Constantine Santas, a leading expert in film instruction, has collaborated with three other authors, James M. Wilson, Maria Colavito, and Djoymi Baker, to produce this massive volume (approximately 700 pages) of selected epic films. The book recognizes and describes the lengthy, spectacular, adventurous, and expensive Hollywood productions, such as Gone With the Wind, The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, and many others of modern times, such as Titanic, Gladiator, The Lord of the Rings, Avatar, and many others in-between. The genre has survived for over 100 years and evolved to suit modern audiences.
The volume consists of over 250 entries of well-written, entertaining entries, intended for college and university film classes, as well the casual film buff who loves long, richly-textured spectacles that favor action, colorful heroes and villains, and often stories of social significance, such as Judgment at Nuremberg and Schindler’s List. Each entry contains full cast and crew credits, awards won, running-times, DVD and Blu-ray availability, as well as footnotes and bibliography. There is an introduction examining the literary origins of the epic, an appendix for super-hero epics, foreign epics, a list of the directors and their works, an index, and bibliography. The essays are arranged in alphabetical order, something that allows a reader to pick an entry and not be obliged to read the volume from beginning to end.
This unique volume attempts to critically recognize and respect the epic film as a genre of social significance as other genres—drama, action, gangster, western, mystery, romance—some of which achieved epic length. As the authors state, this volume will illustrate “the characteristics of the great epic and its major or minor relatives and that it will encourage further study.”
The Encyclopedia of Epic Films makes for an excellent library acquisition for the reference section, as it provides much information for students researching the epic genre as a whole, or for a teacher who makes assignments. But I found it pretty much a good read, as the four authors coalesce on the subject matter, but also offer their own individual styles and perspectives.
By Harikleia Sirmans