In Defense of Modern ‘Epics’
So here’s my theory: if J Lee Thompson or Victor Fleming had been granted access to the raw materials available to Baz Luhrmann and other directors this side of the millenium they would have crafted something eerily close to Australia (2008).
This film seems to attract a lot of flack for ‘trying to be an epic’, to stand out as a modern Casablanca or Gone With the Wind. Is it just me or does this feel like blind elitism in the face of change? These claims, for the most part, aren’t backed up. It’s fair to have complaints about the film’s content, script, performances, but does it make sense to slate it for trying to achieve a particular style?
A similar example is the 2011 movie Take Me Home Tonight, which deliberately conjures the feel of an 80s coming-of-age comedy. Watching TMHT it’s hard not to wonder if this is what Say Anything… would have looked like shot on modern cameras.
This film is funny, well-shot, full of great performances, and it did incredibly badly. TMHT didn’t get the marketing it needed, it was slated by critics and it died in a pool of its own nostalgia. For a film that’s a hundred times better-made than The Hangover or other top-grossing comedies this doesn’t seem right.
So who makes the rules? Brick (2005) indulges in over-the-top noir thriller stylings of days gone by, The Lord of the Rings (2001-3) bends over backwards to fulfil some mad lust for the kind of camp fantasy epic which would never cut it with any less-than-iconic property. What makes some genres more heavily defended than others?