With Ben-Hur having just come and gone, it seems Spartacus is the next cinematic icon Hollywood wants to bring back to the big screen -- albeit with a significant change of setting. This story of a slave-turned-gladiator-turned revolutionary leader previously did well for Starz in the form of a well-liked TV series from creator Steven S. DeKnight, which wrapped up in 2013.
Now, it appears the character once popularized by Kirk Douglas in Stanley Kubrick's 1960 epic is set to get a futuristic twist with the help of the director of Taken 3. Given the timelessness of the story, and its obvious ability to blend action with more dramatic fare, it should come as no surprise that Spartacus is headed for an update.
THR broke news that Olivier Megaton has been attached to direct The Champion, a sci-fi action film written by actor-turned-screenwriter Hal Ozsan (The Blacklist, Dawson's Creek). The Champion is being described as a futuristic Spartacus, as it tells the story of a man falsely imprisoned for an act of terrorism and must then battle through the prison’s gladiator program to win back his freedom. No stars are attached as of yet, but the film is aiming to start shooting in early 2017.
Setting up a film based around a falsely imprisoned man and having him fight through various obstacles is nothing new. Past action superstars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone have both done multiple films covering just that topic. However, if The Champion seeks to be more like Spartacus, then it will also mean turning the character into some sort of rebel hero. While films like The Running Man certainly have shown Arnold's character taking down the system in some way, setting up a story with a more epic purpose does allow for some interesting directions for a film to go.
Should the film find a more dramatic purpose, it would offer Megaton a chance to stretch creatively and demonstrate his directorial skills beyond the typical sort of action fare he's been primarily associated with. Considering his resume includes films like the Taken 2 & 3, as well as Colombiana, and the Jason Statham-led Transporter 3, a film with a more classic hero's journey at its center might see the director turning over a new leaf.
And who knows? Without being under the pressure of the very busy French action producer/director Luc Besson, Megaton can relax his cinematic touch a bit and explore a new approach to his filmmaking style. Skepticism surrounding the film will undoubtedly be high, but, for the time being anyway, we can try and keep an open mind.
The Champion is still in early development, but Screen Rant will update as new details emerge.