Myths and Legends
The Greeks have perhaps told the most culturally pervasive and enduring tales of any culture. Modern film can barely touch the thousand year epics they forged, but they have done wonders for reimagining and retelling those ancient epics and literary masterworks, and it’s hard to find a work of fantasy untouched by Grecian inspiration. Jason’s Argonauts, the half god Herakles, heroes and monsters, gods and titans. And though the stories were not unique, and many civilizations had risen and fallen long before the Greeks penned their epics, it is the Greeks we call the classics.
I didn’t want to start this list with a negative, I really didn’t, and I admit that I am no fan of Zack Snyder, but here is a prime example of style over substance direction. 300 is renowned for its’ one-liners, but dialogue is questionable, practically absent, and most scenes are padded with slow-motion effects and David Wenham‘s unnecessary exposition, and lets not forget the hilariously noisy fire and whoosh noises.
Amidst all of this is a drawn out storyline that would otherwise have been quite enjoyable. A great deal of talent is wasted on this film, I’d even forgotten that Michael Fassbender was in this film, and it’s quite unlike him to give a forgettable performance. At least Gerard Butler got a lot of much better work as a result of his iconic portrayal of Leonidas.
Two things 300 has that the Greeks would have been proud of, rampant sexism and a little homosexual subtext, but it brings more excessive bravado than could ever be put to page. The one liners are great, even despite the over use of the “This is Sparta” meme, but I still remain lost as to why people keep giving Zack Snyder money, surely even DC aren’t that stupi-
Oh… Well at least 300 didn’t get a sequel or anything!
Clash of the Titans
A major leg up in quality, Clash has as much, if not more talent at it’s disposal than 300. It suffers a little on the accuracy of its’ classical content, the behaviour of the gods being quite out of character when set against what is known about their mythology. Hades for example is set as the villain, when in fact it was Poseidon who couldn’t seem to get the stick from his immortal posterior.
Clash of the Titans suffers only for it’s blockbuster status, but draws from far superior source material, both the 1981 film, and of course the original myth of Perseus. It also makes one or two rather stunning artistic choices, the deadwood Charon fused with his floating wreckage being stunningly good, and the weird glittery gods and their utterly silent armour being stunningly stupid. Clash of the Titans is worth watching, as is the sequel Wrath of the Titans which has a superb depiction of the Minoan Labyrinth.
I liked the nod to the ’81 film with the clockwork owl, but the remake has a lot of its’ own unique style with very little compromise on either talent or content. Amongst the roster are Liam Neeson who plays a commendable Zeus, Ralph Fiennes delivers a rather creepy Hades, and Luke Evans plays Apollo! You remember Luke Evans? He’s that who you always think is Orlando Bloom, but better.
On the subject of Luke Evans, in Immortals it is he who takes the role of Zeus in a very different interpretation of the pantheon. A unique story of Theseus, who takes arms against the advancing army of King Hyperion, who plans to release the Titans from their prison beneath Tartarus, and conquer both man and the gods themselves. I must confess my bias before I begin, the director of Immortals – Tarsem Singh – also directed my favourite film of all: The Cell.
You will understand then that when I compare its’ visual style to 300, and art direction with Clash of the Titans I do not do so lightly. From 300, find the golden tones and dramatic camera angles. From Clash, an alternative take on the mythology. The Minotaur has become a masked torturer and manhunter; the gods wear the faces of younger men and women, rather than revered elders; and the Titans are seen as simply other immortal beings, rather than immense monsters.
This is a visceral film, bleak and sickening, but with all the epic heroism and monumental action one can expect from a tale of Greek legends. With it comes acting legends Mickey Rourke and John Hurt, but their involvement does little to improve upon a film that needs no saving.
Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief
Nahh, I’m only kidding. I watched it out of curiosity and got exactly what I expected.
Greek mythology is a rich vein as yet undepleted of all the inspiration it could give to creative minds. So I ask of you, what is your favourite Greek epic turned film? And how would you retell the legends of old in your own way?