As exciting as the thought of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson playing the legendary Greek warrior Hercules is (and this is the kind of part he was born to play), it's hard to not be a little tired of this particular son of Zeus.
Seriously. Greek mythology is chock-full of Zeus' offspring going on adventures and racking up body counts. Hell, it's even more full of sons (and daughters) of other gods going on quests so insane they make most Hollywood movies look lame and tame in comparison. Hercules may be the most famous hero in Greek mythology, but he's also the most played out on the big screen. It's time to give someone else a shot.
So let's not talk about Hercules. Let's not even talk about Perseus and Jason, who have had their fair share of shots at the big screen. Let's take a moment to to examine the characters who deserve a shot as the lead of a summer blockbuster. Some of them are ready-made action stars and some will need a little tweaking, but each of them offers something completely new and/or crazy that would make for a terrific movie.
Achilles in "The Greek Hulk"
Sure, Achilles was already the lead character in Troy, but let's be perfectly honest here: Troy kind of stinks, and its "realistic" portrayal isn't even half as badass as the mythological take. Although the exact details of Achilles' birth vary from source to source, the most famous of them finds his mother, Thetis, dipping his infant body in the River Styx, granting him near invincibility.
In most tales, Achilles' greatest weapon is not a sword or a spear, but his rage. With Hulk-like abilities to smash his way through his enemies, Achiiles racks up a body count that's nothing short of astronomical. At one point, the river god Scamander even confronts Achilles because he's clogging the waters with so many bodies... and Achilles responds by fighting him.
Sure, Achilles ultimately goes down like a bit of a wimp (getting shot in the heel, his one week spot, by the cowardly but vengeful Paris), but surely there's room out there for a movie about an invincible warrior so terrible that he fights the gods who ask him to stop.
Theseus in "Yes, He's the Guy Who Kills the Minotaur"
One of the most famous warriors in all Greek mythology, Theseus is best known for successfully navigating the Labyrinth and defeating the deadly Minotaur, but his crazy adventures go far beyond that. There's the story of how he proved his royal bloodline by lifting a massive rock and finding his father's sword and sandals. And then there's the tale of how Pirithous tried to rustle his cattle and met Theseus in battle, only for the two of them to become so impressed with one another's skills that they became best friends.
However, Theseus is especially notable for the number of stories that involve him skillfully dispatching armies of bandits. Seriously, there was no one better suited for traveling the roads of Ancient Greece than this guy. Still, it all comes back to him volunteering to enter a deadly maze and battling a giant half-man/half-bull to the death. Now that's cinematic.
Atalanta in "The Deadliest Woman in Ancient Greece"
The sad truth about the heroes of Greek mythology is that the whole thing is often a bit of a sausage fest. So that's why characters like Atalanta are so heartening. Abandoned in the wilderness by her father, she was raised by a bear, who taught her to hunt and survive in the wilderness.
Once grown, Atalanta took a vow of chastity and pledged her loyalty to the goddess Artemis. From there, she embarked on all kinds of wild adventures, including drawing first blood on the hunt for the man-killing Calydonian boar and accompanying Jason and the Argonauts on the quest for the Golden Fleece.
The fact that she was ultimately forced to marry after being tricked into losing a footrace (all other previous suitors died after they lost to her) is a bit of a bummer, but that doesn't change the fact that Atalanta is one of the only women in Greek myth to brush shoulders with the legendary male heroes. Give this woman a movie, please.
Bellerophon in "Burn After Reading in Ancient Greece"
His name may not enter casual conversation like Hercules, but Bellerophon is one of Greek mythology's greatest and weirdest badasses. Exiled from his homeland for killing his brother, he found himself welcome in a neighboring kingdom... where he rebuffed the advances of the king's wife and found himself wrongfully accused of assaulting her.
Ultimately, no one involved wanted to kill a guest, so they decided to send him on quest that would surely finish him off: to kill the Chimera, a goat-snake-lion hybrid who breathes fire. But he found Pegasus and used his winged steed to kill the creature and make it look easy.
