Darren Aronofsky may be looking to redefine the modern epic in New York State. The Black Swan director is working on his new film, biblical drama Noah, which stars Russell Crowe as the eponymous boat-builder. As fans of epic storytelling will know all too well, Noah and his ark are pretty much a package deal and so Aronofsky’s having one built.
The first official photo from the film – which isn’t due in cinemas until 2014 – shows Crowe in gruff, windswept mode, but it’s anyone’s guess where on the epic scale of epicness Aronofsky’s film will fit.
Cinema needs more epics. The producers of the Bond franchise may be yapping at his heels when it comes to exotic international locations, but otherwise Christopher Nolan is about the only contemporary filmmaker with both the power and the inclination to take his production teams all over the world in search of epic scale. He even shut down Pittsburgh for a month last year and turned summer into winter for a Tumbler car chase and associated bat-related carnage in The Dark Knight Rises.
The other big hitters of modern Hollywood may finally be starting to come round. Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg have both recently been considering separate spins on the ancient tale of infamous sea-parter Moses. Cecil B DeMille set a pretty stunning precedent with that story back in the mid-50s, with a certain Mr Charlton Heston providing Moses’ square jaw, so there’s a lot to live up to.
James Cameron may be happy to take an historic dip in the Mariana Trench, but he minimises the physical risk factor in the workplace using pixel power to create Pandora’s alien landscapes in Avatar. Building an entire alien planet using complex combinations of ones and zeros is all very well, but is there still room for an old-school approach?
Studio Boss might find himself feeling nostalgic for the epics of the past after a night of vivid dreams in the Hollywood hills. He’ll arrive at his palatial office and address his subordinates on the PA:
“Dear Minions: I have had a dream. And I remembered it, which is quite unusual. The ghost of Cecil B DeMille himself appeared before me and told me he’s less than impressed with modern Hollywood’s interpretation of ‘epic’. He gave me some tips chiselled in stone and instructed me to read them aloud to you all. I’ve actually had them typed up on file paper because A5 stone slabs crossing from the spirit world are still surprisingly heavy and impractical to carry to the office in my low-clearance sports car.
“But I digress. DeMille wants less of this ‘computer-generated malarkey’. He reckons it takes the challenge out of the operation and makes for really dull behind-the-scenes documentaries. Nobody wants to watch a 20-minute Making Of where a guy in jeans and sneakers explains how he animated an entire army using a digital exoskeleton, digital muscle layers, shadow and wind effects! Snore! You know there are places in the world outside a computer where you can get shadows, wind and gravity for free!
“Back in the day, film crews would head to the most remote locations in the world and build a city out of paper-mache on the side of an active volcano. They’d hire a million extras and tell anecdotes for years about how the hard-as-nails director realised his stunning vision wielding a megaphone in one hand and a cutlass in the other as he dueled with local revolutionary dissidents between takes. That was the Hollywood way!
“Okay, so none of this comes cheap, but it’s all a small price to pay for grand narratives told in broad brushstrokes that can deliver some variety in IMAX cinemas around the world. Rather than showing the same movies in the IMAX on a loop for months on end, imagine having a new epic every week! An epic that doesn’t even have to be blown up for IMAX – it’ll be so big they’ll have to hire trolls to wheel it into the cinema on a massive mahogany chariot and jump on it a few times to make it small enough to fit on the screen!
“There was once a vision that was epic cinema – it can be ours once more. Plus, the Olympics has finished now so we could use something epically brilliant to cheer at on a weekly basis!”
Studio Boss leans back in his immense leather office chair and smiles to himself in quiet reflection; size does matter.