I have a confession to make -- I saw The Last of the Mohicans in its entirety for the first time this past weekend. Shocking, isn't it? I'm not sure how this happened except that I was just young enough when it came out in theaters to find historical films boring, never managed to catch it on television as a teen, and sneered at it while in college history classes. I even did a massive paper on the myth of the American west that James Fenimore Cooper took up a lot of space in, but I still managed to avoid every version of the movie because it was finals week. (Believe me, if I had known then that I'd be writing for Cinematical instead of earning a history doctorate, I'd have given up a night of research for a night with Daniel Day Lewis.)

It's a sign of the times that I'm working and writing in that I got to the end, and immediately wished they had made a sequel. Not just because of all the open-shirtedness (yes, that's a word) but because it could have explored a vanishing world, and really dug into the character of Hawkeye. There are other books, after all, and Mohicans is a loose enough adaptation that they could have cherry-picked and expanded another Leatherstocking tale or two. They still could. Some part of me would like to see The Prairie with an old, grim Nathaniel in his final days ... but maybe it's just best everyone imagine him happily civilized with Cora.

But we never get history-based sequels. I'm still crushed that they've never brought back Captain Jack Aubrey. The Aubrey-Maturin series is fantastic, and the Peter Weir film is one of my all-time favorites. I'd happily give up a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean installment for another Master and Commander ... and only partially because Aubrey doesn't spawn a million imitators in eyeliner.
Of course, the reality is that you can barely convince Hollywood to make one historical film, let alone two or three of a series. Studios are convinced there's no market for this kind of thing. I think they're wrong. Look at how crazy people have gone for The Tudors, Rome, John Adams, and Deadwood. Gladiator and Braveheart did well. People long for this kind of thing, and they gobble up whatever HBO or Masterpiece Theater can throw at them. Look at how the UK trusts its audience -- they've made Sharpe, Horatio Hornblower (If I remember right, Hornblower was a bigger success here than over there), and Pride and Prejudice into national obsessions. I don't see a very good reason why we couldn't do (and afford) the same.

People love a good story whether the heroes are packing automatics or flintlocks, and as long as it's made and sold right it'll be a success. If you can convince mainstream audiences to obsess over boy wizards, hobbits, and dreadlocked pirates, the Napoleonic War won't be too much of a stretch.

So start franchising the puffy shirts already, Hollywood. You'll have prequels and sequels galore, and can leave the reboots and remakes alone for awhile.

categories Cinematical