Epic is such an overused word. I mean, we basically use it to mean “awesome” now which is kind of sad. In film, it means, “A long film, book, or other work portraying heroic deeds and adventures or covering an extended period of time.” So, obviously, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (HU DVD 808 – 810) is an epic. Lawrence of Arabia (HU DVD 3935) is an epic. But Raiders of the Lost Ark (HU DVD 3251)? Is that an epic? It’s definitely an awesome. I’m not sure it’s an epic.
One of the problem with epics is that they’re defined in different ways. Do they have to represent the past? How about a fantasy past? What counts as an extended period of time? Do the characters have to go on a journey? Does there have to be fighting? They tend to be episodic, but is that just a natural consequence of them also being long? And there are considerations beyond that of plot. One of the features of film epics that I’m not sure is really crucial but that I personally really appreciate is that they often feature the landscape so heavily, possibly because the characters are often on a journey. But is that a required feature, or is it incidental?
Sometimes long films done on a huge scale, like Titanic (HU DVD 2290), are called epics. By the above definition that sounds correct, but I definitely think that’s wrong. Titanic is a romance film, and an action film, but it’s not an epic in the same way that Ben-Hur (HU DVD 3857) is an epic. And the fact that it’s a long movie doesn’t automatically make it an epic. I think we’re mixing definitions of epic.
Apparently the original film epic is called Cabiria (HU DVD 180). It’s a 1914 silent film, and it sounds amazing.
We have tons more epics and arguable epics in our collection, of course. What’s your favorite?