Is The Time For Historical Epics Over?

Well, it looks like Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins are teaming up once again for another project. The only thing is, it’s not for Wonder Woman 3. That’s probably coming after Wonder Woman 1984 (if that really comes out this Christmas) but the two have something a bit more unexpected in mind. This time, Gal Gadot will be playing Cleopatra, the famous Egyptian queen. When I first heard the news about it, I just thought to myself how Patty Jenkins is going to make Gal Gadot look as beautiful as possible. I won’t lie, Gal Gadot is an immensely beautiful woman and Cleopatra was known for her seductive beauty. In every movie she’s in, we cannot help but keep our eyes on her because she always looks amazing. She just has the ability to make everyone pay attention to her presence, so honestly, Cleopatra just might be right for her.

The problem is, who’s actually going to want to watch it? Okay, Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins have made their names pretty well-known nowadays, but they’re both treading on thin ice with Cleopatra. What’s the difference between Wonder Woman and Cleopatra? I’d say there is a very big difference. For one, Cleopatra is a not a superhero belonging to DC. That makes all the difference in the world. The DCEU was in a dark place before Wonder Woman and not everyone was particularly excited for Gal Gadot coming aboard. Many believed she was miscast and her movie would just be another DC movie blunder. Well, they were dead wrong, as Gal Gadot crushed it as Wonder Woman and plenty of people went to see the movie. All it takes is one movie role to make you a household name.

I’ll go further and state the obvious: superhero movies are just the hot genre these days. It’s not hard to understand why, it’s just because most of them are fun to watch. It’s a genre that has improved tremendously over the years and is bound to keep getting better. The same can’t be said, however, about the genre Cleopatra falls under, the historical epic. The historical epic is a genre that needs no explanation. Anything that involves history is told through Hollywood eyes. If you’re a gargantuan history buff, you probably won’t like them, but just remember that there’s a difference between Hollywood movies and documentaries. That’s why documentary filmmakers have nothing to do with Hollywood. Hollywood filmmakers have no obligation to tell the historical story in the perfect context. their job is to entertain, not educate. They have the right to tell their stories however they want.

When Hollywood filmmakers do make historical epics, they often get many historical facts wrong. That’s usually because they want to make it entertaining and make a good story out of it. It’s not uncommon, it has always been that way, history buff need to get over it and just stick to documentaries. Yes, leave Braveheart alone, it’s still a cool movie.

Where am I going with this? Well, you can bet that Patty Jenkins will tell the story of Cleopatra the way she wants to. Based on a true story is not the exact story. That’s her choice, but the thing is, she’s revisiting a genre that’s pretty much dead. Yes, there have been movies based on historical figures like the movie Lincoln, but even that was back in 2012. I’m talking about the word epic that makes all the difference. Lincoln was more of a drama and no action. A good example of the historical epic is Zack Snyder’s 300.

Now it doesn’t take a genius-level historian to know that that movie is about as inaccurate as it gets. Sure, it took place during a specific period and covered a historical event, but there were also monsters. Oh, and magic grenades and a abnormally large rhino and the Immortals weren’t humans. Yeah, it went all out, but that’s a classic example of the sword and sandals historical epic. The movie that actually got it started was Gladiator back in 2000. That movie started a chain that stretched and grew in its prime in the mid 2000s.

I only know that because I was a kid at the time and had a fun time watching those movies. Back in 2004 and 2005, I remember watching the movies Alexander, King Arthur, Troy, and Kingdom of Heaven. As far as historical epics go, those are the most recent movies that fit the bill. Were they good movies, though? Well, they didn’t exactly get the best critical reception and all of them have a director’s cut. That’s saying something, especially since Alexander has about three different cuts. I only saw the original, which explains why I barely remember it, but I don’t think it’s dumpster fire like many others claim.

I feel the same about the other movies, although I’ll admit that I haven’t watched the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven yet. However, I certainly intend to, because based on what I’ve heard, it’s far superior to the original cut. I bring all of this up because personally, I like the genre. It’s a shame that it never really expanded, but then again, the movies it has to offer were always hit or miss. 300 is the last epic historical period piece film that really hit home with audiences, but not so much with critics. Plus, that was back in 2007. If the movies don’t hit, they won’t continue to be made, simple as that. That’s actually why I’m surprised that a Cleopatra movie is in the works.

I don’t know what route Patty Jenkins is going to take with it, but I’d guess it’ll focus on her relationships with popular historical Roman figures, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. If you’re a fan of history or Shakespeare, you know how that story goes and how it ends. Here’s a hint: not so well for her. Patty Jenkins can throw us a curveball, she’ll likely tell the story of how Cleopatra ascended to the throne and how her downfall came. It’s an interesting story, but it’s also a story that we’ve seen told in numerous movies and plays. Because of that, I hope Patty Jenkins does something different with it, but in the end, it’s still the same story.

Oh, and let’s just keep in mind that Laeta Kalogridis, the writer of this upcoming Cleopatra movie, also co-wrote the Alexander movie. Okay, now that doesn’t seem very promising, but then again, Patty Jenkins will be working with her on this one. So far, she hasn’t disappointed us, so I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on this one. Are historical epics done for? I would say so, but perhaps this Cleopatra film can reignite that spark. I hope so, but for now, we’ll just have to wait and see.



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