Jonathan Melville: Maximus joy from return of biblical epic

Russell Crowe. Picture: Jane Barlow

Russell Crowe. Picture: Jane Barlow

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It’s not every day that a Hollywood star pops into the Filmhouse on Lothian Road to introduce his latest blockbuster, at least not outside Film Festival time.

Anyone passing the cinema on Saturday afternoon would have seen a large crowd gathering to welcome Gladiator’s Maximus Decimus Meridius, Russell Crowe, who was in town to promote Noah, the biblical epic from director Darren Aronofsky.

Crowe plays the title character, ordered by God to build an ark...and you know the rest of the story. Give or take a few liberties the screenwriters have taken with the source story.

It’s been a while since I leafed through a copy of the Bible, though I’ve always been a fan of the tales and lessons told within its pages. Not that I consider myself religious, I just like a good story and I managed to get an A in Religious Studies in school, so something must have appealed at the time.

I’ve written before about my love of Hollywood epics such as The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, sword and sandal stories that featured casts of thousands and actors from The Royal Shakespeare Company shouting a lot.

They went out of fashion long ago, but the appearance of Noah is a sign that things might be about to change. Indeed, Ridley Scott will soon release Exodus: Gods and Kings, starring Christian Bale as Moses, while a prequel to Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ called Mary, Mother of Christ is also on the way.

I want to see ancient cities recreated, grand tales retold for a new generation and four-hour run times that allow us to wallow in the exuberance of it all.

The big screen is there to be filled with bold images, so hopefully Hollywood will jump on the bandwagon and give us some epics again.