I have a soft spot for epic films that I grew up loving, such as The Godfather 1&2, Ben-Hur, Quo Vadis, and The Ten Commandments. The marvelous spectacles set upon simple human drama can be very touching and really stretch the medium of movies. Every detail really has to work which make the production all more difficult. While there are many works that will forever be hallowed in the halls of film making there are those that have tried to bring us a sweeping story in epic fashion, but for many reasons failed.
Since the internet definitely needs another list of movies I shall bring those that have disappointed this film fan:
1. Gods and Generals: The prequel to the immensely superior Gettysburg should have excited movie goers the country over. Sadly the script is pretentious as it would have you believe every soldier back then spoke in a manner worthy of Cicero. Grand speeches they may be, but horribly inaccurate and it's distracting from the real drama of the Civil War (aka War Between the States). This film does the almost impossible task of making such subject matter, one I'm always drawn to by the way, incredibly dull. Hollywood has always enjoyed their empathy for the rebellion and it's slant is obvious as it makes it's main character, Gen Jackson, a gentleman of the highest order in every situation rather than the often times foul tempered warrior. Historical inaccuracies aside it does have it's moments, but not enough to make this almost four hour film bearable. A flop in a critical and commercial sense it killed the Civil War trilogy I'm sorry to say.
2. Cleopatra: It's hard to say exactly why this film didn't work. It has an excellent cast and a budget that was incredibly high for it's time, but as usual the writing wasn't on par with the quality of the sets and photography. Forsaking drama for visuals what should have been a rousing historical epic became a snooze fest that it's own stars even hated.
3. Dune: Frank Herbert's sci-fi masterpiece is largely considered unfilmable and this movie proves that. David Lynch tried to adapt the often surreal text to screen, but failed miserably. It's too bad too. The book series is impressive even at it's lowest points and if given the right treatment could make for a wonderful film, but the story of House Atreides' son turned prophet proves to be too much of a task for filmmakers.
4. Legends of the Fall: I know I'll get some flack for this, but I don't understand this movie's appeal. While it has some of the best photography I've ever seen and some good acting the soap opera-ish story is sappy as it can be dull. It has most of the elements right, but again the script doesn't hold up to it's impressive settings.
5. Troy: It seems as if Brad Pitt is the Patron Saint of slow epics. After his performance in Seven Years in Tibet audiences surprisingly wanted more of him and then we get Troy. A flawed adaptation of the Trojan War in almost every respect, but audiences seemed to enjoy it enough even though critics largely panned it. I remember taking a date to that film and watching her drool over those buff men in little clothing I probably looked like a troll.
6. Curse of the Golden Flower: Has to be one of the most exquisite looking films I've ever seen, but as we've already learned visuals do not a good movie make. What could've been a great tale of civil strife in a monarchy turned into a simple family drama that could hearken from Days of Our Lives. Still the performances are far better than the script should have allotted which is very impressive.
"It is so lacking in flesh-and-blood characters, so unclear in its depiction of battles like Bull Run, and so nauseating in its gruesome sentimentality that it is all but unwatchable." - Jonathan Foreman.