When he returned alive, his "friends" proceeded to send him on additional quests that were designed to kill him, but he kept on coming back alive. There's probably a pitch-dark comedy in here. Anyone want to convince the Coen brothers to make this one happen?
Orpheus in "The Supernatural Rock-and-roll Road Movie You Didn't Know You Wanted"
Unlike most of the heroes on this list, Orpheus was no warrior. He was a musician and one of the finest in the (fake) history of the world. His music was so powerful that if gave him power over men and animals and even nature. Imagine playing a song so beautiful that you could change the course of rivers. That's Orpheus. He even accompanied Jason and the Argonauts, using his musicianship to drown out and overwhelm the calls of the deadly Sirens.
His most notable story comes after the death of his wife Eurydice, who fell into a pit of snakes after being chased by a Satyr (Greek mythology is weird). Stricken with grief, he ventured into the underworld and performed for Hades himself, convincing the lord of the underworld to bring his wife back to life. This one does not have a happy ending, but the story of a mystical musician braving the land of the dead to rescue the woman he loves is a grand, romantic adventure that deserves a big movie.
Odysseus in "Duh, You Know the One"
Surely you're familiar with the story of Odysseus. You know, the star of Homer's The Odyssey and one of the most famous and imitated characters in all of storytelling. After the siege of Troy, Odysseus begins his journey home and suffers a series of awful setbacks, including a battle to the death the cyclops Polythemus and a close brush with the Sirens.
After many years of battles with monsters and encounters with people who want him dead, Odysseus' crew are killed and he finds himself the hostage/sex slave of Calypso. Eventually, he does get home and murders every single person who even looked at his wife the wrong way. Forget about a movie, give this man a miniseries!
Persephone in "Game of Underworld Thrones"
Although she's normally not spoken of as a full-fledged heroine, Persephone is just a few storytelling choices away from being a cinematic protagonist for the ages. Her myth is well known: the daughter of Zeus and Demeter (the goddess of harvest), Persephone is abducted by Hades, god of the Underworld, and forced into marriage. Eventually, a bargain is worked out and she's allowed to spend half of the year on Earth, leading to the creation of the seasons.
However, the potential movie version of these events would have to dig a little deeper. What would it be like for a woman who grew up on Earth surrounded by natural beauty to find herself trapped in the land of the dead? How would she react to a husband she didn't choose, and how would she grow to become a natural queen and leader? This could be Daenerys Targaryen all over again!
Daedalus in "The Best Remake of Cube Ever"
He may be best known as the father of Icarus (yes, the one who flew too close to the Sun), but there are plenty of details about Daedalus in Greek mythology to ignite the imagination. A brilliant engineer and inventor, he was recruited by King Minos to build the ultimate prison to house his wife's beastly bastard son, the Minotaur, who came to be when Poseidon brainwashed her into lusting after a bull (Greek mythology is still weird).
The result was the Labyrinth, a gigantic maze that not only housed the Minotaur but trapped everyone who tried to enter. Even Daedalus himself barely knew how to escape it with his life. So, here's a movie pitch that strays far from the text but would prove irresistible: Daedalus angers the wrong people and finds himself thrown into the Labyrinth as punishment, and he must use his wits to survive his own creation. Yes, we're talking about a Greek myth version of Cube.
Caeneus in "The Icky Tale That Could Be Transformed into a Wacky Comedy"
Here's another odd one that demands a modern twist. Originally born as a woman (and named Caenis), Caeneus was raped by the god Poseidon. Enraged, she demanded to be transformed into a man so this could never happen again. The gods granted her wish and went a step further, making her nearly invincible in battle.
Caeneus proceeded to travel the land and go on adventures, beating the stuffing out of anyone who mocked his feminine origins. Ultimately, Caeneus pissed off a pack of centaurs who killed him by literally beating him into the ground with tree trunks.
Like many old myths, this tale is uncomfortable and sexist and doesn't have many nice things to say about women. But imagine this reimagined as a gender-swap comedy starring Will Ferrell and you're on to something. Seriously! Will Ferrell playing a woman in a man's body who battles an angry gang of centaurs is comedy gold.
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