Total Recall

Total Recall: The Golden Compass and Kids in Fantasyland

Another world is possible: The Flight of Dragons, Alice, and The Pagemaster.

by | December 5, 2007 | Comments

After a series of delays and personnel changes, the first
part of
Phillip Pullman
‘s His Dark Materials trilogy,

The Golden Compass
, arrives in theaters this Friday. Starring
Nicole Kidman,
Eva Green,
Daniel Craig,
and newcomer

Dakota Blue Richards
, Golden Compass serves as an introduction to a
sprawling ambitious story of daemons, polar bear fights, and parallel worlds.
Let’s take a look at some other fantasy flicks of its ilk that have come before

Like the

Narnia chronicles
, the

Harry Potters
Bridge to
, and the upcoming
, the His Dark Materials trilogy joins a spate of young
adult entertainments whose characters discover extraordinary worlds beyond their
own. To us, the appeal of these alternative worlds, parallel universes, and
lands long gone from existence is obvious. When children are cultivated for
education from infancy (curse you, Baby Einsteins!) and material
distractions crop up on a daily basis, who wouldn’t want their inner fantabulist
entertained?  Though discovering new worlds is hardly a new enterprise
(remember your first
Trip to the
?), we’ll start in the 1980s when children’s and medieval fantasy
ruled the theaters.

In 1982, Alan Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass released two
animated fantasy movies. One of them,
The Last Unicorn

(50 percent on the Tomatometer), eventually hit cult classic status and earlier
this year got the deluxe DVD treatment. The other film,
The Flight of
, wasn’t quite as lucky and languishes in overpriced VHS
purgatory. Based on the book of the same name by Peter Dickinson and The
Dragon and the George
by Gordon Dickson, Flight spins the yarn of a
scientist named Peter who spends his nights designing and hocking board games
before being transported 770 generations into the past where magic is beginning
to weaken. There, Peter meets wizards, princesses, and dragons identical to the
pieces he’s designed for his latest board game.

Fantasy stories hosts plenty of tug-of-wars between
technology and magic, but The Flight of Dragons takes this motif to a
peculiar extreme. As a man well-versed in logic and science, Peter attempts
observing how a world of magic works and the film gives a lengthy biology lesson
on how dragons fly. (Indeed, The Flight of Dragons book is written as a
cross between speculative fiction and natural history guide.) While characters
in books and films like these are willing to be instantly awed by new worlds,
Peter (admittedly something of a wet blanket) always buckles down for the truth,
becoming a sort of messiah offering the gift of logic.

The Flight of Dragons opening.

It’s way too easy to think of The Golden Compass as
typical prepubescent entertainment, despite a PG-13 rating and heady subject
matter. In that regard, of the three films featured in this Total Recall,
Golden Compass
is most similar to
(100 percent): they’re
deceptively innocent and surprisingly mature. Released in 1988 and directed by
stop-motion maestro
Jan Svankmajer,
Alice is by far the bleakest cinematic adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s books.  As
the titular Alice,
portrays the only human character; the rest of the world is
populated with dolls, mannequins, and sharp objects brought to life by
Svankmajer’s deft manipulating hand. A hypnotically sad and harrowing film,
Washington Post
‘s Hal Hinson claims Alice "takes us back to a time in
the history of movies when audiences responded to the images on screen with a
combination of awe and fear, when in submitting to them, we felt as if we were
submitting to a spell."

Though Disney’s version of
Alice in
(77 percent), which emphasizes Carroll’s light-hearted
whimsy, has dominated culture for generations, others have seen a sinister edge
to the story. In addition to Svankmajer, American McGee’s 2000 video game,
features the heroine embarking on a violent journey through Wonderland after
being institutionalized. A film adaptation has been long in the works, currently
being slated for release in July 2008 starring
Michelle Gellar
and directed by
Marcus Nispel.

Alice meets the Queen of Hearts.

