Okay. Here’s the thing. As some of you may know, I have been watching and reviewing a lot of bad fantasy movies lately, mostly from the 1980s. Now… I can’t fully explain what possessed me to follow that course of action, but it happened, alright? There I am, watching the likes of Dragonslayer, The Sword and the Sorcerer, and Sword of the Valiant. I watched and loved Legend, as well. And I’m sitting here reflecting on other fantasy movies, good and bad, like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. And I’m pondering about Disney and this and that. And suddenly, suddenly I noticed something. I noticed a peculiar tendency of fantasy movies.
Now, any sort of statistician or scienceologist or mathemagician will tell you that a correlation does not necessarily imply a causation. Sometimes coincidences happen. Like, I can eat a lot of cheese right before bed and have some really weird dreams afterwards, and then repeat this process every night for two weeks, and perhaps note that the more cheese I eat and the closer it is to bedtime when I do it, the weirder the dreams get, but there’s nothing concrete to necessarily prove that my late-night cheese intake definitely causes the weird dreams. They certainly correlate, but you can’t prove anything based on the numbers alone.
That is my disclaimer before I jump into some pretty wild claims, so please keep that in mind.
Aight. I’m just gonna say it, and if you really want you can argue with me later: Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings is the best fantasy movie ever. Okay? We’re just going to assume that as a constant for our study the way any scientist will let x = Bill Nye or whatever they do. Reflecting on LotR, I can point to any number of things that help to make it good, things that those bad fantasy movies just don’t have. Probably the most obvious item on that long list is “character development.” I mean, think about all the timeless, lovable, enduring characters from LotR. You’ve got Gandalf, Gimli, Saruman, and… hey look at those guys and their awesome beards.
Yeah, nice. Of course, not everyone in The Lord of the Rings has a killer wizard/dwarf beard, because not everyone in The Lord of the Rings is a killer wizard/dwarf. The Hobbits and Elves are all clean-shaven, but they totally make that work for them. And you get characters like Aragorn and Eomer and Faramir who all sport nicely trimmed beards. And Théoden and Boromir even make goatees look good. Good beards all around. I even have to give props to Barliman Butterbur’s muttonchops. Well, like any rational adult, I was just sitting there at my desk admiring all these beards when suddenly I realized something. Something that never happens in The Lord of the Rings, but inevitably happens in the bad fantasy movies, and I was horrified.
Will you just look at that? I mean, that can’t be a coincidence right? All the bad movies have that hideous look. And listen, the no-moustache beard isn’t innately evil, because it works for the Amish and Abraham Lincoln, but they had excuses. Okay, it’s a cultural thing for the Amish, so you have to forgive it, and Abraham Lincoln earned that beard. By that point in his career he could have gotten liberty spikes and a face tattoo and people would still have to respect him (wait, could you imagine if we had that on our five dollar bills?), but otherwise, what’s the excuse? You have to put effort in to shave that bit, so it has to be deliberate. The King of the Dead has a bit of a moustache there and he doesn’t even have a nose half the time. If he can do it, then so can you.
But wait, this is supposed to be serious film criticism, so I’ll at least employ academia’s favorite phrase: I have detected “a certain tendency” of bad fantasy movies. It’s nothing conclusive, obviously, and in fact it might not mean anything at all, but this is too glaring to ignore. It seems that you don’t need to have this kind of beard in your movie to be bad. You can do that without beards. It also seems that if your movie is animated and aimed at children (as in the noteworthy cases of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Fantasia), it’s okay to have this type of beard.
I’ve also discerned that the beard is not necessarily the cause of the badness. I included a picture of Balin up there from The Hobbit, but let’s be real: that character was one of the film’s strengths. Although his beard was not. However, I’ve also learned that you can have as many good beards as you want, but they won’t outbalance the weight of the bad beard. The Hobbit is a great example, because most of Balin’s comrades have excellent beards, just take Richard Armitage for example. Good stuff. But a bad beard or two and the movie’s bad, too.
At present, I find myself wholly incapable of thinking of a really great fantasy movie that features this moustacheless beard (other than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, because I think I’ve covered that point). Do correct me if I’m wrong, please.
And a note on moustaches: you can pretty much get away with anything as long as that upper lip is covered. A moustache without a beard is cool and fine and all, but for some reason you just cannot go the other way around. And if you’re out there reading this right now and you have a beard but not moustache, please do not be offended; I’m only pointing out the irrefutable evidence, backed up by decades of entertainment. And if the entertainment industry can’t at least teach us how to dress and groom, then I ask you: what the hell is it good for?