John Boorman preps Hadrian

Variety reports that John Boorman is preparing a movie about the Roman emperor Hadrian, who reigned AD 117 to 138 and is most famous now for building a fortified wall across the northern part of England. Boorman’s films have ranged anywhere from great to awful, so it’s impossible to say what will become of this particular project. But it’s a handy excuse to post the picture above, taken when I visited Hadrian’s Wall on August 3, 1994.

Interestingly, Boorman tells Variety that Hadrian’s reign “marked both the height of the Roman empire and the beginning of its decline. It’s the irony of his rule.” That’s certainly true geographically, inasmuch as Hadrian’s predecessor, Trajan, had conquered Mesopotamia, i.e. the region now known as Iraq, whereas Hadrian pulled out of that territory — thus marking the end of Rome’s imperial expansion. Others, however, have placed the beginning of Rome’s cultural and imperial decline at a later date. For example, Anthony Mann’s The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) derives its title from the idea that everything began to go downhill with the death of Marcus Aurelius, who reigned AD 161 to 180.

For what it’s worth, it was also Hadrian who, following the Bar Kokhba revolt in the 130s, changed the name of the Holy Land from Iudaea to Syria Palaestina — or, if you will, from Judea (named after the Jews) to Palestine (named after the Philistines). So, depending on what it chooses to emphasize, a movie about his reign could resonate with modern audiences for a whole host of reasons.

Canadian box-office stats — July 27

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Journey to the Center of the Earth — CDN $5,930,000 — N.AM $60,185,000 — 9.9%
Mamma Mia! — CDN $5,920,000 — N.AM $62,714,000 — 9.4%
Wanted — CDN $11,250,000 — N.AM $128,616,000 — 8.7%

Hellboy II: The Golden Army — CDN $5,710,000 — N.AM $65,894,000 — 8.7%
Get Smart — CDN $10,740,000 — N.AM $124,214,000 — 8.6%
The Dark Knight — CDN $25,210,000 — N.AM $314,245,000 — 8.0%
Hancock — CDN $16,330,000 — N.AM $206,371,000 — 7.9%
Step Brothers — CDN $2,270,000 — N.AM $30,000,000 — 7.6%
The X-Files: I Want to Believe — CDN $763,474 — N.AM $10,200,000 — 7.5%
WALL·E — CDN $14,110,000 — N.AM $195,235,000 — 7.2%

A couple of discrepancies: Get Smart was #9 on the Canadian chart (it was #11 in North America as a whole), while Space Chimps was #9 on the North American chart (it was #11 in Canada).

Terminator, Sarah Connor, and faith.

Several outlets, journalists and websites — including SpoutBlog, Entertainment Weekly, Nikki Finke, Anne Thompson, and the Associated Press — have covered the Terminator Salvation panel at Comic-Con in some detail by now.

Among other things, we have learned that Warner Brothers is deliberately spreading misinformation about the film to keep spoiler hounds off the scent, and Kyle Reese will get to say the immortal line “Come with me if you want to live” to John Connor, and the filmmakers are making a big deal of the fact that they have a multi-racial cast (as though previous Terminator films did not co-star the likes of Paul Winfield and Joe Morton), and so on.

But what intrigues me just a little bit more is a tiny detail that has come out of the comparatively under-reported Sarah Connor Chronicles panel. Entertainment Weekly writes:

In season 2, say the producers, the universe has been expanded, and the core group we met last spring will be rubbing shoulders with the real world. We’ll see the Connor family crumble, and what that stress does to a mom — even as Skynet continues to evolve. Some of the actors — Dekker and Headey, especially — may be directing some of the show’s online content going forward, and they’re writing Richard T. Jones’ Christian faith into the show as part of Agent Ellison’s character.

I am curious to see how they do this last bit. The Terminator franchise has always had mythic or religious overtones — I have often quipped that the first film is one of my favorite Christmas movies, and of course expressions like “Judgment Day” carry a certain thematic weight — but I am leery of anything that would literalize these allegorical allusions.

