November 14, 2011
I went to see the Greek gods and ferocious warriors of antiquity battle it out this weekend in IMMORTALS, which topped the weekend box office with a healthy $32M in tickets. I am a sucker when it comes to a good "sword and sandal" epic, a old film genre that has been resurgent lately. Also, seeing it in the 3D made me think I had taken a time warp back to the 1950's when this genre, and 3D, had its original heyday.
The phrase "sword and sandal" refers directly to films made in Italy from the '50s-60s that feature gladiators, Hercules and Jason (not to mention the argonauts). The genre also ended up covering the ancient epics that were coming out of Hollywood at the time with bigger budgets, stars, and much wider screens. This was the studios way to get people to leave their boxy, black and white TV sets at home and come to the movies, which were experiencing a precipitous drop in attendance.
Cut to 50 years later and it seems like it's a little bit of cultural history repeating itself. Now the studios are trying to yank viewers from your Netflix stream and get them to watch muscley guys in togas with graphic visual effects (exploding head of blood anyone?) in newfangled 3D. The 3D is cool but, especially in this film, it had the feel of watching a live action ViewMaster movie. It's cute (see Henry Cavill above) but hardly realistic. It will be interesting to see if there are more scantily clads Greeks and Romans to come.