Day 5 – A Movie That Disappointed You Terribly
Sometimes, our expectations can run away with us, setting up scenarios that, frankly, cannot possibly be lived up to by reality. Whether it’s a test you know you should have gotten a better grade on, a joke that some pretty girl was supposed to laugh at, or the culinary quality of a Hungry Man microwaveable dinner, reality can bite the big one. Today’s entry is yet another instance where the set-up in my head was so much better than the follow-through.
The Land of Faraway (1987)
“The Land of Faraway?” you may be asking. “What the deuce is that? And how could you possibly be disappointed by it?” I’ll do my best to explain, as this one is entirely my fault. The movie makes absolutely no promises that it shouldn’t, and would not be on this list at all, save one stroke-induced assumption that I will get to later.
The Land of Faraway begins in Stockholm, Sweden, where we meet a young boy named Bosse (Nicholas Pickard), who, in true Harry Potter fashion, has no parents, and is raised by his mistreating aunt and uncle. One night, Bosse decides to run away, and through an unlikely series of events, he obtains a genie, an emissary from The Land of Faraway. At Bosse’s behest, the genie takes him to The Land (via the genie’s beard), where he learns that his real name is Mio, and his AWOL father actually rules the joint. Life would be idyllic, but rumors get around that the evil knight Kato (Christopher Lee) has been kidnapping children and turning them into birds, so it’s up to Mio and his best friend Jum-Jum (Christian Bale, Jordyn you saucy wench) to save the children and The Land of Faraway (or, as my friend Nicole calls it, “The Land of Right F@$#ing Here”).
What a strange, strange movie. Apparently The Land of Faraway is an adaptation of a Swedish children’s novel by Astrid Lindgren (author of Pippi Longstocking), and was produced by companies from Sweden, Norway, and the Soviet Union, with a score composed by two former-members of ABBA. Its peculiarities don’t stop at the production history, though, and even for a movie rendition of a fantasy book, it’s doggone strange.
If you must somehow track down this movie, do so to watch Count Dooku and Batman fight each other.
For one thing, it takes absolutely, deathly serious every single fantastical element of its story. This ranges from standard-issue fantasy tropes (prophecies, invisibility cloaks, etc.) to the oddly WTF (Kato’s mission is to replace the abducted children’s hearts with stone, they keep referring to their damn hometown as “The Land of” bloody “Faraway,” etc). Christopher Lee’s large, scenery-chewing acting helps the notion that this should be a goofy, escapist tale, but the solemnity given off by this film make the whole affair seem weird.
Adding to the weirdness is the unbeckoned homoerotic air that permeates the whole movie. Mio and Jum-Jum (pronounced “yum yum”) are rather close friends throughout the film, holding each other’s waists while on horseback, finding each other by playing their pan flutes, and (unless I’m very much mistaken) generally holding hands the whole time. They’re both kids, so touching boundaries are generally more innocent than, say, if they were both in their thirties, but it just feels kinda icky. Perhaps it’s my American, rap music-endorsed homophobia, but Mio and Jum-Jum’s constant compulsion to touch (coupled with the aforementioned super-cerealness) gives The Land of Faraway an odd (and very underage) romantic undertone.
So why the hell did I rent this clearly junk-sounding fantasy film? As a laugh, mostly. My good friend Jordyn and I decided one day to crawl our local specialty video store, which includes many movies only on VHS, for a few flicks to get us through the weekend. While perusing through the shelf for the likes of Heavyweights and Man of the House, I came across a VHS case that looked (I’ll post it again for effect) like this:
What the hell is that anyway?! In my excitable, probably rum-addled brain, I thought it looked like this:
Yes, dear readers, for some reason, I thought that The Land of Faraway was going to be the most epic, metal experience ever put to film. Nonsensical fantasy-sounding name? Check. Epic-looking main character, steed-mounted and sword in hand? Check. Splash page-style over-busy cover art? Check, and double-check. I wasn’t deluding myself into thinking it was good, mind, but I thought it was going to be an over-the-top, metal-flavored 80’s cheese-fest. Movies like this certainly exist, but for some reason, I thought The Land of Faraway was going to be one big Dio music video. I was sorely mistaken.
I’ve since learned my lesson about hyping movies that I’ve never even heard of, and this situation has only happened one other time since (I once rented a movie, Acceptance, that I thought was a direct-to-DVD sequel to Accepted—it instead turned out to be a Lifetime Original Movie. Kill). I eventually did find a goofy, 80’s fantasy movie, but until then, I had to live with my own embarrassingly overzealous expectations for The Land of Faraway.