Is it “epic” just because it’s biblical?

It’s a slow news day here at FilmChat, so for those who follow Bible movies as obsessively as I do — if not more so — here is an update on Promenade Pictures and its plans for a series of CG-animated Bible epics, beginning with The Ten Commandments.

If you go to Promenade’s official website and click on “Films”, the first thing that comes up is six paintings under the heading “Epic Stories of the Bible”, each of which is labelled like so:

  1. The Ten Commandments
  2. Noah’s Ark: The New Beninning (sic)
  3. David & Goliath
  4. Samson & Delilah
  5. The Battle Of Jericho
  6. Genesis

The first thing that occurs to me on seeing this list is that, with the exception of The Ten Commandments — which will reportedly include not just the Exodus but the 40 years of wandering that followed it — none of these stories is particularly “epic”.

“Genesis” might sound big, but the synopsis says it will concern the story of Adam and Eve — and apparently nothing else.

Every cinematic version of the “Noah’s Ark” story that I have ever seen is a short film or a mere segment of a larger film — with, I think, the single exception of that 1999 mini-series, which puffed the story up with a lot of nonsense, or with bits cribbed from other parts of the Bible that have nothing to do with Noah’s Ark.

“The Battle of Jericho” may be “epic” in scale, given that it concerns the conquering of a rather large city — but it is really just one episode in the considerably larger conquest of Canaan by Joshua.

And the lives of Samson and David might be “epic”, if they were depicted in their entirety — but the episodes involving Delilah and Goliath actually make up a small portion of their life stories.

If all of these films are supposed to be feature-length, then most of them will need to be padded out quite a bit — unlike The Ten Commandments, where we have so much data on the life of Moses that any movie about him has to leave some things out.

The latest Star Trek XI rumour.

As always, take this with a shaker full of salt, but Moriarty at Ain’t It Cool News posted this wild Star Trek XI rumour yesterday:

Okay, first thing that surprised me: I think Leonard Nimoy is sort of the star of the movie. I think a lot of this movie is about Spock. Nimoy-aged Spock, mind you.


Okay… you know the scene in BACK TO THE FUTURE 2? Where Doc Brown explains alternate timelines? Well, this is sort of… ummm… TREK TO THE FUTURE, I guess you would call it…

Picture an incident that throws a group of Romulans back in time. Picture that group of Romulans figuring out where they are in the timeline, then deciding to take advantage of the accident to kill someone’s father, to erase them from the timeline before they exist, thereby changing all of the TREK universe as a result. Who would you erase? Whose erasure would leave the biggest hole in the TREK universe is the question you should be asking.

Who else, of course, but James T. Kirk?

If Spock were in a position to change that incident back, and then in a position to guard that timeline and make sure things happen the way they’re supposed to, it creates…

… well, what does it create? Because evidently the plan is to use this second timeline as a way of rebooting without erasing or ignoring canon. These new voyages of the ENTERPRISE, they’re taking place in whatever timeline starts with this story. Maybe this timeline features dramatic differences. Like… say… if Vulcan were to be blown up. If the Vulcans in the series were suddenly the last of their kind, alone in the universe, it would change who they are and maybe even redefine their strict rejection of emotion in favor of logic.

You can introduce these Universe2 versions of classic TREK events and characters, and you can play with the audience’s expectation. Things have changed. Some things play out the way you expect… some don’t. It’s basically the same solution Marvel Comics has in terms of publishing, the way they use their ULTIMATES line to reboot continuity.

As a friend said when I was talking to him about this tonight, “Wait… so you’re saying they’re not just doing a square one reboot that would simplify everything, but that they’re actually making it… more complicated?”

Gadzooks. I think I’d prefer a simple, out-and-out remake.

No doubt there are other objections that one could make to this proposed storyline, but the first thing that comes to my mind is that, in Star Trek continuity, certain events in the 23rd and 24th centuries need to take place in order for the 19th and 20th centuries (among others) to take place the way they did. And erasing or revising the 23rd and 24th centuries as we know them could have huge ramifications for the entire timeline.

But I suppose this will leave the 22nd century, and thus Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005), more or less intact? Then again, that series was based, in part, on the movie Star Trek: First Contact (1996), in which Captain Picard and crew come back in time from the 24th century to battle the Borg in the 21st century.

Argh. This really sounds more complicated than it’s worth.

Sacred music = violent movies.

Last night, at a preview screening of Death Sentence, I saw two trailers in a row that made significant use of sacred music — and all in the service of selling hyperviolent action movies.

First, there was what I presume is the green-band trailer for Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem. (Trailers don’t have green bands or red bands in Canada.) It is a lot like the red-band trailer, but with some of the gorier bits cut out — and towards the end, the Christmas carol ‘Silent Night’ plays over the images of stabbing and shooting and slashing and so on and so forth, while title cards tell us that, this Christmas, “there will be no peace on Earth.” Hmmm.

