Hollywood loves epic stories based on famous myths and historical events. In the early 2000s, films like 300, Gladiator, and Troy delighted audiences and stuffed box offices with cash, establishing a sprawling genre of sorts and propelling the careers of actors like Gerald Butler, Russell Crowe, and Eric Bana.
Inevitably, the success of these films also inspired other studios and directors to try their hands at creating the next big epics. However, we would ultimately learn that big budgets and epic concepts aren’t always enough to produce fun (let alone good) films. In fact, often enough these attempts have led to considerable flops, such that once-promising concepts have evaporated from modern cinematic lore.
Let’s take a look at some epics that might have been great, but wound up disappearing from the culture entirely.
1.) King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword
Modern cinematic adaptations of the legend of King Arthur haven’t been particularly successful; until 2017, a 2004 portrayal starring Clive Owen was the only noteworthy example, and it was slammed by critics. With King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword, the thinking appears to be that director Guy Ritchie’s brand of fast-paced edits and intense fighting scenes could work. While the film is visually entertaining though, the story was disappointing, and disastrous reviews led the studio to scrap plans for several sequels.
Given the poor reviews and lack of sequels, this film has all but disappeared from popular relevance. There is a game that Warner Bros. released based on the film that’s actually a lot of fun, and there were also a few King Arthur-themed internet slot games that came out around the time of the film’s release, though they were not officially connected. Aside from these lingering games though, Ritchie’s Arthur film has a non-existent legacy.
2.) Wrath Of The Titans
The original Clash Of The Titans by legendary animator Ray Harryhausen inspired generations of filmmakers. When it was director Jonathan Liebesman’s turn to film a remake, he hired Sam Worthington (who had become a star in Avatar) for the role of Perseus. The result received mixed reviews, with people criticizing the plotting and the 3D effects. Despite these issues, the film managed to spawn a sequel titled Wrath Of The Titans, and hope of a larger franchise.
The sequel arguably has better action and special effects than its predecessor. But its story is such a mess that hopes of a franchise were dashed, and a retro-style beat-em-up game developed by Gameloft is the only remaining clue in entertainment culture that this film was ever a big deal.
In 2010, Michael Fassbender was coming off of Inglourious Basterds looking to make a name for himself. And before he emerged as Magneto in X-Men: First Class, he took on the role of Quintus Dias, a Roman solder helping a general conquer Britain. Despite its exciting and intense action though, the film received mixed reviews for its poor writing and excessive violence.
It’ a shame because this film had a chance to capitalise on a fascination with Roman fighting that never truly fades from the culture. Soldiers like Quintus Dias featured in 2000’s Gladiator and in the popular 2004 PC game Rome: Total War. And in the years following this film’s release, the Gala Bingo online gaming platform introduced the title Slingo Centurion (like the aforementioned King Arthur slots, an unlicensed and unofficial game), and Crytek developed a major console game called Ryse: Son Of Rome. Clearly, there is an appetite for drama revolving around a Roman soldier. But Centurion couldn’t take advantage of this, and as a result is largely forgotten despite all of these other examples of Roman warfare in pop entertainment.
In 2014, director Paul W. S. Anderson (of Resident Evil and Alien vs. Predator fame) brought one of the biggest tragedies in ancient history to film. With Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington in the lead, the film was expected to blend romance and disaster, and blow audiences away like the very best epics.
Unfortunately, people never really gave it a chance. Comments about how horrible the special effects were and how badly the stunt work was done spread quickly, leading to low box office turnout (not to mention critical panning). Here again, the film left virtually no legacy (though again there is a slot arcade that may have been inspired by the film, if unofficially so).
Back in 2004, Oliver Stone was assigned to make what people hoped was going to be one of the most epic films in history. With a budget of $155 million, and a slew of stars on board, the film was poised to be the next Gladiator. It wasn’t.
Despite using one of the most interesting historical figures as a basis, the film told a long and dull story that failed to resonate. It earned a 16% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and left hardly a ripple in culture (though some did like the director’s cut better).
Epics comprise a genre that never ceases to attract attention. Nevertheless, these examples prove that said genre doesn’t guarantee success. Even so, we wouldn’t mind seeing some of these concepts tried again with different approaches!
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