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The Historical Epic

September 1, 2004

Ah, the historical epic. The film genre that encompasses both the best (Ben-Hur, Spartacus, Lawrence of Arabia) and worst (Demetrius and the Gladiators, Rob Roy) of Hollywood. Sure, it was almost wiped out after “Cleopatra”, but thanks to kilts, blood, and Mel Gibson, it came roaring back to life after “Braveheart”.

(As an aside, when “Braveheart” came out, I predicted it would win Best Picture. Everyone laughed at me and said it was too violent. Well, nine years later, I’m still laughing)

In recent years, we’ve had some more – notably “Gladiator”, which was good, if only loosely based on anything resembling history (Marcus Aurelius did exist, and so did his son Commodus – the similarities to the truth end there). And this summer, Wolfgang “my movies look pretty but tend to collapse in the last half hour” Petersen treated us to a “Troy” that was “inspired” by Homer.

Well, the historical epic bug has bit Hollywood again. Next summer, Ridley Scott takes us to 12th century Jerusalem and the gory spectacle of the Crusades. Vin Diesel has apparently been terribly miscast as the Carthaginian general Hannibal for an upcoming film that will likely involve elephants. Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire is rumored to be in preproduction. And, coming out in the near future, Oliver Stone’s “Alexander”.

Now, I want “Alexander” to succeed, and I hope that I thoroughly enjoy it, because I want more historical epics. MORE! But I’m afraid that the movie is going to suck. Why? Colin Ferrell, or however you spell his name. When I look at the stills from the movie…that bleached hair looks terrible, and the way its styled…is he selling cologne or conquering Persia? The Greeks cut their hair with razors, and styled it with oil – there was no Paul Mitchell in the 4th century B.C. So, based off that alone, I am afraid the movie will be terrible.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to seeing a Greek phalanx in action on the big screen.

But enough about “Alexander”. Since we’re (okay, I’m) talking about historical epics, how about exploring a few that we should see on the screen? Some of these are serious, and some are completely not. You be the judge.

“The Odyssey” – Sean Bean’s Odysseus was a saving grace in Troy, so how about spitting out a sequel about his legendary voyage home?

“Marathon” – The battle made famous by Phidipides, who ran back to Athens with word of victory over the Persians.

“The Constitutional Convention” – Guys in stockings bickering over our constitution. Keep Michael Bay away from this one.

“The Spanish Armada” – I think this would rule. Anybody else?

“Ben-Hur” – MGM seems to remake it everything they are in trouble. Isn’t it about time? Feel free to depate who should try to fill Chuck Heston’s shoes. Me, I think Jude Law would be awesome as the wronged Jew.

“The Rubicon” – A movie about Caesar. Why not? And Jeremy Irons should play Caesar, with Kevin Spacey as a shoe in for Cicero.

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