If Wrath of the Titans is anything to go by, ancient Greek hero Perseus spoke with an Aussie accent, aimed for a perm (preferable to a crew-cut?) and looked like Sam Worthington. The sequel to the remake has staggered into cinemas as the latest tale of the ancient world to be given the big-budget studio treatment.
It’s plot-light, which is a bit disappointing considering the film’s inspired by Greek myth and the ancients knew a thing or two about telling a memorable story. But then, Wrath isn’t the first offender when it comes to adaptations of ancient stories whose scripts seem to have been scribbled furiously on-set by hassled screenwriters trying to salvage some kind of emotional core. Probably while being shot at by a team of cackling producers with sniper rifles.
Zack Snyder kicked off the trend for ‘historical fantasy’ in a big way with 300, which, by way of Frank Miller, told the ancient story of the Glaswegian-Spartan king Gerard Butler, who took on a massive Persian army largely in slow-motion and managed to look pretty damn cool while he did it.
The sequel to 300 is on the way, but we’ve already had the Clash of the Titans remake and Immortals, which looks pretty similar but features a scene where a traitorous soldier has his nuts crushed with a big mallet and some nasty sound effects. Fun times in the multiplex on a Friday night!
It has to be a tough process for the screenwriters. At first there’s perhaps a glimmer of hope as rumours drift through the studio corridors that the Boss wants to make a film based on ancient myth and legend. Perhaps it’s a chance for the writers to flex their creative muscles and deal with some Big Themes?
Of course the reality is somewhat different. The script development meeting for Wrath of the Titans must have been tense. No doubt these meetings involve a group of sharply-dressed producers sitting round a long conference table in an airy Hollywood meeting room, the Studio Boss looming over them at the head of the table, a stern look on his face as his wolf hound growls suspiciously.
They’re waiting for an apology from the man who didn’t impress anyone with his first few drafts of Wrath. The Writer shuffles into the room, his suit soiled and dishevelled, his beard long and greying, squinting as he sees sunlight for the first time in weeks. The heavy chains around his ankles grind on the tiled floor as he walks.
He takes his seat at the end of the table with a clang of metal manacles, glances at his well-heeled overlords, nods a greeting and begins reading from a crumpled piece of filing paper: “I offer my humble apologies for my initial drafts of Wrath of the Titans. My exile in The Pit has made me realise that modern audiences are indeed not interested in the grand narratives of the ancient world.
“The Greeks and Romans may have invented the very concept of drama and created stories that have lasted through the ages in a way that, perhaps, the combined works of Michael Bay and Paul WS Anderson will not. That said, it was wrong of me to believe that relying on stories written by ancient scholars far more talented than I could prove a bigger box-office draw than a computer-generated Kraken rendered in pretty creaky 3D.
“As you will see from my latest drafts, I’ve put more focus on the popular dramatic issues of the day, such as how many people a ripped Perseus could kill with a really big spear, while the interpersonal relationships are less Homer’s Odyssey and more Hollyoaks.
“As I’ve come to expect, of course, my work is merely the starting point of something much bigger. I welcome suggestions from cast and crew and am hopeful that our combined talents will lead to great things. Some of the best films ever produced were pretty much made up on the fly by people with no real idea of the story they were trying to tell, so there’s always a slim chance that something memorable will emerge from chaos.”
He nods gently, stuffs the filing paper back into his ripped pocket and glances nervously at the producers. The Studio Boss nods his thanks and motions to his security officers, who drag the Writer from the room with an ear-splitting squeak of metal manacle on tile.
The Studio Boss turns to his colleagues: “On a side note, next time we’ll probably just hire a different writer if we don’t like what the first one produces. The lawyers tell me The Pit is a legal minefield…”