Swords and sandals
() - January 23, 2010 - 12:00am

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been three years since a little film called 300 exposed moviegoers to old-fashioned storytelling and high-tech violence. A stylized re-imagining of the Battle of Thermopylae, 2007’s first certified blockbuster debuted in the US with ticket sales of $70 million over its opening weekend, according to the AP. Now encased in the amber of the past, 300 joins other war movies that supposedly took place before Jesus lost his sandals: Troy, Alexander, Kingdom of Heaven and Gladiator, which came out a decade ago.

Though technically big-bucks period projects, these movies follow the sandy footsteps of their humbler European predecessors. Sword and sandal films, if Wikipedia is to be believed, “are a class of Italian-made adventure or fantasy films that have subjects set in Biblical or classical antiquity, often with contrived plots based very loosely on mythology or Greco-Roman history.” Occupying much of the boot-shaped country’s movie industry from 1957 to 1964, the genre was said to be low-budget, formulaic and campy, often with a professional bodybuilder in the principal role.

Between Vampires And Angels

Since we’re in between major movie trends in 2010 — there’s an imminent pop cultural tug-of-war between vampires and angels — major production companies seem to be taking advantage of the lull by dusting off this cinematic chestnut and churning out a string of epics based on Greek and Norse mythology. 

For the young’uns, there’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Directed by Chris Columbus, the action-adventure film features a young boy who discovers that he is the demigod son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. He then embarks on a journey with his other partly-divine pals to save his mom, return Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt, and try to stop a war of ancient proportions.

Set to hit cinemas on February 12, Percy Jackson features Rosario Dawson as Persephone, Uma Thurman as Medusa, Pierce Brosnan as Chiron, and newcomer Logan Lerman in the title role.

Make Way For Perseus

Those who do not want PG-rated fare, meanwhile, can look forward to Clash of the Titans. A rehash of the 1981 film of the same name, the fantasy flick is loosely based on the Greek myth of Perseus, the hero who killed Medusa and rescued Andromeda from a sea monster.

Avatar breakout star Sam Worthington gets his Greek on in the lead role, spearheading a mission to defeat the vengeful Hades (Ralph Fiennes) before attempting to seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson). Directed by Louis Leterrier, Clash of the Titans will start screening on March 26.

Stuff Of Legend

If you still need more reasons to get all jazzed for the future, then gird your loins for Thor. A film based on the classic Marvel Comics superhero, which in turn was inspired by the Norse god of thunder, the project will star Australian actor Chris Hemsworth with Kenneth Branagh as director.

Chuck’s Zachary Levi was supposed to be part of the film, telling Zap2It he had been offered a role. “Just working for Kenneth Branagh would have been unbelievable. But I’m a man of faith, and I believe God puts you where he wants you and where you’re supposed to be.”

Since the movie is due for a May 2011 release date, information on Marvel.com remains scant. “Thor is cast down to Earth and forced to live among humans as punishment. Once here, he learns what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade it.” Let’s hope this one is — wait for it — legendary. 

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