I'M Spartacus!

I'M Spartacus!

At the Oracle of Delphi in ancient Greece, inscriptions carved into the entrance over the Temple of Apollo offered such nuggets as “Know thyself” and “Do nothing to excess.” That Bronze Age wisdom might be worth remembering with filmmakers – like modern-day Jason and the Argonauts – about to launch movie franchises with storylines from Greek mythology. Louis Leterrier, director of the big-budget Warner Bros. epic “Clash of the Titans,” said several months ago on his London set, “These are the stories that began storytelling in many ways. These are tales of adventure that endure. These stories are who we are.” That gives a nod to “Know thyself.” But let’s be real: Hollywood has never been famous for a lack of excess. “Clash,” which opens nationwide in March starring Sam Worthington as Perseus, Liam Neeson as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes as Hades, comes out just after another big money Olympus-inspired film: “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” which has its own version of Zeus (played by Brit film villain Sean Bean), as well as a diabolic Hades (Steve Coogan of “Tropic Thunder” and “Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian”). “Percy Jackson,” directed by A-lister Chris Columbus, opens February 12th, and has been tapped as a possible multi-project franchise, a la “Harry Potter.” In the same way “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” were culled as literary properties in large part because of their potential as special effects blockbusters, director Columbus notes that Zeus’ thunderbolts and Hades’ thre—headed hound, Cerberus, were almost made for the magic of CGI. Said Columbus: “The world of Greek myth really hasn’t been dealt with, on screen, in a long time, at least not in terms of a big blockbuster motion picture. It’s exciting to think about.” “Percy Jackson,” which stars 17-year-old Logan Lerman (“3:10 to Yuma”), is about a troubled youth who finds out he has magical talents, and joins with friends to fight dark forces. (Sound familiar?) Columbus, who directed the first two “Harry Potter” movies, was signed by 20th Century Fox with in the hopes of bringing magic alive for another major franchise. “Clash of the Titans” is a retelling of the 1981 movie of the same name. Like its namesake, this version is more high-charging effects-driven adventure than History Channel scholarship. Director Leterrier (“Transporter 2,” “The Incredible Hulk,”), has high hopes for his film as the keystone for a multi-film franchise; the star, Worthington (“Avatar,” “Terminator Salvation”) has already spoken about a sequel. Since before Tony Curtis uttered his famous Brooklyn-tinged “I’m Spartacus!,” Hollywood has loved a sword-and-sandal film. “Clash” and “Percy Jackson” are the latest in a line of big-budget epics that opened just as the decade did, with the 2000 release of “Gladiator,” winner of that year’s best picture Oscar. It was followed in 2004 by “Alexander” and “Troy.” But the breakout success of 2007’s epic “300” made Hollywood executives salivate at its $456 million worldwide box office take (and coming at a cost of $67-million). The film was the highest-grossing March release ever, and was based upon a graphic novel about the doomed Spartan army of King Leonidas. The author of the graphic novel, Frank Miller (who directed “The Spirit,” and co-directed “Sin City”), is penning a prequel, “Xerxes,” which starts around 10 years before the events of “300;” director Snyder says he’s interested in it as a film property. “I’ve finished the plot and I’m getting started on the artwork,” Miller said. The financial windfall for “300” likely inspired the new Starz cable series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” which starts January 22nd (and co-stars Peter Mensah, the Persian so unceremoniously booted into the pit in “300” by an over-stimulated Leonidis). The Roman Empire was most recently seen by TV viewers in HBO’s “Rome,” which netted seven Emmy awards during its run of 22-episodes. Its star, Kevin McKidd (Dr. Owen Hunt on “Grey’s Anatomy”), says the series will jump to the big screen soon, with its creator, Bruno Heller (“The Mentalist”) putting finishing touches on the screenplay. McKidd (who played alongside a youthful Ewan McGregor in the cult classic “Trainspotting”) is packing his “Rome” sandals and taking them to “Percy Jackson,” in which he plays Percy’s estranged dad, the sea god Poseidon. And the Olympian pantheon isn’t the only group of ancient gods getting the Hollywood treatment: director Kenneth Branagh (“Frankenstein,” “Sleuth”) has teamed up with Marvel Studios to bring to the screen “Thor,” based on Marvel Comics long-running series about the Norse god of thunder. – Boomer