5 Historical Wars That Need Movie Adaptations Now
War movies are one of Hollywood's most beloved genres, right up there with romance, horror, and teal and orange exploding robots. Given this fact, you'd assume that by now the movie industry has vigilantly combed through history, sucking up all the interesting war stories that ever existed like a giant, script-writing vacuum, right?
Nope. While the film industry remains obsessed with constantly producing movies about wars that never even happened (come on guys, read your history books), many of history's wartime stories are still wandering around like unwanted pets in the cold, eager to be accepted into the warm, loving arms of Hollywood. For example ...
The First Servile War
When it came to slaves, the Romans were like your 4-year-old brother and guinea pigs: they were all too eager to have a bunch, but they weren't very good at taking care of them. Rome was so continually flooded with enslaved war captives that it was usually cheaper to buy new slaves than it was to look after the ones you already had, so the poor bastards were often simply worked to death. And you thought you were a bad person for throwing out your cell phone instead of getting it repaired when the screen broke.
"Meh, it's clearly out of reach. Time to drive to the Apple store."
Eventually, a bunch of these slaves finally decided they were sick of being treated like unfashionably old cell phones, and in 135 B.C. on the island of Sicily, the slaves revolted. Led by a self-proclaimed king named Eunus and initially armed largely with farm implements and kitchen tools, the slaves held out for three years before finally being defeated by Roman forces. Did I mention that Eunus could apparently perform magic and breathe fire?
Obviously, there are many ways this war could go if you were making it into a movie. You could focus on Eunus himself as a main character, although since his armies had a tendency to kill Roman women and children, you might have to do a bit of historical scrubbing. Or your protagonist could be a Roman soldier sent to defeat the slave menace, who maybe feels a little emotionally torn over the maltreatment of the slaves versus the fact that the escaped slaves are killing babies. Either way, you'd have a guy who could breathe fire, so you could make it work.
Recently, movieland has given us a wave of historical war movies about Greek and Roman times that carefully extract any traditional or mythological elements from the stories and replace them with "accurate" history. This is perfectly fine, assuming that you don't want your movies to have boring shit like "wizards" and "demigods," and instead really want to see people gazing seriously at each other under a heavy blue filter. Even the success of 300 didn't do much to buck the "history should be dull as hell" trend. Take these scenes from Centurion (2010) and The Eagle (2011):
Shown: the dark period of human history before the invention of the color red.
Servile War: Rise of the Magic Fire Breather Slave King Guy would give us an excuse to turn over a new leaf and keep all those mythological elements, as well as adding in a rosy hue or two. Just imagine a movie poster of Roman soldiers facing off against a human flamethrower and tell me this isn't a good idea.
The Emu War
After World War I ended, Australia was trying to deal with a large amount of returning veterans, who were presumably wandering the streets looking surly. The government tried to give them plots of land to farm in Western Australia, but there was a problem: the farmland was already inhabited by emus -- huge, flightless birds that kept eating people's crops like they owned the place. Wanting to help its returning war heroes, and maybe getting nervous about a possible future veteran/emu alliance overthrowing the government, Australia decided to send in the military. (I've asked the local government here to do the same thing about squirrels, but it has refused, despite there being several veterans in the neighborhood.)
"Against animal cruelty"? Or "hate freedom"?
At first, the most ridiculous thing about the Emu War seems to be that it unfairly set animals against modern weaponry. Putting not-very-smart birds up against machine guns is like shooting fish in a barrel full of anti-fish poison. But then, in a "nature-finds-a-way" message right out of a far less scary version of Jurassic Park, the humans lost. As we've said before, by virtue of being fast, flightless birds that were more familiar with the terrain than the hapless soldiers, or maybe just by virtue of being animals in Australia, the emus defeated the humans after only two short, embarrassing campaigns.
How has mankind come this far without a single dramatic portrayal of the eternal battle between man and emu? Have you ever seen an emu? Didn't you immediately wonder if you could take it? If an Emu War movie is made, you'll be able to answer that question without getting arrested again. Plus, it would be fiction, so the filmmakers could even spice the story up a bit. Maybe add in some cassowary shock troops. Or a giant mechanical spider that turns out to be a giant real spider. After that, all you need is a tough-talking veteran who just wants to save his family farm from the emus, and a young army officer with a dark secret about why he hates emus so much, and the rest writes itself.
This epic 2008 movie stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, is set in the early 1940s, and is about ... a whole bunch of stuff, I guess. I fast-forwarded through a lot of this film because it is 18,000 hours long, and the seasons were beginning to change, and I had to go prepare my livestock for the winter. According to the movie poster though, there are some planes, so I think it probably featured the Japanese bombing of Darwin during World War II. The movie only got 55 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so clearly things would have worked out better if it had focused on one of Australia's other violent conflicts, and replaced those planes with emus. In fact, there's still time for a special edition.
