You know why movie studios are always adapting ancient fairy tales or Biblical stories or myths, right? No, it's not because these stories are the fabric of our culture, classic narratives handed down generation by generation, resonating with all ages of moviegoers and reminding us that these stories we tell ourselves are what it means to be human. It's because they're free.
Sure, that's a cynical way to look at movies like The Ten Commandments or Cinderella or this week's double-duty of Mirror Mirror (based on Snow White) or Wrath of the Titans (based on the Greek myth of Perseus). But it's also a reason to expect much more where this came from, as Hollywood continually recycles stories we're familiar with, and even better when they're ancient stories that come without copyright. There's already another Snow White on its way and Darren Aronofsky is getting ready to tell the story of Noah's Ark, but what other classic stories out there might be due for a modern retelling?
We put our heads together and came up with three pitches for movies based on very, very old stories-- a Biblical tale, a Greek myth, and a lesser-known Grimm's Fairy Tale. We've got the logline, the director and the cast-- all we need is someone to make the movie happen. Sure, you could see your 100th iteration of Cinderella or Jesus's life onscreen, or you could dig a little deeper and bring these tales to light. Make it happen, Hollywood!
The Myth of Prometheus
ORIGINAL STORY: The titan known as Prometheus tricks Zeus into giving fire to the humans and, as his punishment, he is tied to a rock where an Eagle comes each day to consume his liver.
THE MOVIE VERSION: The story is set in a dystopian future where the middle class has been destroyed and all that remains is the serfs living in abject poverty and the extravagant, fascist-led state. The leader of the regime is Zeus, an all-powerful, evil, merciless, god-like dictator who punishes all forms of rebellion with extreme prejudice in order to maintain his seat of power. The societal split has come as a result of a pharmaceutical phenomenon called “Fire,” a miracle drug that is the pinnacle of medical science, able to cure all disease and extend life expectancy by 30 years. Due to the price of the drug, only the wealthiest citizens have been able to afford it and over many generations this has resulted in the societal split. When a devastating epidemic begins to sweep through the serfdom, a young cleric named Prometheus is sent by the state on a diplomatic mission. Upon seeing the utter wreckage that the disease has caused, Prometheus returns to Zeus and begs for him to send aid to those in need. When Zeus refuses and Prometheus is left with no choice, he becomes a vigilante, working his way into “Fire’s” distribution network and channeling the drug to those in need.
Upon discovering the illegal system – but not recognizing that it’s Prometheus – Zeus consults with his high priestess, Pandora, who tells the fascist leader to destroy all hope among the serfs. Getting word of Zeus’ plan to crack down on the poor, Prometheus organizes a revolt to fight against Zeus’ army. It isn’t long before the protagonist realizes that he is simply leading his men to slaughter. Covertly, Prometheus meets with Zeus and reveals himself to be the vigilante, and asks that the serfs be spared in return for his surrender and willingness to die. Consulting with Pandora, Zeus realizes that he cannot kill Prometheus without turning him into a martyr and instead forges a new deal: Prometheus will be arrested and each day will receive a harsh public beating followed by the greatest medical treatment that can be afforded so that Prometheus will live out the entire rest of his life in pure agony. On Prometheus’ first day of suffering he is brought to the town square where the lower class has begun to gather. When the torture commences some peasants try to rush in, but Prometheus stops them. It is a lost cause that will only end in more death. Slowly, the serfs begin to kneel in honor of their fallen leader and light torches to show their unity. Prometheus may be no more, but Zeus was unable to destroy what was most important: hope.
DIRECTOR: Duncan Jones
Actors: Ryan Gosling (Prometheus), Mark Strong (Zeus), Charlize Theron (Pandora)
ORIGINAL STORY: The story of Satan’s failed rebellion in Heaven and ensuing revenge, the ‘fall of man’ in the Garden of Eden, obviously originally comes from the Bible-- well, one version of it anyway. The Bible is the ultimate best-seller, with the tales within that have been retold countless, but it's hard to beat John Milton's seminal Paradise Lost, which recounts the religious story using an interesting twelve-part structure that opens in medias res with the exiled Satan plotting with his fellow fallen angels in Pandemonium. Effortless charming and inspiring, the master manipulator convinces his cohorts to allow him to get revenge on God not by waging war (since that didn’t work so well the first time with Michael totally kicking their asses, an awesome event recounted in a later part) but instead by corrupting his precious new creations, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
The rest of the tale is pretty well known. Satan disguises himself as a serpent (still rocking legs and the capability of speech) and eventually tempts Eve into breaking the one and only rule of living in paradise: do not eat from the Tree of Knowledge. She eats. Then Adam eats so that she’s not alone, and probably also to get in her pants--well, she wasn’t wearing anything at the time anyway. Michael arrives on the big guy’s behalf who is pissed at Satan for wrecking his sand castle and even more pissed at Adam and Eve’s betrayal. For some reason takes his anger out on serpents, first turning Satan and his lackeys into them and then removing their legs and slicing up their tongues. Michael shows Adam all the bad shit that’s going to happen now that they opened Pandora’s Box (myths!). Adam and Eve also also banished from Paradise and forced to wear clothes, find their own food and raise a bunch of snot nosed kids. But at least they have each other. God remains kind of an asshole but it builds character. The end.
