It’s not just the world of movies that’s filled with magical creatures, super-powered beings and struggles between good and evil; history has more of all of that than Hollywood could ever fully encompass.
It should come as no surprise, then, that when penning the next big blockbuster, screenwriters often borrow heavily from these old myths and legends from times past.
After all, these are stories that pre-date popular culture, and many of us grew up learning about these tales of the ancient worlds and the creatures, gods and people who populated them.
While using pre-established ideas for inspiration is the basis for almost every story we know and love, that doesn’t mean that we can’t call out a few of the worst offenders for the extensive creative license they’ve taken with their chosen mythologies.
6. Clash of the Titans
Image: © Warner Bros.
Clash of the Titans presents itself as a loyal retelling of the Greek myth of Perseus, but there were more than a few things wrong with the mythology on show.
The most glaring is that the Titans do not appear in the movie, and they certainly don’t clash. The story follows Perseus as he prepares to combat the Kraken, a sea monster controlled by Hades (the God of the Underworld, not the sea).
The movie also uses Perseus’ reluctance to become a king as a plot point, which is pretty far from the original myth. Perseus founded and ruled over Mycenae – historically, that’s sort of his whole deal.
Just because Clash of the Titans claims to depict the myth of Perseus, that doesn’t mean it did so faithfully.
Image: ©Walt Disney Studios
Disney have been using myths and fairy tales as the basis for their family-friendly family animations for decades now, so one of their movies featuring on this list shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
Aladdin is based on the Arabic folk tale of the same name, and tells the story of a street urchin who finds a magic lamp containing a genie.
It’s hard to be too upset with some of the changes made for the 1992 classic, as many of them were intended only to clean up some of the action a little, removing a couple of killings and some of the less child-friendly parts of the tale.
The original tale featured two genies of varying degrees of power, a lesser genie trapped in a ring, and a more familiar (and more powerful) genie inside a lamp.
The original tale has far more emphasis on the two genies, and when an evil sorcerer steals the lamp, Aladdin’s princess wife uses her “woman’s wiles” to steal it back.
That part probably would have been a tricky sell for Disney.
4. The Percy Jackson Franchise
Image: © 20th Century Fox
Based on the book series by Rick Riordan, the Percy Jackson and the Olympians franchise attempted to fill a Harry Potter-sized hole in the audiences hearts with its creative reimagining of Greek mythology.
Percy is a demi-God and the son of Poseidon, and he finds himself taken to Camp Half-Blood where he meets countless other demi-God teenagers.
Percy sets off with his friends on an adventure to recover one of Zeus’ lightning bolts in order to prevent a war breaking out on Mount Olympus.
There’s so many ways in which both the book and the movie use elements from Greek mythology that it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few examples, and to Riordan’s credit, it’s an entertaining adventure series that’s a lot of fun.
Two unfaithful cinematic adaptations later, and the franchise has seemingly gone to the Underworld.
Image: © Trimark Pictures
The leprechauns of Irish folklore are said to be mischievous little men who busy themselves with shoe-making and hiding pots of gold at the end of rainbows.
So when you consider that these cheeky little Irish chappies were used as the basis for 19923 horror comedy Leprechaun, it’s not difficult to see how they might have taken some artistic license with the legend.
Believing that the O’Grady family have stolen his pot of gold, the titular leprechaun sets about hunting the O’Gradys one by one as they attempt to recover the gold in order to assuage the vengeful creature.
Despite poor box office performance and critical panning, Leprechaun spawned six sequels and a reboot, and is something of a cult hit.
Although the movie’s take on leprechauns might have been a little misguided, at least the anti-theft message is a good one.
2. Gods of Egypt
Image: © Summit Entertainment
Despite being marketed as set in Ancient Egypt, Gods of Egypt is actually set in a fantastical place from “before history” inspired by Ancient Egypt.
With Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the God of Light, appearing alongside Set (Gerard Butler), the God of Darkness, the movie details the conflict between the two, in which Horus is helped by mortal Bek to overthrow the evil Set and retake his rightful throne.
Gods of Egypt simply took characters from Egyptian mythology, assigned them roles in the movie that would fit into popular tropes, and delivered an unimaginative, unexciting mess of narrative incoherence.
Image: © Marvel/Paramount
Woah, woah, steady now.
No, there’s no problems with the MCU, so please don’t gather up your torches and pitchforks, but one of its central heroes does lean heavily on mythology in a fairly inconsiderate manner.
While the characters and story of Thor were all established by Marvel back in the ’60s, that doesn’t excuse the blatant appropriation and re-writing of Norse mythology.
Taking Norse Gods and making them superheroes isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but 2011’s Thor makes the Asgardians less Gods and more advanced aliens.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t work within the overall narrative of the MCU, but it still buries a large aspect of an entire mythology before running away with the bits it wants to keep.
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