Hercules the latest ancient epic to come out in early 2014

As a Bible-movie buff, I have paid quite a bit of attention at this blog to the three biblical stories that are hitting the big screen next year. But every now and then I like to take a step back and remember that these movies are part of an even broader trend involving ancient history and/or mythology.

Case in point: Summit Entertainment announced today that they have acquired distribution rights to Hercules: The Legend Begins and will release the film February 7. And that is only the first Hercules movies to come out next year, the other being a flick starring Dwayne “The RocK” Johnson that comes out July 25.

In addition to that, we also have the sequel to 300 coming out in the next few months, as well as a 3D movie about Pompeii. And this is all coming on the heels of recent Greco-Roman flicks like Clash of the Titans (2010), Immortals (2011) and Wrath of the Titans (2012), to say nothing of the Percy Jackson films (2010-2013), which are based on ancient Greek mythology but are set in the present day.

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How do you promote a Bible epic when you’re not religious?

Ridley Scott first revealed that he was making a life-of-Moses movie while promoting Prometheus last year. I’d been hoping that he would spill even more details about the film, now called Exodus, while promoting his latest film, The Counselor, but alas, that film didn’t get much of a promotional push (and it ended up having one of the worst opening weekends of Scott’s career).

A few tidbits about Exodus have trickled out, however. First, Scott told The New York Times: “I’m an atheist, which is actually good, because I’ve got to convince myself the story works.” And then, he told Empire magazine the film will be “fucking huge.”

Suffice it to say, this is not how Bible epics have generally been promoted in the past.

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Quick updates on two of next year’s big Bible movies

Son of God, the big-screen movie spun off from this year’s hit mini-series The Bible, finally has a release date: February 28, 2014.

Not coincidentally, one assumes, that’s just a few days before Lent: in the Eastern churches next year, Lent begins on Monday March 3, while in the Western churches it begins on Ash Wednesday or March 5.

A press release announcing the release date confirms that the film will feature “never-before-seen footage” and that it will cover the life of Jesus “from his humble birth through his teachings, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection.”

The release date is also precisely one month before the release date of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. And while the studio has yet to release any footage from that film, it seems that there has already been at least one test screening of it.

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Kevin Reynolds to direct latest Resurrection-themed movie

You can’t make a hit film or TV show without inspiring legions of imitators, so it’s no surprise that, when The Bible racked up some record TV ratings earlier this year, a gaggle of filmmakers announced that they were going to make biblical movies of their own.

In one blog post back then, I noted that various producers were developing no less than four separate movies that will deal specifically with the 40 days between the Resurrection of Jesus and his Ascension into heaven — and that’s not counting the big-screen version of The Bible itself (which comes out next year and will reportedly emphasize the Resurrection as well).

Now a sixth film has entered the fray — and it may be a project that was first put in motion during the previous Bible-movie development craze, which followed yet another hugely successful Bible film, i.e. The Passion of the Christ (2004).

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Newsbites: Quick updates on two upcoming Jesus movies

Last month, I noted that hyper-stylized scifi-fantasy action-movie specialist Timur Bekmambetov was in talks to direct MGM’s latest version of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (the studio previously adapted Lew Wallace’s novel in 1925 and 1959; other studios made their own adaptations in 1907 and 2010). Today, Deadline reports that the studio and the director have “closed their deal”. There is no word yet on when the studio hopes to release the film, or what sort of angle Bekmambetov will approach the material from. But last month it was said that the studio felt Bekmambetov had “a strong grasp on the story’s themes of revenge and redemption.” And presumably the studio is hoping that the three — count ’em, three! — Bible movies coming to theatres next year will whet everyone’s appetite for even more entries in this genre.

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Newsbites: The spin-offs and re-hashes edition!

Remember when there was talk of turning The Tales of Beedle the Bard into a movie? Well, it turns out the inevitable Harry Potter spin-off movie will actually be based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, one of two Hogwarts “textbooks” that J.K. Rowling released in 2001. The book was credited to Newt Scamander, a wizard born in 1897 who worked on his book between 1918 and 1927 — and it sounds like the film will take place during this period.

It’s worth noting that Rowling herself will write the screenplay for this film; all of the previous movies were based on her books but were adapted by other writers. Also, the first film in this new series will be set in New York; it is tempting to suggest that Rowling has finally given in to studio pressure to Americanize her very-British series, but Scamander supposedly traveled “across five continents” to research his book, so this could very easily turn out to be a globe-trotting series like the James Bond or Indiana Jones films.

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