I am leery, in other words, of anything which would suggest that the “apocalypse” wrought by these machines is identical to the “apocalypse” foretold in the Bible — and there has already been at least one episode of this series that seemed to nudge in that direction, if I recall correctly.

Still, I’m all in favour of bringing faith issues to the fore. And if they are doing this partly in response to the faith that the actors themselves are bringing to the set, then that is all the more intriguing.

For more on The Sarah Connor Chronicles and its use of biblical motifs, whether directly or by way of Johnny Cash songs, check out this post and others at Carmen Andres’s blog In the Open Space: God & Culture.

JUL 29 UPDATE: Carmen has posted her own two bits on the news from Comic-Con, and she links to this interview from back in February in which Richard T. Jones talks about the “divine timing” that he believes is manifesting itself in his acting career.

Romans drinking and driving, again.

Three years ago, I noted an interesting visual parallel between two scenes in William Wyler’s version of Ben-Hur (1959). In one, we see Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd linking arms as they share a drink, in the early part of the film when they are friends; in the other, we see their chariot wheels overlapping in a similar manner, in the later part of the film when they are enemies:

Two days ago, I finally got around to seeing Anthony Mann’s The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), and was struck by a very similar pair of images involving Stephen Boyd — again! — and Christopher Plummer. Once again, the linking and drinking when they are friends, and the chariot race with scraping wheels when they are enemies, or at least on the path to becoming enemies:

Interestingly, they say that the producers originally wanted Charlton Heston for the Boyd role in The Fall of the Roman Empire, but Heston turned it down because it would have meant sharing more love scenes with Sophia Loren, with whom he did not get along on the set of El Cid (1961). I wonder, though, if he also thought the Boyd character in this film would have been too similar to the character he played in Ben-Hur.

It is also interesting to consider that The Fall of the Roman Empire covers the last days of Marcus Aurelius and the reign of his son Commodus, and it includes both a thwarted love story of sorts between Aurelius’s daughter and the Roman general played by Boyd, as well as a climactic gladiatorial duel between Commodus and the Roman general played by Boyd. Sounds a lot like Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000), doesn’t it?

Except Gladiator is actually closer to Ben-Hur than The Fall of the Roman Empire is, in some respects, since both Gladiator and Ben-Hur concern protagonists who begin as rulers among men and are then brought down to the level of slaves, before they rise back up again. The Boyd character in The Fall of the Roman Empire follows a very different sort of narrative arc.

Still, the similarities are interesting, as far as they go.

RoboCop + Aronofsky = fun coincidences.

Following yesterday’s official announcement that Darren Aronofsky will direct the “reinvention” of the RoboCop franchise, a couple extra thoughts occurred to me.


For years now, I have taken a perverse pride in being able to say that “I have two X-rated movies in my DVD collection.”

It’s only half-true, technically speaking. Maybe even only a quarter-true.

But one of the films in question is RoboCop (1987; my comments), the director’s cut of which (first released on Criterion, now available along with the theatrical cut on the 20th-anniversary DVD put out by MGM) was rated X before a few seconds of blood and gore were trimmed to get an R rating instead.

And the other film is Requiem for a Dream (2000; my review), which was produced about a decade after the X rating had been retired in favour of the NC-17 rating, and which was released to theatres “unrated” after the MPAA “surrendered” the film’s original NC-17 rating.

The latter film was directed by Darren Aronofsky. So it’s kind of fitting that he would now be directing the “reinvention” of the former film.


The original film was directed by Paul Verhoeven, who has wanted to make a movie about Jesus for years, if not decades, now. Verhoeven even claims that there is Christ imagery in RoboCop itself (the crucifixion-like execution of Murphy, who is shot rather than nailed in the hand; the image of RoboCop “walking on water”; etc.).

And Aronofsky has given a few interviews where he talks about how he really wants to make a movie about Noah.

