rarely live up to the original.
Then we get into what I personally consider the disposable Batman films, 1995’s “Batman Forever” and 1997’s “Batman and Robin.” Both featured a notable lineup of Hollywood big names but as we all know, that’s no guarantee of a quality film. To the contrary, these movies seemed to feature second-rate acting, less structured plots and somewhat laughable villains. Val Kilmer was OK in the lead role but as has been typical of his film career, George Clooney bombed.
At that point, it looked like the franchise had sunk into a death spiral from which there would be no return. That was until Christopher Nolan decided to resurrect the series with the film “Batman Begins” in 2005. The new lead actor Christian Bale restored the series to its original glory and possibly even more. And Heath Ledger’s amazing portrayal of the Joker in 2007’s “The Dark Knight,” kept the top-notch productions going.
So here we are, just days away from the release of “The Dark Knight Rises,” partially filmed in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. While of course I haven’t seen it yet, I have to presume it will keep with the trend of the Nolan versions and be another masterpiece. But of course, only time will tell.