If Hollywood can’t make classics anymore, at least it can make movies for classics majors. Between now and the end of 2014, at least seven epics set in the ancient world will hit the big screen, starting with Renny Harlin’s The Legend Of Hercules, which came out last weekend. And why all this gladiatorial combat at the multiplex? Take your pick:
- We’re all deeply uneasy about the modern world — and therefore escaping into reassuring stories of morality and heroism.
- We’re all deeply uneasy about the modern world — and therefore receptive to stories of wrath and vengeance.
- The major studios are financially illiquid and creatively bankrupt — and therefore green-lighting only stories we already know.
- Computer-generated images can part the Red Sea, float Noah’s ark, incinerate Pompeii and field a cast of thousands, all on the cheap.
- Jesus, Themistokles, Noah, Moses and Hercules are all in the public domain.
Much as we might prefer minting new myths to regurgitating the old ones, there is serious talent at work here amid the dross. Noah will have a third crow aboard the ark: Russell Crowe, that is, in the title role. And, in a revisionist twist, Moses in Ridley Scott’s Exodus is actually a Christian, i.e., Christian Bale.
Herewith, your crib sheet to the rest of the movies that will be Greco-Roman wrestling for box-office laurels.
Pompeii (Feb. 21)
Down from Olympus: Featuring Carrie-Anne Moss, Jared Harris, Kiefer Sutherland. Co-written by Julian Fellowes.
Sandals to fill: 200 previous adaptations
Producer/director Paul W.S. Anderson’s number of Resident Evil pictures: 5 and counting
Eve of destruction: Screenwriter Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey knows a little something about the foibles of a decadent aristocracy on the brink of catastrophe.
Son of God (Feb. 28)
Down from Olympus: Co-produced by reality TV tycoon Mark Burnett and his wife, Touched By An Angel’s Roma Downey.
Sandals to fill: as many as 390 previous adaptations (give or take)
Running time: 2 hours
Running time of The Bible, the miniseries it’s whittled down from: 10 hours
Fun factoid: NBC has already commissioned a sequel to The Bible from Burnett, Downey and their partners at Hearst Entertainment. It’s called A.D. and will follow the growth of Christianity after the death of Jesus. Isn’t the New Testament already a sequel?
300: Rise of an Empire (March 7)
Down from Olympus: Starring Lena Headey, Eva Green. Co-written by Zack Snyder.
Sandals to fill: 7 previous adaptations
Number of the original 300 Spartans returning for this sequel: 0
Apocalyptic Showdowns “R” Us: After Themistokles faces down Xerxes in 300: Rise of an Empire, Snyder’s next project is Batman vs. Superman.
Noah (March 28)
Down from Olympus: Starring Russell Crowe, Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins. Directed/co-written by Darren Aronofsky.
Sandals to fill: 32 previous versions
Adapt or die: After 14 years of original projects, Aronofsky is sourcing material from somewhere else for the first time.
Origin stories: Jennifer Connelly made her debut at 14 as the impossibly lovely girl dancing alone in the first scene of Once Upon a Time in America. Emma Watson made hers at 11 as Hermione in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Hercules (July 25)
Down from Olympus: Starring Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane. Directed by Brett Ratner.
Sandals to fill: 83 previous versions, including January’s The Legend of Hercules.
Number of ex-wives for Ian McShane and John Hurt to support, respectively: 2 and 3.
Promotions: John Hurt is now Sir John Hurt. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is now Dwayne Johnson.
Exodus (Dec. 12)
Down from Olympus: Starring Christian Bale, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, John Turturro. Directed by Ridley Scott.
Sandals to fill: 10 previous versions
Number of films directed by Ridley Scott since Black Hawk Down, his last Oscar nomination: 8
Why you should care
If togas and sandals suddenly become a thing this summer, remember you read it here first.