Even if you're a detractor of Zack Snyder's 300 (and I understand why the film has them), you have to agree that its style was what made it special. It was lovely to look at, it was simultaneously a Frank Miller panel and an ancient Greek sculpture, and duplicating it really misses the point. Of course, Hollywood believes that if it's worth doing once to the tune of millions of dollars, it's worth doing until it becomes a cliche. Seeing as they're now looking to the Bible for their CG inspiration, I thought I'd offer up five ancient epics just waiting to be dusted off and 300-ized.

Admittedly, I'm being a bit glib in my definition of "ancient," but I couldn't resist stretching the parameters into the early medieval. I also restricted myself purely to poetry instead of actual history, but I'm hoping readers will also offer up a few battle plans that should be 300-ized. Feel free to extend your historical range to WW2 if you want. It's not as though Hollywood has a very solid grasp of history whether ancient or modern. After all, for the studios, it just needs to amped with badassery. But hey, if it drives some people to a Borders display looking for the real thing, I can't complain too much. It's not as though kids these days get much in the way of classics, and I don't think the ancients would mind their stories retold with a lot of emphasis on the sex and violence. I'm fairly certain that was always the appeal.

1. Epic of Gilgamesh

One of the earliest known works of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh is as sparsely written as Frank Miller's 300, but it offers loads of potential. Gilgamesh is the king of Uruk, and is terrorizing his kingdom with his mighty strength. So the gods create the wild man Enkidu to content with "his stormy heart." They become fast friends (the original buddy comedy!) until Enkidu's untimely death. Gilgamesh goes to the ends of the earth to discover how to cheat death. It's a heartbreaking story, but it's also loaded with sex and violence. Remember the Oracle, and the Persian tent of debauchery? There's some temple priestesses and a Uruk court you could remake in those breathy images.

2. Ballad of Mulan

Disney already did it with a talking dragon, and I'm not sure the Chinese would appreciate another American version of Hua Mulan. But from a purely feminist perspective, I'd like to see at least one story with a woman warrior get the blockbuster treatment, and it'd be nice to see one centered on another continent. If the poems are any indication, Hua Mulan could rival the Spartans for steely determination ("She only hears the war horses of the Hu Soldiers neighing" -- I'm sure it's even better in Chinese). Think about it -- mountains, martial arts, and a heroine who chooses a horse as her reward. "Tonight, we dine in hell!" never sounded so overblown compared to that quiet bow.

3. Medea

The Greek Medea is as far away from the Tyler Perry character as you can get. Medea falls in love with Jason (he of the Golden Fleece), marries him, and gives him the best years of her life. They have two children together before he decides a marriage to the beautiful young princess Glauce would be far more advantageous, and dumps his family. But Medea is a woman who you can't simply send into exile, and she has a unique way with magic and poisons. She sends his wife-to-be a poisoned dress and calmly watches as it kills Glauce and her father, Creon. Then she decides that Jason just got off too easily by that event, and kills their children. It's messed up. It's also ready to be 300-ized in order to appreciate the full majesty of Medea flying from the carnage away in the sun god's chariot.

4. Kullervo

The Finnish Kalevala is full of strange stories and weird beings, but the story of Kullervo is one of the most bitter and tragic. It's also one of the most cinematic. Born out of warfare and strife, he's only three months old before he begins predicting doom and strife for his father's tribe. In true mythological fashion, his father decides to kill the infant and he does nothing halfway, as he attempts to drown him, burn him, and crucify him. Left with a magical kid who just won't die, he sells him into slavery. What follows is the classic story of a warrior rising above his circumstances, but with the added twist of being able to turn his captor's cows into bears that eat her. Eventually, he grows up, gets a magic broadsword, and vows to destroy his father. The whole story is actually a Finnish lesson in "Don't abuse children" and inspired Tolkien to write the tragic tale of Turin Turambar. But what's more important here is magic swords, a furious slave, man-hungry bears, and the way they'd be captured by green screen. Even Stephen Colbert couldn't dream of something so savage.

5. The Battle of Maldon

This is the Anglo-Saxon version of Thermopylae. Earl Byrhtnoth and his severely outnumbered thanes ride out to confront the Viking invasion. They know they won't survive. They know they won't even win the battle. But they're not going to turn around and ride home. It's all epitomized in the famous line, "Courage shall grow keener / clearer the will / the heart fiercer, as our force faileth." Who doesn't want to see Anglo-Saxons riding out to glorious, heroic death? Forget about a sequel or prequel to 300, just make this, and audiences will appreciate the "novelty" all over again.

categories Cinematical