There are few working relationships more fruitful than the
one between movies and books. The two frequently draw inspiration from each
other. The book usually ends up better, but the movie makes more money. And in
1994, the latest book image enhancement project came in the form of
The Pagemaster
In his final year before his extended acting hiatus,
Macaulay Culkin
starred as a peerlessly wimpy boy who takes refuge from a storm in a musty
library. There, he meets
, playing a (what else?) eccentric who entices him into the world of
books. Subsequently, Culkin is sucked into an animated world inspired by works
like Treasure Island. Yeah, it’s no surprise that by the end he’ll learn
strength, courage, and make a few new friends along the way, in a movie Walter
Chaw of Film Freak Central calls "a nice starting point for an important
conversation with your child about why so many cartoons think children are

Fine, so it has a 20 percent Tomatometer. And its title
sounds like a Microsoft Word plug-in. But the movie has a goofy, square charm to
it and there’s fun to be had with The Pagemaster as long as you’re not
comparing it to book-centric masterpieces like
The Princess Bride

(95 percent) or
The NeverEnding Story
(82 percent).

Rescued by pirates.

Then there are fantasy films that are both critical and box
office successes. Films like
Spirited Away

(97 percent), Pan’s
(96 percent), or even

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
(89 percent) that have people
retreating or falling into extraordinary worlds. Their popularity is hardly
accidental: escapism is virtually the foundation
upon which movies are built. They get us out of the house and into darkened
rooms for hours and hours.