THE MOVIE VERSION: There was already an adaptation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost in the works at Warner Bros. with Alex Proyas directing Bradley Cooper as Satan but it’s back in development hell. Proyas is a great choice for that version of the story--he’s kind of the talented Tim Burton (with a little Sam Raimi)--but this will be a very loose adaptation of the Biblical tale even if it’s still using a lot of the character work and structure from Milton’s PL. It will however completely change the setting, genre and, of course, at least some of the character’s names. What are those words everyone wants to hear? It’s going to be a gritty and realistic reimagining. Trying not to sound too stupid, that is kind of what this take on the story entails since the adaptation transports the tale to the era of post-WWII suburban sprawl (also delightfully known as ‘White Flight’). Other than that minor detail--oh and that all the characters are mortal and it’s now a noirish gangster flick--it’s pretty much a straight adaptation the rest of the way.
Eden Falls also opens in medias res with a Fallen Detective (Satan) plotting his revenge with some fellow former cops turned gangsters in their dive bar called Pandemonium. The detective suggests that they get revenge on the Chief of Police (God) who cast them aside not with shootouts in the streets but by ruining his precious new community, a new suburban development/experiment, in which the Chief is heavily invested, called Paradise Falls (sorry Fallout fans). The first time that the former cops turned crooks went to war with the police, told in flashback mid-film, it didn’t go so well, with the Chief’s dangerous right hand man Michael easily and violently taking care of the threat. After the previous failure, the Fallen Detective sets his sights on Paradise Falls and specifically suburban sweethearts Adam and Eve. They’re basically walking stereotypes of suburban white-flight, and the All-American seniors and their overbearing parents are the paragons of the new community. Gorgeous yet chaste and moral, the pair are obviously the quarterback of the football team and homecoming queen.
They are given lots of trust and freedom, told only to stay away from temptations of sex, booze, drugs and other vices. You know, all the fun stuff. Too bad the Fallen Detective is a smooth operator, not to mention completely underhanded and blinded by revenge, and he eventually seduces the young Eve and turns her on to all those things she was warned against. Soon Adam is junking it up right beside her and their relationship turns all kinds of kinky and crazy. The Chief is pissed and sends Michael to cover-up the mess since no one can see the poster couple for the community so mangled. First he has to take care of the Fallen Detective and his goons, but the Archangel doesn’t turn them into serpents, it’s a bloody shootout ending with some shotgun blasted off legs and sliced up tongues. And dead people. Michael finds Adam and tells him that even though he and Eve can’t stay in Paradise, they at least have each other. And probably some addictions, diseases and babies from all the cavorting. The Chief remains kind of an asshole but it builds safe communities. The end.
DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky.
ACTORS: Ryan Reynolds (Fallen Detective/Satan), Viggo Mortensen (The Chief/God), Ryan Gosling (Michael), Nicholas Hoult (Adam) and Shailene Woodley (Eve).
The Blue Light
ORIGINAL STORY: "The Blue Light" is a grim, Grimm tale of revenge that follows a poor soldier cruelly dismissed from the king's employ after being seriously wounded in battle. Penniless, he wanders upon a witch's home, and does her bidding in exchange for food and shelter. Until he rescues a magical dwarf—who lives within a blue light—from her cunning clutches.
Together they exact revenge on the king by stealing the princess away each night to serve the soldier as a maid. She recounts this to her father as a terrible dream. Suspicious, he instructs her to put peas in her torn pocket so his guards can follow the trail they'll leave. But the clever dwarf covers every street in the kingdom with peas. So the next night the king tells his daughter to leave her slipper behind in the soldier's room. This somehow outwits the dwarf, so the soldier is captured and sent to the gallows. But when allowed one last smoke, he unleashes the blue light dwarf who topples all the king's forces. Finally, the humbled monarch saves himself by giving the soldier his throne and daughter. The End.
THE MOVIE VERSION: Obviously the original story is filled with misogyny and dated attitudes toward little people. Yet a couple of tweaks could make The Blue Light a thrilling romantic adventure in the vein of Stardust.
First off, make the king a power-hungry regent who will rule over the kingdom until the princess comes of age. He's slowly trying to convince her to marry him, to maintain his place, but the willful princess falls for a noble soldier, who encourages her about taking on the crown. The regent hears this and so has the soldier beaten and exiled without the princess's knowledge. From there, the witch and discovery of the magic dwarf play out as before, though making this magical being a dwarf seems unnecessary. Anyhow, having been saved from the witch, the wish-granting being decides to aid the soldier by helping him reclaim his love.
So he uses his magic to steal the princess away at night for romantic trysts. But soon the regent discovers her absence and tries to track her, battling against the cleverness of the dwarf. The soldier is ultimately caught and the regent attempts to kill him, but after much derring do and swashbuckling the princess stands up and strikes down her corrupt adviser. She takes the throne, marries the soldier, and the blue light jettisons to the sky to become a star that shines down on the kingdom from that day forth.
DIRECTOR: André Øvredal (TrollHunter). The Scandinavian director has proven imaginative with folklore before. Let's give him a big, plush American budget and see what he can do.
Princess: Someone strong and captivating like Midnight in Paris' Alison Pill or The Descendants' Shailene Woodley.
Soldier: Requisites include a muscular body, and a boyish charm. Possible contenders: Tom Felton, Jamie Bell, and Anton Yelchin.
Regent: A consummate character actor is needed like Chris Meloni, Stanley Tucci or Alan Tudyk.
Blue Light: If we go the way of little people, Peter Dinklage would be marvelous as a suave and sharp advisor to the soldier. But he seems beyond this, so why not make the Blue Light a spunky yet ethereal ingénue like Ludivine Sagnier, Saoirse Ronan or Ellen Wong.
Witch: Go with a classic comedienne like Kathy Najimy, Carol Kane or the ever-popular Betty White.