Curiously, I have not yet been able to find this trailer online.

Second, there was the trailer for the adaptation of the computer game Hitman, which makes use of ‘Ave Maria’. The tune sort of fits, since the title character apparently has ties to some sort of breakaway faction of the Eastern Orthodox Church, but it sort of doesn’t — partly because it comes out of the western musical tradition, and no doubt for a host of other reasons, too.

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Both of these films are being distributed by 20th Century Fox, the studio that, on the one hand, put “John 6:27″ on some of the posters for Live Free or Die Hard earlier this summer, and, on the other hand, has had mixed success with its Fox Faith brand.

Make of all that what you will.

OCT 3 UPDATE: It took over a month, but the Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem trailer is now finally online at

Paint a picture on a subway train, carve my name in a video game.

Because it was a big Hollywood movie with a serious message, the publicity campaign for Evan Almighty included a number of do-good projects. One of them was the Almighty Forest, whereby fans could sponsor the planting of a tree and get their names on the DVD. At the junket for Evan Almighty, we journalists were told that the studio had already planted trees in our names — and therefore our names would be on the DVD, too. So when I got a review copy of the DVD this week, this was the first thing I looked for. (This almost, sort of, not quite makes up for the fact that I never signed up for that fan club, the members of which got their names on the “extended editions” of The Lord of the Rings.)

Newsbites: Joan! Chariots! 11th Hour! Lives!

Another day, another handful of news and blog links.

1. Variety reports that Sönke Wortmann has been tapped to direct Pope Joan, now that Volker Schlöndorff is out of the picture.

2. The Scotsman reports that Rich Swingle has written a sequel to Chariots of Fire (1981) called Beyond the Chariots and hopes to have trailers ready for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Both films concern Olympic runners Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, the former of whom went on to be a missionary in China who died in a Japanese concentration camp. (Hmmm, will China’s Communist government embrace the film for showing how they suffered under the Japanese, or will they reject it for depicting a Christian missionary positively?) Presumably this is an entirely different project from With Wings as Eagles, the proposed sequel that Amazing Grace co-producer Ken Wales has talked about.

3. Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore takes issue with aspects of Leonardo DiCaprio’s new documentary The 11th Hour:

As a lifelong environmentalist, I say trees can solve many of the world’s sustainability challenges. Forestry is the most sustainable of all the primary industries that provide us with energy and materials. Rather than cutting fewer trees and using less wood, DiCaprio and Berman ought to promote the growth of more trees and the use of more wood. . . .

To address climate change, we must use more wood, not less. Using wood sends a signal to the marketplace to grow more trees and to produce more wood. That means we can then use less concrete, steel and plastic — heavy carbon emitters through their production. Trees are the only abundant, biodegradable and renewable global resource.

4. The Lives of Others director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck talks to Entertainment Weekly about the late star Ulrich Mühe:

How did Mühe’s upbringing in communist Berlin contribute to his portrayal of the Stasi agent?
This film allowed him to close a chapter in his life, to work through things again that had not yet been processed fully by him. The movie’s about the leading artists in the GDR around 1984, and that’s exactly what he was. He had been under surveillance from the moment he left high school. [He gave a speech] on the 4th of November [1989, just days before the Berlin Wall came down]. You could feel the political turmoil, but people didn’t know…[if] this could turn into another Tiananmen Square or Prague Spring. He was one of the organizers of the big demonstration [at the Berlin Wall] and talked before half a million people saying, ”Look, we have to make sure that this turmoil that we’re going through at the moment is used for something positive.”

It’s crazy that the scenario is exactly flip-flopped — that he plays the Stasi agent here.
It was strange — he was an incredibly courageous man in spirit and in will, but he didn’t have the physical constitution of a hero. He was positioned at the Berlin Wall as a sniper during his obligatory military service, and that got to him so much that at age 19, he collapsed on duty with stomach ulcers. He lost half his stomach — that was the origin of the ailment that killed him 35 years later.

So it all comes back full circle…
Sometimes I’d ask him, ”Why does all your anxiety always express itself in illness?” And he said, ”I tend not to be outward going that much. All my emotions go back in.”

5. Remember how Bryan Singer promised to “go all Wrath of Khan on” the sequel to Superman Returns (2006)? Film Ick claims to have received some very spoiler-ish information about Singer’s sequel, and if there is any truth to one of the bigger spoilers — and I do take this with a huge grain of salt — then I have to say this next film sounds more like The Search for Spock (1984).

6. The New York Times has a story looking at how the fortunes of New Line Cinema are now resting on The Golden Compass.

Radio interview heads-up.

I just got off the phone from an interview on Ave Maria Radio regarding the movie September Dawn. If anyone wants to hear it, an audio file should be available here in the next day or two.