The Battle of Blair Mountain
Things sucked for West Virginian mine workers back in the 1920s. Think about all the problems non-unionized Walmart workers have today, and then add in child labor and horrifically unsafe work conditions (by one estimate, you were safer as a soldier on the fields of World War I than you were in a West Virginia mine). Worse, the government, being quite fond of coal's role in the economy, usually came down heavily on the coal companies' side in any dispute. So miners in southern West Virginia decided to unionize, as others had already done around the country, and in response, the country's coal industry leaders called in to angrily skewer them on talk radio. Just kidding! Instead, they started spying on workers, firing and evicting union sympathizers from their homes, and occasionally gunning down pro-union people in broad daylight. And you thought Walmart was bad.
"Welcome to Walmart. Please don't burn my children."
In 1921, thousands of "we don't really like being murdered" miners gathered at the foot of Blair Mountain in West Virginia, where they were met by an alliance of state police officers and mining officials that would have made Ralph Nader's head explode. Both sides were armed with machine guns, and private planes were called in to drop homemade bombs on the miners. The battle lasted five days, and ended only when the President sent in federal troops: the miners, many of them veterans themselves, had no desire to face off against the United States Army. In a movie, this could perhaps be shown by two guys on opposite sides hugging on a battlefield, and then a daisy blooming in the foreground to represent the slow eventual progress of the labor movement.
Hollywood is full of activist liberals who love nothing more than starring in message movies, so you'd think a story about evil big business teaming up with the government to crush workers would have caught someone's eye by now. But a quick Google search reveals a wasteland of strip-mined nothingness. Instead, we just have a bunch of endless movies about McCarthyism:
OK, some people in Hollywood are still upset about the whole communist hunt thing, but you know what Sen. Joseph McCarthy didn't have? A machine gun. (Note: A movie about an alternate history where McCarthy actually did have a machine gun is also an acceptable idea for a movie.)
The Second Seminole War
It was the 1800s, and the United States was kind of being a dick. It had just bought Florida from the Spanish, and now it had to deal with several Native American tribes, collectively known as the Seminoles, who were peskily continuing to exist.
Look at them, just standing there, existing.
First, the Americans resettled the Seminoles to a new reservation in Florida. Then, right when the Seminoles had just gotten their stuff unpacked and had their USB cords set up the way they wanted them, America suddenly decided that they wanted that land as well, and told the tribe to fuck off to Oklahoma. Seriously America, we all appreciate you inventing the Internet and the breakfast burrito and everything, but that shit isn't cool.
The Seminoles were as pissed as anyone would be about being forced to move to Oklahoma, and in 1835 they revolted, teaming up with escaped slaves, known as Black Seminoles, who had been living alongside the tribe for decades. Did I mention that one Seminole technique during the uprising was to destroy slave-owning plantations and then recruit the freed slaves for their army? Shit, the only thing missing from this potential script is a bunch of dragons.
Look, I know many people enjoyed Avatar for its visual effects and 3-D and whatever. I know that some people even forgave it for using Papyrus font in its posters. But it was also praised as a metaphor for America's past oppression of Native Americans, and it could have done this so much better.
Instead of a race of made-up space kittens mind-raping animals and showing off their weird, non-mammalian lady-breasts, we could have had a movie about Native Americans teaming up with escaped slaves to fight genuinely oppressive people in a way that in no way involved anyone mentioning the word "unobtanium." Sure, there might have been less visually impressive space stuff, but you could make up for that by putting in a few scenes of bad guys getting comically eaten by alligators.
The War of 1812
You probably already know of the War of 1812, the conflict between America and Britain that has won the Most Boring War Name competition for 200 years in a row. But have you considered just how neglected this war is when it comes to pop culture? The conflict has everything that makes a good movie: dramatic Naval battles fought on Lake Erie! Evil British troops burning the White House! The composition of "The Star-Spangled Banner"! An oppressive, war-triggering treaty called the Non-Intercourse Act!
Above: What the outside of a military recruitment office would look like after the passage of a Non-Intercourse Act.
Well, you say, the reason nobody makes movies about the War of 1812 is because technically America lost. Well, we lost Vietnam as well, and that didn't stop Hollywood churning out a trillion movies about that. Is it because during the war, America lost so many important battles to Canada? It's because America lost to Canada, isn't it?
We did get a movie set in the War of 1812 back in 1958, but it was heavily fictionalized, concentrated mainly on a pirate, and wasn't very good:
Now, think how much happier everyone in America would be if we stopped repressing our historical shame and making fake pirate movies, and instead just admitted that we lost against Canada that one time. No more of the deep-seated psychological complexes that make people compulsively crack jokes about hockey and health insurance. A new era of peace could begin, and all because of the release of War of 1812: Maple Kill-Up.
C. Coville's funny book, One-Star Reviews, is available on Amazon right now!
For more from C. Coville, check out 4 Mind-Blowing Theories About Famous Lines in the Bible. And then check out 54 Great Movies Combined Into 27 AMAZING Scenes.
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