Tag Cloud

japan Animation indiana jones elevated horror Adult Swim Pacific Islander canceled Heroines hollywood Turner Classic Movies Pop TV dreamworks superhero Shondaland The Walking Dead GoT Spring TV Neflix spanish President adenture popular Chernobyl RT21 PBS composers 90s Paramount Network posters reboot chucky Pop E! Amazon Prime Mudbound pirates of the caribbean DGA best telelvision GLAAD Awards Tour Lionsgate Disney Channel TV Land Lucasfilm 2016 CBS Opinion Television Academy scary universal monsters FX on Hulu 2019 E3 YA dragons robots theme song docudrama 1990s Rocky Apple TV+ The Arrangement Nat Geo joker A24 Showtime Black Mirror Britbox Holiday ABC cancelled DC Comics football BBC Marvel Studios psychological thriller royal family 45 medical drama concert nature Disney+ Disney Plus National Geographic Photos comiccon stoner psycho See It Skip It name the review vampires tv talk Emmy Nominations sitcom asian-american TNT Exclusive Video dogs Election VOD Ellie Kemper Set visit true crime First Look Epix Countdown Oscars First Reviews TCA 2017 Rock foreign anthology ratings 24 frames Teen halloween parents docuseries politics DirecTV marvel comics DC streaming service Horror king arthur 79th Golden Globes Awards award winner fresh vs. YouTube Crunchyroll Wes Anderson HBO Max emmy awards animated 007 AMC Plus kids Disney nbcuniversal Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Turner comic book movies worst The Witch biography Sneak Peek films Lifetime Christmas movies cancelled TV series political drama television cops Paramount Plus breaking bad war SXSW ViacomCBS new york BBC One Toys stop motion deadpool BET LGBTQ 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards monster movies reviews Christmas Comic Book Amazon Sundance Now hidden camera cooking harry potter high school Superheroe BET Awards comic book movie Funimation Sci-Fi heist movie Marvel Television twilight 2018 game of thrones IFC Films a nightmare on elm street versus Classic Film Music NBA Pet Sematary Rocketman documentary Brie Larson jurassic park movies Ghostbusters target Kids & Family christmas movies Paramount kong Hollywood Foreign Press Association child's play FOX ABC Family Netflix adaptation streaming movies green book italian festivals crime dceu Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Fall TV 99% new zealand Country TIFF Universal Pictures USA Network FX gangster Sundance TV Ovation YouTube Red Emmys Hallmark Christmas movies Avengers Mindy Kaling TCA razzies game show WGN streaming Crackle feel good festival canceled TV shows Grammys HBO Go king kong social media Legendary Quiz TCA Winter 2020 rt labs critics edition Amazon Studios Fantasy aliens CMT NBC debate GIFs MTV rotten Sony Pictures dark OWN rotten movies we love TBS directors Mary Tyler Moore boxoffice hispanic godzilla dc scorecard halloween tv latino werewolf doctor who remakes classics new star wars movies VH1 anime 2017 Anna Paquin facebook hispanic heritage month Syfy period drama Walt Disney Pictures strong female leads Apple TV Plus USA Peacock rom-coms Winter TV 2020 2015 Musicals romantic comedy Song of Ice and Fire Holidays Tubi scary movies Hear Us Out Travel Channel spider-verse serial killer worst movies Musical Television Critics Association Mystery OneApp Year in Review live action Discovery Channel genre Nickelodeon james bond TV mockumentary DC Universe toronto action-comedy PaleyFest critics black comedy cults Creative Arts Emmys trailers know your critic critic resources french Starz YouTube Premium Certified Fresh book adaptation Super Bowl sopranos Netflix Christmas movies Comics on TV 71st Emmy Awards suspense Fargo richard e. Grant spain Action prank spy thriller PlayStation Film Festival Mary Poppins Returns unscripted biopic art house Biopics thriller Reality mutant Star Trek franchise sequel boxing independent X-Men Stephen King mob singing competition natural history The Walt Disney Company blockbusters legend hist Pride Month superman obituary Schedule Film crime thriller comics what to watch Spike young adult FXX CBS All Access aapi Comic-Con@Home 2021 based on movie Women's History Month Warner Bros. cinemax Pirates WarnerMedia Disney streaming service Winners Lifetime cats scene in color Esquire Tarantino venice japanese dexter criterion movie Elton John 73rd Emmy Awards Red Carpet ghosts El Rey Watching Series History Rom-Com blockbuster Star Wars comic Broadway women Martial Arts Hulu Box Office Binge Guide Marathons diversity TruTV Drama talk show Acorn TV cancelled TV shows TCM ESPN olympics Premiere Dates revenge cars Apple renewed TV shows SundanceTV laika batman NYCC blaxploitation Captain marvel science fiction Logo 72 Emmy Awards zombie A&E quibi Family sequels wonder woman archives jamie lee curtis teaser trophy AMC Interview screen actors guild lord of the rings Trailer comic books rt archives ID video golden globe awards New York Comic Con Valentine's Day comedies spanish language Best and Worst black finale Reality Competition Hallmark Prime Video 4/20 Cartoon Network Black History Month Masterpiece saw Comedy Polls and Games TCA Awards witnail Calendar The CW Image Comics mission: impossible free movies Video Games die hard slashers technology Dark Horse Comics cancelled television spinoff Spectrum Originals Tomatazos fast and furious Baby Yoda IFC australia Thanksgiving book transformers slasher leaderboard Arrowverse live event HBO supernatural video on demand south america Alien Columbia Pictures BBC America Comedy Central BAFTA children's TV Writers Guild of America Instagram Live IMDb TV Freeform TLC crime drama Food Network sports Sundance Extras Cannes sag awards rt labs police drama San Diego Comic-Con Endgame Amazon Prime Video American Society of Cinematographers Vudu Nominations Bravo screenings zombies RT History The Academy TV movies Pixar adventure Trophy Talk news TV renewals golden globes discovery stand-up comedy Fox News MSNBC Mary poppins Tags: Comedy 93rd Oscars TV One historical drama Universal disaster APB Academy Awards Superheroes kaiju casting international Marvel ITV justice league marvel cinematic universe space VICE Western Fox Searchlight mcc 2021 Summer HFPA nfl CW Seed romance Character Guide Shudder LGBT ABC Signature zero dark thirty Trivia basketball documentaries CNN cartoon satire series 21st Century Fox spider-man The Purge travel Tumblr crossover indie all-time Disney Plus Tokyo Olympics dramedy Podcast Awards MCU Infographic binge SDCC miniseries Cosplay toy story 20th Century Fox