Top 10 alternative fairytale movies

Be warned, if you’re not down with your witches, pixies, fairies and whatnot, this list will appear strange and confusing to you. That being said, away from your Cinderella and Snow White classics, here’s an alternative take on the best the fairytale genre has to offer that you might find refreshing.

10. Stardust (2007)
Based on a Neil Gaiman novel this mad fantasy adventure sees a young man fall in love with a fallen star, played wonderfully by Claire Danes. And Robert de Niro almost steals it as a camp pirate.
9. Spirited Away (2001)
Often cited as the Japanese Alice in Wonderland, this film by Hayao Miyazaki sees a young girl grow up as she’s forced to work in a bathhouse for the Gods to save her parents and return home.
8. Willow (1988)
A young Warwick Davies plays Willow, a farmer who goes on a quest to defeat an evil witch and protect a baby – with the help of a mad swordsman (Val Kilmer).
7. Big Fish (2003)
The whole thing is a reminisced fairy tale, with Albert Finney laying in bed and recounting the magical adventures he’s had throughout his life.
6. Coraline (2009)
Another Neil Gaiman adaptation – this one sees a girl find a parallel world behind a secret door where she has to fight her creepy ‘other parents‘ to save her real parents.
5. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
In this sequel, Hellboy fights to protect humanity by battling an elven Prince (Luke Goss) and his unstoppable golden army.
4. The Princess Bride (1987)
Wesley, aka the man in black, goes on a journey facing many foes along the way to save his one true love, Princess Buttercup.
3. The Labyrinth (1986)
A teenage girl (Jennifer Connelly) gives up her baby brother to a Goblin King (David Bowie) and then must venture into the labyrinth to save him.
2. Hanna (2011)
Saoirse Ronan plays uber-assassin Hanna, on a quest to discover who she is and understand her place in the world – whilst killers hunt her down.
1. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Set just after the Spanish Civil War this film tells the tale of Ofelia, a young girl who meets a Faun who gives her a series of tasks to perform to achieve immortality.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies review

So this should be, in theory, the final instalment of Peter Jackson’s middle earth double trilogy extravaganza. In some ways I’m relieved. Instead of The Battle of the Five Armies maybe this should have been called Elves v Orcs: The Final Smackdown, although as events happen before The Lord of the Rings it’s not really a final anything.

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The title gives away all you need to know. Following events of the last film where Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the dwarves – led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) – managed to wind up the dragon Smaug, who then took off to torch the nearby Laketown, home to the manly Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans), we pick things up mid action where the dragon is wreaking havoc.

Bard does his thing with a bow, some elves pile in to help and the dwarves, realising the dragon (spoiler!) is dead, retreat into the mountain to claim the gold for themselves. We then end up in a sort of Middle Earth Mexican standoff, with elves and laketown men outside the mountain demanding the dwarves give up some of the booty. At the same time Sauron is on the rise (initially as a necromancer hellbent on keeping Gandalf locked in some sort of birdcage) and so he sends orcs and trolls and other beasties to claim the mountain for its strategic value.

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With this (hopefully) being the final outing of Middle Earth, you can see Peter Jackson and the gang have put a lot of love into the making of this film and they really don’t want to let this world go. Yet go it must. And with the final film being basically an epic battle, the challenge was to ensure the audience can find a way in – if it’s just elves and dwarves smashing into orcs then we’ll have moved too much into Michael Bay territory, which no one wants to do.

The key to the original Lord of the Rings trilogy was that, at every step of the way, you really cared about each and every one of the characters. They got lots of screen time to develop, so that when they got into battle situations you wanted them to make it. I am not sure the same can be said as much for The Hobbit trilogy, particularly this final film. As ever, Bilbo is our way in and the story is (mostly) told from his point of view. With so much going on in terms of dragons, battles and so on, he gets a little lost, in the same way he did in the preceding film, The Desolation of Smaug.

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Granted, he gets a few good moments, but it almost seems (despite the film being the third in a bloated trilogy) that he doesn’t get the time on screen we’d like him to have. Also, Jackson doesn’t tug on our heart strings in anywhere near the same way he did for the Rings films. Perhaps it’s just the nature of this type of story. It’s a journey to a mountain, a face off with a dragon, then a big battle. And that is that.

In order to inject a bit more emotion for the audience Jackson introduced a female elf, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) in the last film. She got a bit of a love story with the best-looking dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner), and that was further developed this time round. Book purists will probably sneer at this, but I honestly didn’t mind it. She was a good addition as a character and helped give the audience an emotional outlet – as Tauriel’s chemistry with Kili felt genuine, unforced and refreshing in an otherwise testosterone laden environment.

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Throughout the five armies battle (dwarves, elves, men, orcs and, er, bats and eagles possibly?), the most interesting battles were the one on one contests, as we can relate to them. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) gets his fair share, as do a few of the dwarves and elves, leaving the best one to Thorin, facing off against what can only be described as a giant orc with anger management issues.

Originally this story was written as a children’s book, an adventurous romp with perhaps a few scary bits, but overall something that was designed to entertain. I think perhaps, in order for Jackson to tie up the two trilogies, he’s moved the tone quite quickly from adventure to something altogether darker and more brooding. There’s a few moments where the playful exuberance you’d have hoped he would bring to it comes out (the barrels down the river sequence in the second film springs to mind), yet these are occur less and less as the trilogy wears on.

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There’s basically no fun to be had in this final film at all. You could say it’s a big battle so that’s to be expected, but just the odd line or two to lighten to mood wouldn’t have gone amiss. Jackson managed this perfectly well in the Rings trilogy, why not here too?

Ultimately, there’s some inventive moments to this film (Thorin’s descent into madness is quite well handled for example), yet it half collapses under its own seriousness. And you get the sense that the filmmakers are so sad that they’ll no longer be making these movies anymore, their sadness seeped through into the film’s overall tone – which made for a slightly depressing ending in a way.