Top 5... - November 28, 2014

Hercules (and five other myths we'd like to see on the big screen)
by James
James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

Hercules (and five other myths we'd like to see on the big screen)

Beowulf, Thor, Godzilla... there have been a slew of films recently that all take their inspiration from mythical characters and beasts, and the latest of these arrives next week (Monday December 1st) in the form of Hercules.

Directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand) and starring Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, the story is, obviously, based on the exploits of the Greco-Roman character of the same name, purported to be a demi-god and the son of Zeus, known or his legendary bravery and strength.

The narrative of Ratner's film concerns itself with the period of Hercules' life following the completion of his legendary 'twelve labours' (which include slaying a lion, capturing a bull and stealing some apples from a bunch of fairies), when he and his band of mercenaries are enlisted by the King of Thrace to defend the kingdom from a ruthless warlord named Rheseus (Tobias Santelmann). Rheseus and his army have been accused of ransacking and burning villages, but when he is captured by Hercules' men and tortured, Hercules discovers that not all is as it seems and begins to question whether he is fighting on the right side.

It's a big old blockbuster with some epic battle scenes and plenty of bombast, with a strong cast that includes John Hurt, Ian McShane, Rebecca Ferguson, Rufus Sewell and Joseph Fiennes, among others. If you enjoyed films like 300 and Troy, this might be right up your street. For those who find this kind of Greco-Roman drama a bit formulaic however, we've picked five other myths that we think deserve an outing on the big screen...

 

Watch a Home Entertainment exclusive clip below from one of the Hercules featurettes, available on the Blu-Ray from Monday.

 

 

Hercules
Hercules Brett Ratner

El Dorado

The legendary 'lost city of gold' purported to have been located somewhere in South America, El Dorado first became a popular myth during the 16th century, inspiring a series of a Spanish conquistadors – and later Sir Walter Raleigh – to sail all the way across the oceans in search of endless riches.

Sadly, all they found in many cases was cinnamon tress and untimely death at the hands of the locals. As it later turned out, the legend of El Dorado had been misunderstood; the story actually originates from another myth about a man known as El Hombre Dorado, or 'the golden man', who was rumoured to have covered himself in gold dust and dived into Lake Guatavita in the Colombian Andes. Even so, the myth refuses to die and as recently as 2012 groups of explorers were claiming to gave found the site, this time in the Honduran rainforest.

Despite the endurance of this now 500-year-old myth, there has never really been a big screen adaptation of the concept aside from its inclusion in plots for other franchises, including early Lone Ranger pictures and the very dodgy Alan Quartermain films, so we'd argue that maybe now is the time the story of the quests to locate the city. Put somebody like Spielberg in the director's chair and we can see this one working.

 

Atlantis

In addition to rumours of lost cities like El Dorado and places like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, there have been many theories over the years about entire continents that have supposedly gone missing, including Lemuria, Mu and, most famously of all, Atlantis.
First mentioned in Timaeus, written by the philosopher Plato around 360 BC, Atlantis has fascinated the imaginations of explorers and historians alike for hundreds of years, with some claiming that geological features like the mid-Atlantic ridge are proof of the continent's existence, while others believe that Atlantis was simply an allegory that Plato used to depict his idea of a utopian society.

Either way, while Atlantis has certainly featured fleetingly in a number of films from Journey to the Centre of the Earth to 10,000 BC and even been the subject of an animated Disney feature in 2001, there has yet to be a proper, big-budget live action film on the subject and while the concept has been bounced around by too many studios and production companies to list, it has never quite made it to production. That's understandable given that the budgets would need to be astronomical for it to be convincing, but CGI has come a long, long way in the last ten years, so who knows?

 

The Loch Ness Monster

Now for something a little closer to home. Those over the age of 30 may remember the animated series The Family Ness, in which not one but an entire family of creatures dwelling in the depths of Loch Ness befriend a couple of local children. However, despite the fact that Nessie remains a popular tourist attraction for Inverness, a cinematic adaptation has yet to reach fruition.
But why not? With the popularity of films like Godzilla it does seem that the cinema-going public has an appetite for mythical beasts, and in the right hands a horror film starring Scotland's most famous prehistoric creature could be a winner. Maybe Eli Roth might be interested...

 

Fulcanelli

A much more modern myth is the strange story of a man known as Fulcanelli. Widely understood to have been a pseudonym for a real person, Fulcanelli's true identity has never been known, but his story reads like the plot of a movie just waiting to be made. Though to be a Frenchman, Fulcanelli was an alchemist and esoteric author understood to have been born in 1839, who was thought to have been taught the dark art of transmutation (turning non-precious metals into gold) by an equally mysterious monk named Basil Valentine – and odd claim to make since Valentine was supposedly born in the 1500s. Nevertheless, a student of his named Eugène Canseliet claimed that he had successfully turned lead into gold by following Fulcanelli's teachings.

Fulcanelli was also known to have knowledge of nuclear fission years before scientists perfected the process was reportedly still around during the second world war, inspiring Hitler to task a team of investigators to discover the whereabouts of his hiding place somewhere in Paris, but without success. Even though he would have been very old by the time the war was over, he was rumoured to have disappeared without trace in 1945.

Weirder still however is Canseliet's claim that his former teacher visited him in Spain in 1953, appearing much younger than his protege remembered him, even though he would have been 114 years old at the time. Some have even claimed that Canseliet himself was behind the myth of Fulcanelli, although this contradicts other accounts who claim to have met the man, but as a story Fulcanelli's tale has everything; nuclear scientists, immortality, Nazis. Sounds like a movie to us...


The Illuminati

Last but by no means least, no other secret society inspires quite so much fervent conspiracy theorising as the Illuminati. Thought to have originally been a pro-Enlightenment society known as the Bavarian Illuminati founded in the 1600s by a German named Adam Weishaupt, its exploits have been told, retold, exaggerated and embellished upon for hundreds of years. Theories about the Illuminati range from the plausible to the ridiculous, with a variety of theories that describe them as everything from a shady cabal of international bankers to a race of shape-shifting, Satan-worshipping reptiles from the fourth dimension. The society has featured in films such as Angels and Demons, but as with Atlantis, the organisation itself has yet to be the subject of a big-budget feature.

What we'd really like to see though is a screen adaptation of the Illuminatus! trilogy of books. Co-authored by Robert Shea and Robert Anton-Wilson, the pair had been working as staff writers at Playboy magazine during the 1970s, where they received torrents of letters from conspiracy theorists claiming to have secret knowledge of everything from the Kennedy assassination to government-sponsored mind control programmes. The book's concepts are loosely based on the premise 'what if we just assume that all of this is true?'

The result is a hallucinogenic yarn that claims porpoises can talk, that there is a frozen army under the surface of a German lake, and that notorious bank robber John Dillinger's penis is kept in a jar of formaldehyde at the Smithsonian museum. Although Ken Campbell created a stage adaptation (with an epic nine-hour running time, no less), it has yet to make it into cinemas, but it's a film that we'd definitely buy ourselves a ticket for.

 

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