The blockbusters Hercules and Pompeii will take audiences back to ancient times next year, under the guidance of, respectively, directors Brett Ratner and Paul W.S. Anderson: two guys whose names are mud with many (most?) professional critics and fans alike, but have a knack for delivering $uccessful popcorn entertainment at the box office (see: X-Men: The Last Stand, Resident Evil, etc.).
Deadline says Rufus Sewell has joined the Hercules cast to portray Autolycus, the Greek Master of Thievery and comrade of Dwayne Johnson (as the titular warrior). Interestingly, Ryan Condal wrote the primary script draft, based on Steve Moore and Admira Wijaya’s “Hercules: The Thracian Wars” comic book; he previously co-wrote the Paradise Lost movie that had Sewell lined up to play Lucifer’s partisan (before the project was axed during pre-production in early 2012).
“The Thracian Wars” takes place around 3,200 years ago, picking up with Hercules and his company – “six similar souls, bonded by their love of fighting” - after they have completed the famous 12 labors and been hired to train the King of Thrace’s army. Condal’s script has been retooled by Evan Spiliotopoulos (who did uncredited script work on Snow White and the Huntsman), with production beginning soon in order to make a Summer 2014 release date.
Meanwhile, THR is reporting that Kiefer Sutherland has entered final negotiations to play an antagonist in Pompeii, which Anderson began shooting in Toronto last week. The cast for the ancient world disaster flick includes Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) as the lead, Emily Browning (Sucker Punch) playing his love interest and Jared Harris (Mad Men) serving as Browning’s onscreen father. Sutherland is playing a Roman senator, who enslaved Harington’s village and schemes to marry Browning.
Pompeii, of course, takes place in 79 A.D. just days before Mount Vesuvius erupts, with Harington playing a slave-turned gladiator who rushes to save his master’s daughter (Browning) and best friend, a fellow fighter who is trapped in the coliseum when the destruction begins (Harington should just ask Donna and The Doctor for help). The script was written by Janet Scott and Lee Batchler (Batman Begins) and Michael Robert Johnson (Sherlock Holmes), but also received a re-write from Downton Abby creator Julian Fellowes.
It might seem like a no-win situation, but for me Pompeii has the early advantage over Hercules, in this comparison. Anderson’s just better at his craft, which is the hammy 3D B-movie action/adventure special with a dash of wry humor. Ratner’s form of entertainment tends to have less flavor; though, decent screenwriting and good casting sometimes gives it more punch (ex. Red Dragon, Tower Heist, etc.).
Hercules opens in theaters on July 25th, 2014.
Pompeii will reach 2D and 3D theaters in 2014, followed by Resident Evil 6 on September 12th, 2014.