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The Return of the Epic Film

Genre, Aesthetics and History in the 21st Century

Edited by Andrew B.R. Elliott

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Explores the return of the ‘epic’ in twenty-first-century cinema

With the success of Gladiator, both critics and scholars enthusiastically announced the return of a genre which had lain dormant for thirty years. However, this return raises important new questions which remain unanswered. Why did the epic come back, and why did it fall out of fashion? Are these the same kinds of epics as the 1950s and 60s, or are there aesthetic differences? Can we treat Kingdom of Heaven, 300 and Thor indiscriminately as one genre? Are non-Western histories like Hero and Mongol epics, too? Finally, what precisely do we mean when we talk about the return of the epic film, and why are they back?

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Introduction: The Return of the Epic, Andrew B.R. Elliott
Part I: Epics and Ancient History
Sir Ridley Scott and the Rebirth of the Epic, Jeffrey Richards
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and America since the Second World War: Some Cinematic Parallels, Kevin J. Harty
There’s Nothing So Wrong with a Hollywood Script that a Bunch of Giant CGI Scorpions Can’t Solve: Politics, Computer Generated Images and Camp in the Critical Reception of the Post-Gladiator Historical Epics: Mark Jancovich
Popcorn and Circus: An Audience Expects, Robert Stow
Part II: Epic Aesthetics and Genre
Colour in the Epic Film: Alexander and Hero, Robert Burgoyne
Defining the Epic: Medieval and Fantasy Epics, Paul Sturtevant
Special Effects, Reality, and the New Epic, Andrew B.R. Elliott
Part III: Epic Films and the Canon
Pass the Ammunition: A Short Etymology of Blockbuster, Sheldon Hall
Epic Stumbling Blocks, Saër Maty Bâ
The Greatest Epic of the 21st Century?, Deborah Bridge
Ramayana and Sita in Films and Popular Media: The Repositioning of a Globalised Version, Aarttee Kaul Dhar.

About the Author

Andrew B.R. Elliott is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Lincoln, UK, where he works on the depiction of history in popular culture. In addition to his work on epics, he has written on the use of the Middle Ages, Robin Hood, Vikings, and Classical Antiquity in film, as well as the depiction of the past in video games and television.

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