I think it comes as no surprise to you folks that I'm an avid fan of the Last Unicorn. For those of you who don't know, The Last Unicorn is a book written by author Peter S. Beagle written in the 60s, which was later adapted into an animated movie by Rankin Bass studios in the 80s. It's a story set in a semi-medieval european fantasy setting, the story being of a unicorn whom she thinks she's the last of her species. In order to know the truth, she embarks on an adventure where she meets many colorful characters and goes through life-changing situations while she tries to understand the truth about the disappearance of her people.
What makes this story stand out from many other similar stories is the way it's presented and written. The book uses beautiful and poetic phrases to describe even the smallest of details, like how a character blinks (compared to a bird's breast). The book is filled with this beautiful poetic imagery that gives a proper dreamlike atmosphere to the story, in a similar pattern to say, Disney's Sleeping Beauty, Thief and the Cobbler, Studio Ghibli films or Tim Burton films: they take advantage of the fact that they're a fantasy film, so they use abstract imagery or poetic language to convey the feel of a dreamlike experience and it certainly gives the film atmosphere and makes it stand out from other generic fantasy films.
What also makes this story stand apart is that it's focused less on the eternal battles between generic good and evil/black and white morality and thinks more about the characters presented and how good people can make bad decisions or viceversa. The villains in this story are forces to be stopped, but the writer also gives them sympathetic backstories or motifs that makes us pity them and slightly understand them. (Molly Fortuna is a mediocre witch, but she wants to be remembered in history, so she goes to the extremes of capturing the unicorn and a harpy just so that the mythical creatures at least will always remember her; King Haggard is selfish and mantains all of the other unicorns prisoners, but it's implied he has depression and the sight of unicorns have been the only thing to cheer him up in his long life). Similar to Lord of the Rings or A Song of Ice and Fire, it presents grey morality in a setting where usually one can distinguish who are the heroes and who are the villains.
And what stands apart the movie, I think, is that it's basically the anti-Disney film. Disney films are usually crafted in one manner; a simplistic take on a fairy tale that lasts an hour and is mostly a film made for entertainment, you can fondly remember it but usually these films aren't that thought-provoking. Not the Last Unicorn, though.
The film carries a lot of messages from the book, either being about depression, loss of memories, lost love, a ruined life, or how sometimes life isn't fairy and you're constantly creating mistakes. I think it's good that films like these exist because they make us think long after we've seen the film, instead of just being popcorn entertainment for an hour or so.
The "princess" in this film is not your typical Rapunzel-Annas, the quirky clumsy princess who goes around chirping about how dang lucky everything in her life is; instead she's depressed, distant and a little emotionally cold, even a little proud and vain due to being "one of the most beautiful creatures on earth" (but she also has her good sides: she's also very kind, cares a lot for animals, and is brave enough to venture and save her people even though she doesn't know what to do in the first place. To me bravery means facing things despite being terribly afraid of them or you don't know how will you come out of it, so yes, the Unicorn is very brave in that regard).
The wizard in this film also stands out; he's not the typical Gandalfs or Merlins, that are just the wise mentor figures in stories that only serve to instruct the young hero and talk about exposition. Schmendrick in comparison is a littl naive at times, and he constantly makes mistakes. Sometimes the heroes get into more struggles in the story due to one of his spells backfiring instead of helping them out. Also, Schemndrick doesn't exist in this film just to aid the heroine/Amalthea, but he also has his own journey to fullfil in the story. He has his own backstory, his own problems, he grows and changes during the course of the story and manages to turn into the magician he always wished he could be at the end.
Then there's Molly Grue. Something to say about these films (fantasy, disney and the like) is that normally there aren't that many female characters in them, just the main one and sometimes a random secondary. Especially in fairytale films where the only female characters are the main heroine and the villain who opposes her (Snow White, Cinderella, Little Mermaid, Tangled...).
And they are opposites of each other. Whereas the heroine is a sweet, innocent, virginal girl who's too pure and good and naive about the world, the villainess is a bitter, experienced, sexual being who's jealous of the main girl's innocence and beauty, and that's why they attack them in the first place. (Snow White- jealous stepmother of her daughter's good looks, Cinderella? same thing. Tangled is kinda the same thing, only I don't think Gothel is much jealous, but her motives lie in being forever young and beautiful, soo...)
The Last Unicorn plays with the opposite. Yes, there's Mommy Fortuna, who's a minor antagonist, but she's not the usual villainess whose motives are only vanity and jealousy of the main heroine, but she wants fame and uses animals to get to her needs. She's more a like poacher villain, If I have to compare her to some other villain archetype.