So they have the ambition-to-make-a-biblical-epic thing in common, too.

Newsbites: The sequels and remakes edition!

Time for another batch of newsbitey goodness.

1. The Hollywood Reporter says Darren Aronofsky has signed on to direct the “reinvention” of RoboCop (1987; my comments).

Variety reports that “MGM is keeping the logline under wraps”. However, last week, Bloody-Disgusting claimed that it had learned the new film would be more of a sequel than a remake; supposedly, it will take place about two decades after the earlier films and be kind of a next-generation thing, similar perhaps to the Dan Aykroyd version of Dragnet (1987) or the Samuel L. Jackson version of Shaft (2000).

2. MTV Movies Blog, Risky Biz Blog and report that Disney surprised Comic-Con audiences today by showing some test footage from the upcoming sequel to Tron (1982; my review) — featuring Jeff Bridges as not one but two different characters, at least one of whom might be a villain! Oh, and they’re calling it Tr2n. Because it’s the second movie, see.

3. Variety and the Hollywood Reporter say Philip Noyce is attached to direct a remake of Captain Blood (1935).

Personally, I have always thought that The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), one of my official ten favorite films of all time, was sort of a remake of Captain Blood — it, too, features Errol Flynn as an outlaw who woos Olivia de Havilland and crosses swords with Basil Rathbone, and it even features an improved version of one of the earlier film’s bits of dialogue. If memory serves, both films include a scene where de Havilland says to Flynn, “You speak treason!” In Captain Blood, Flynn replies, “I hope I’m not obscure.” But in Robin Hood, he simply replies, “Fluently.” Classic.

4. Victor Morton lists several reasons why the new big-screen version of Brideshead Revisited will probably “suck pretty hard.”

5. Patrick Goldstein says Peter Morgan, the Oscar-nominated writer of The Deal (2003) and The Queen (2006) — both of which were directed by Stephen Frears and starred Michael Sheen as British Prime Minister Tony Blair — is planning a third film, currently called The Special Relationship, which will look at Blair’s friendship with Bill Clinton.

6. The Associated Press reports that the new video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed will take place between the prequels and the original trilogy — and will even include new “pivotal” story elements:

In the game, players become Darth Vader’s secret apprentice and use The Force to hunt the remaining Jedi.

“Force Unleashed” allows gamers use supercharged Force powers to bust through objects, wield a lightsaber, blast lighting bolts and fling around foes. The game will also change the way fans view “Episode IV” through “Episode VI _ Return of the Jedi,” LucasArts project lead Haden Blackman told The Associated Press at the E3 Business and Media Summit.

“There’s a couple of big twists and turns in the story,” said Blackman. “One revelation in particular really impacts the rest of the saga as a whole. It goes way beyond filling in gaps. We try to make a bridge on every level. The story has a real implications on ‘Episode IV.’ In some ways, without the apprentice, ‘Episode IV’ couldn’t happen.”

7. The Associated Press says Wallace & Gromit will also be getting a video-game tie-in:

“We’re certainly going for the clay look with this,” Telltale Games CEO Dan Connors told The Associated Press. “Clay presents a challenge if you really get into the detail of it. For example, adding fingerprints in a medium where there aren’t any is one of the discussions of how far we should go with the game’s detail.”

8. The Hollywood Reporter says Leonardo DiCaprio is partnering with Warner Brothers to make a feature film based on Twilight Zone (1959-1964), the famous anthology series that was previously turned into a film in 1983.

9. Variety says New Line and John Waters have agreed to develop a sequel to the musical version of Hairspray (2007).

10. Variety says MTV is developing a remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) that “will use the original screenplay by Jim Sharman and Richard O’Brien but may also include music not featured in the original.”

11. Variety says a third Harold & Kumar film is in the works.

12. The Hollywood Reporter says Tim Burton has hired an Australian actress named Mia Wasikowska to play the lead in his 3-D adaptation of Alice in Wonderland for Disney.