September 9, 2013
Reddit Time Travel Movie Getting Green Light
The backstory to a possible big budget action film might actually be the bigger story. Rome Sweet Rome appears to have gotten the green light, and it all started with a Reddit post.
Back in the fall of 2011 James Erwin – a regular poster on the social news site – posed the question, “Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU?”
This started apparently because Erwin, and others didn’t particular like the borderline sociopath that was Octavian (later Augustus) in HBO’s Rome. The pay-TV channel also offered up the Operation Iraqi Freedom mini-series Generation Kill about a group of hard charging U.S. Marines. So, a mash-up was born.
Could the USMC take down Octavian and his newly transformed Roman Empire?
Back in 2011, Erwin was hired to actually take his posts and turn it into a story, and this week Variety reported that Warner Bros. has tapped Apollo 18 scribe Brian Miller to fine-tune the story.
Changes are expected, such as the fact that Miller will offer “US Special Forces” as opposed to the Marines. This begs the question, why the need for a change?
Not to offer a plate of sour grapes, but as a reader of various time travel and alternate history tales I must say that Erwin’s story isn’t exactly new or all that inspiring. He crafted an interesting story, and was able to defend his concept.
Because this transpired on Reddit he was able to garner the attention of executives at Warner Bros. But as noted there have been plenty of forums and newsgroups before that devoted to time travel and alternate history. This notion of a “lost in time” military unit isn’t really that fresh an idea.
It didn’t even take visionary writers such as Jules Verne or H.G. Welles to come up with this idea. Actually, Mark Twain can be credited with the concept in his story A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. More recently Leo A. Frankowski offered up The Cross-Time Engineer series about the exploits of a Polish engineer named Conrad Stargard, who happens to travel back in time to Poland just before the Mongol invasion!
Harry Turtledove, who has made a living out of alternate history stories, crafted a far more thought out story called Guns of the South, where South African white supremacists give AK-47s to the Confederacy during the American Civil War.
So again, the really interesting part of Erwin’s tale is how he was able to turn a simple concept into a chance to write a Hollywood screenplay – and from all accounts Erwin never wrote a screenplay before. In other words this is sort of an Argo-type plot twist where the story of the story is probably going to be better than the story.
And again not to just offer sour grapes, but U.S. Special Forces really couldn’t take down the Roman Empire, but no one expects this to be a realistic take on the concept. It will be more akin to Starz’s Spartacus or the movie 300 than a historically based film – but this is because the very concept of science fiction usually takes bounds that historically based films leave behind.
There are issues that supports of Erwin say he’s addressed, such as the issue of fuel for vehicles, ammunition, even food. Perhaps if this Marine Infantry Battalion (I’ll stick to his original concept rather than Miller’s reworking) landed outside Rome then perhaps it would have a chance. Otherwise it is a stretch.
During the period when the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire, it stretched from modern day Spain to Syria. There were no ships of that era that could have carried a single armored vehicle, so that’s a problem – one Erwin in his numerous posts tried to clarify.
Fuel is a problem, but I suppose there is a lot of crude oil in Europe and refining isn’t really that complicated of a problem. Ammunition is a huge problem because Marines don’t have an endless supply, but there is the argument that soldiers can be trained to fight with swords and other weapons.
However, food is another problem. Travel to a strange land where they don’t have the sanity conditions of the United States and you’ll understand. A Battalion of sick troops without proper sanitation only creates a worsening situation. This is why armies in the 19th century saw greater casualties from disease than combat wounds; and it explains how a medieval warrior king such as Henry V of England could have died of dysentery. Bad water, again, only complicates matters.
Now in fairness a movie that explored these facets won’t be fun to watch. Nor would issues such as whether anyone in a Marine Battalion might understand Latin as spoken at the time of Augustus. And finally, what might happen should the Roman Empire be suddenly defeated? It wasn’t like the fall of the Roman Empire a few hundred years later brought about a golden age. It is called the Dark Ages for a reason!
Then again, it could be fun tearing this concept apart, especially because this has been happening every since Erwin started typing back in 2011.
All things considered… I’d rather see a big screen version of Guns of the South.
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com