It’s been a few years since I read the story of the Maccabbees (split off in two to four books, depending on who is deciding which books are officially recognized or not*) but I do know if there is any story ripe for the adapting from Biblical times it would be the story of Judah Maccabbee, the revolutionary leader who (with the help of his father and brothers) instigated guerilla warfare on their Greek** oppressors who made it illegal for Israel to practice their religion.
Mel Gibson and Joe Eszterhas are setting to work on making this happen as director/producer and writer respectively, according to Deadline’s report.
This news has me equally excited and nervous about the potential for this project. Let’s do the bad news first.
- A project like this isn’t going to be cheap and Gibson and co. are going to have to do some work to convince people that this will be a marketable project. The story isn’t exactly well know which is a plus and a minus. But more than that Gibson hasn’t pulled in money for a studio in some time, and it’s been years since people spent more time talking about his films then the wreck of his personal life. Which brings me to my second con…
- This is a thoroughly Jewish story***. And Gibson hasn’t had the nicest things to say about Jewish people or the nation of Israel as of late. Is this going to come off as pandering? Disingenuous? Or perhaps people will just be looking for any fragment of anti-Semitism they can find in the film.
- Joe Eszterhas isn’t exactly the name that springs to mind when I think of a writer for a historical epic with cultural implications that may want to be tread on lightly. His imbd.com credits don’t scream subtly. Maybe that’s not what they’re looking for, and I’m hoping I’m wrong. But this seems like a strange joining of writer and material.
- This is a violent, inspiring, and complex story that has many of the same themes and character beats as Braveheart, so we know Gibson can handle it and do it well. The two questions I have on this matter: 1) Mel are you still in love with hand held cameras? Because I’m not, and 2) Can Gibson resist the chance to have this movie play with the actors speaking in Aramaic (with some Hebrew)? Because that would greatly effect this things selling power. This might be retreading of the same ground for Gibson but that mean’s there is recognition and marketability and a chance for Gibson to reestablish himself in the public eye.
- The fact that this isn’t a widely known story means there is an innate freshness to it and that alone justifies its existence. Even if the story beats are well warn at least it will be a new cast of characters and a different culture than we are used to seeing in this type of film.
- I can’t wait to walk out of a theater and hear people say “so that’s why Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah?”
- Gibson isn’t the most admirable guy, but he does great work in front of and behind the camera. If he has at least one great movie left in him I’d like to see it. And if he can’t resist putting himself in the movie perhaps he can play Judah Maccabbee’s father, who should end up dying within the first act, and that just might be therapeutic for everything.
What do you think? All things considered do you want to see Gibson making a Jewish historical epic or is the deck stacked too high against him?
*If you’re interested these stories can be found in many different places. The easiest is probably any Catholic Bible, where you can find the stories of 1 and 2 Maccabbees. These first two books are part of what is called the pseudepigrapha- books recognized as Scripture by a group of people (mainly Catholics) but not everyone (protestants and Jews). 3 and 4 Maccabbees are part of the apocrypha because they aren’t recognized as Scripture by any major religion and are even crazier in content than the other books.
**yeah, Syrians and Egyptians were involved but for the sake of simplicity…
*** Before these events the Jewish people were struggling with finding identity post-exile to Assyria and Babylon. Were they going to abandon their beliefs, meld them with the cultures around them, or return to the religion of their fathers? Rabbis, Pharisees, strict adherence to a religious code were all established in this time. The books these stories are found in are the bridge that connect the Old and New Testament and explain how and why the Jewish religion changed so much in that 400 year period. It goes without saying, this is a very important time in Jewish history.