Molly Grue is a little contrast to the unicorn. She's old, and though she's not ugly she's a little plain when compared to the otherworldy beauty of the Unicorn, she's lived in harsh environments and experienced the worst of the world, so she's bitter about it. Her introductory scene is her basically calling out the unicorn for not appearing to her when she was young and innocent (because according to old myths, unicorns were said to be creatures that only appeared to virgin girls/maidens, and basically their appearance gave them a "protection" of sorts when men later on tried to court them), and now the Unicorn appears, now when she's old and tired. The Unicorn feels sorry for her, and laments for it, but she doesn't care if Molly is old. At one point she basically states that she doesn't care about "purity" or not, that she would visit old kitchen maids or young princesses, to her there's no difference. And from then on the two girls form a strong friendship, whereas Molly's down to earth-ness and observatory comments often make Amalthea think twice about the events occuring around them and shape her thoughts about it.
I already spoke about how the villains are given sympathetic motives and are seen more in grey area of morality (unlike Disney whose villains are pure unredeemable evil), so i won't speak more about them.
Aah, I forgot, how about the prince/love interest? Usually princes in these films are these flawless figures who are so perfect that they always end up saving the day. Lir is interesting in that he doesn't start off perfect in the story, at the start he's basically a lazy bum who doesn't know what to do with his life, but once he meets Amalthea and falls in love with her (after an unspecified period of time, unlike the typical "love at first sight" cliche or the new cliched of disney films that are "we fight a lot at first but at the end of the film we're in LURVEEE" (frozen, princess and the frog...ugh)). Falling in love changes Lir, turns him from a insensitive slob into a courageous selfess man who knows when is the proper time to make sacrifices and when not.
Heck, he basically dies protecting the woman her loves. And the Unicorn is enraged at this, and Lir's death triggers her to come firm and attack the Bull who has attacked her previously during all of the film, an awesome scene in where she fights back and frees all her people, the other unicorns, from their watery cages. And seeing she's awesome like that, afterwards she brings Lir back from the dead (yes, unicorns are mighty powerful in this story. it's that awesome).
This is a slight contrast when compared to other films, where the female character dies only for the male to brood for her (this is called "women in refrigerators"). It's a nice change when the film does the opposite and makes the female active instead of the male, and this is another reason why i wish tumblr (land of the people who dislike seeing female characters fridged) should talk more about this movie.
And, what makes this even more anti-Disney is that it has a bittersweet ending. The Unicorn saves the day, yes, she frees her people and defeats the villains who harmed her, but now she stopped being a human and must be a unicorn again, and that means leaving behind her new friends and loved ones she's made on her journey, because unicorns cannot feel human emotions. She doesn't get to marry the prince and live "happily ever after" as a princess in a big castle wearing a huge pretty gown surrounded by all her friends. It's painful, because it's suggested that the Unicorn, being an immortal, will spend the rest of her days recalling the feelings of friendship and love and lost she experienced as a human, and she can only remember those feelings and not experience them again. It certainly leaves a mark to think of her, all alone by herself in a forest, thinking back at all the emotions she felt during her short tenure as a woman.
While the book is fantastically written and a beautiful and thought provoking film (one of the films out there that is very faithful to its source material), it is a little underrated (when compared to other fantasy series whom the mainstream audience appreciate more (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter) or even other animated films (the Disney films, the Dreamworks films)).
So why don't people talk more about the last Unicorn? Well I have my own ideas about it. (at least when it comes to the animated film)
1- It's a non-Disney western animated film. Non-Disney films in general aren't very popular, and I think the older they are, the more unknown to the public they are. Dreamworks are popular because they're hip and new and Dreamworks constantly promotes them. The Last Unicorn in comparison is not that heavily marketed, so that's why they're under the radar most times.
2-It's a film that makes you think. People usually think that animated films should be simplistic and only be entertainment (that's why Frozen is so popular, it's just simplistic shit that dumbs down the audience and tells us what to feel instead of ourselves thinking up our own feelings in regards to the film), and people just don't really thinking nowadays I guess.
3- Face value. I think people just don't watch it because they just look at the cover and sneer to themselves "oh, it's a unicorn film. it's just some random stupid childish girly crap. i'm too old/too manly to be enjoying that". and i say that's bullshit. if grown manchildren can enjoy My Little Pony on an unhealthy degree and praise Frozen/Tangled like it's the greatest thing ever, then The Last Unicorn should be also enjoyed by everyone regardless of age or gender.
I still say one should watch it. If anything because of the experience one would encounter watching it. I mean, please, please, you people, sit down and watch it. it will change your idea of fantasy movies and completely blow you away.
also it has a better white haired female character in the main lead. suck that, elsa
Mood: Daily Needs
Listening to: Back in Black
Watching: X Men the animated series
Playing: Animal Crossing: New Leaf