When Pixar announced that they were doing a fantasy world but set in modern times, everyone was all, “Wait a minute… Onward is just Bright!”
And it’s like… come on, people. David Ayers and Max Landis are hardly the first people to come up with this particular mash-up. The Harry Potter franchise has eight movies under its belt! (Am I conveniently ignoring The Fantastic Beasts movies? Yes I am.)
These are examples of “urban fantasy.” (Onward is specifically a play on this term, being billed as “suburban fantasy.”) As defined by Wikipedia: “Urban fantasy is a fantastic genre of English-language fiction, or a subgenre of fantasy, in which the narrative uses supernatural elements in an urban society. Works of urban fantasy may be set in the real world and introduce aspects of fantasy, or in a fantasy world with operating rules recognizably similar to ours.”
(And if you’re going, “Hey, Harry Potter isn’t urban fantasy! It’s in a self-contained parallel world!” … I’m going by Wikipedia’s list of urban fantasy novels, which include the Potter series.)
It’s a naturally appealing idea, where gods and mythical creatures are roaming around in our world. It shows up in the “technically not Harry Potter but it totally is” movies like the Percy Jackson series and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones… which from I understand it actually started as a Draco Malfoy fanfic. It’s also the basis of horribly cheesy movies like Hercules in New York and Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time. It’s that Nic Cage in Sorceror’s Apprentice and Christopher Lambert in Highlander. (Let’s forget that he gets his powers from an alien world and it’s actually sci-fi. Highlander 2: The Quickening does not exist.)
It’s also Thor, with a god from Norse myth walking around in New Mexico. If that sounds like stretching it, don’t worry… I don’t think anyone really has a good fix on what is “urban fantasy” and what isn’t. (I mean… is Mary Poppins “urban fantasy”? It’s set in a city and has magic after all…. I think I’m going to lie down.)
That said, here’s today’s challenging prompt: What’s your favorite movie in an urban or contemporary fantasy setting?