What is Epic?

Last night, watching the commercial for the new Wizard of Oz movie, it struck me as to why I didn’t like the look of it. It’s why I didn’t like The Hobbit as much as one should. It’s a curse that has even settled in part over my own writing when I was trying so hard to avoid it. Today for a movie to draw people and remain fantasy, it needs to be over the top epic.

The original Wizard of Oz was the story of a traveler in a strange land. She was confused, disoriented, and didn’t quite know what was going on, but everyone told her to go forward and so she did. Along the way, she meets a group of misfits which continue on simply because the sojourner is charismatic. There is an army pitted against them, but at no point will they end up bringing an army of munchkins with them. It’s an individual story about a small band trying to beat the odds. Not a lot of explosions, no great choreography for sword fights, it’s nice and simple while still being an incredible tale. The new one has all these explosions, armies clashing, so on and so forth. Am I looking at the Wizard of Oz or a remake of Lord of the Rings?

The Hobbit was a whimsical journey. It was without real direction, just a random string of occurrences which Bilbo goes through on his way to meeting a dragon, each one building onto his character while really lending little to the overall plot. But these random encounters weren’t enough for a movie, apparently. Everything already has the dour feeling of LotR, when it’s supposed to be fairly light. Sure there are tense moments, but it feels like everything is pinning on Oakshield’s vendetta with this goblin that died in cannon centuries earlier. Why does he need a vendetta? Why can’t we just frolic around with Bilbo and watch all the strange ways he aids the little band of dwarves? Sure there is an epic battle at the end, but why does there have to be so much emotional tension for that battle? The greed of the dwarves should be enough tension.

On the other hand, my story, a simple farmer’s tale (sort of), ends with a few great battles. My other, entirely about a sojourner, has a massive battle she witnesses and even participates a little. Have we turned to a need for great battles? Have we been desensitized to the simple pleasures of Dorthy roaming a yellow brick road and the climax consisting of splashing water on a witch? We seem to require swords and magic clashing, flying monkeys and midgets coming to blows, seas of blood soaking into barren battlefields. With the ever changing definitions of that which is around us, I wonder what will happen in the future for epics.

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