Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Samson the next Bible Movie?

Samson Bible Movie

Is it time for Hollywood to retell the story of Samson?

Samson pillars painting

2014 is going to see quite a number of biblical movies grace the movie theater. First, there’s Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’ starring Russell Crowe, which of course, is about Noah’s Ark. Then, there’s Ridley Scott’s ‘Exodus’ which will see Christian Bale as Moses himself. Hollywood seems to be gaining a liking for The Bible, despite its generally liberal masses. I kept thinking about other potential Bible stories that may be turned into film, and one that popped into my mind was that of Samson. 

According to the Hebrew Bible, Samson was a means by which God could aid the Israelites, who were suppressed by the Philistines at the time. He possessed supernatural, omnipotent strength and in his endeavors, he single handedly annihilated the Philistines, up until his death. He was a Nazirite, set aside for God, and his vows included abstinence from alcohol and shaving and cutting hair among other things. As long as he protected his vows, he would be able to preserve his powers of unimaginable strength.  

Word goes that his path was set by God so as to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines. His falling for a Philistine woman was then, planned by God. This simple act sets in motion a chain of events that results in sheer carnage. When his betrothed Philistine woman is given to another man, he burns the fields of the Philistines. This enrages the Philistines who exact vengeance by killing his betrothed. This in turn, infuriates Samson even further (his loved one was killed, obviously) so he slaughters even more Philistines. The story goes on and on, with Samson taking on an entire army by himself until he is betrayed by Delilah, another woman he falls for. She finds out that if Samson breaks his vow, by say, cutting his hair, he’ll lose his superhuman strength. Delilah, swayed by the coin the Philistines offered, cuts Samson’s hair, thereby allowing the Philistines to capture him. But in his very last hours before he was to be sacrificed, he pulled down the two pillars (his hair grew back somewhat) he was tied to, killing many more Philistines and himself, in the end.

When the story is put out as I have done in the previous paragraph, it seems preposterous. Well, that’s because I’ve left out most of the detail to make the story as concise as possible. I was first introduced to Samson through those Bible cartoons they used to show back in the day. It started off with Jesus, Moses and then eventually the series made its way to Samson. He was more likeable in the cartoon than in the Bible. He had to be in order to make the program viewable for children. Ripping apart a lion with his bare hands (yes, he does this, too) wouldn’t sit well with all those parent’s councils watching over TV shows, waiting to pounce on anything that may seem inappropriate. 

When I first thought about a Samson movie, I saw some real potential for a film. There’s a tremendous amount of tragedy to be seen with the loss of his first betrothed, to his eventual betrayal at the hands of Delilah. Even the fact that he was blinded after his capture, should set hearts to ache at some point. Then there’s all the violence that could end up in the movie. A fight with a lion, and the countless scores of Philistines he so easily obliterates. There’s scope for some really strong rated R material that should appeal to older audiences and teenagers. Add to this his weakness for untrustworthy women who are no doubt appealing in more than one way, and you have the possibility of some raunchy sex scenes, not that we’re trying to besmirch The Bible in anyway. There were 2 notable loves in his life, so there’s room for at least a couple of erotic scenes. 

Tragedy, love, lust, violence. These components should make for an interesting screenplay. But the story of Samson has some inherent flaws. Firstly, when I was watching that cartoon years ago, I couldn’t help but compare Samson to Hercules. He is a one man army. He took down most of the Philistines by himself. Portraying this onscreen should be extremely difficult. In fact, it won’t be highly feasible to have an individual do all those deeds by himself. Unless it’s an animated feature like those cartoons were. Of course, we could pair him up with a band of misfits and such to make the scenario more plausible, but then the film would turn into the Hercules movies set to be released this year, with Kellan Lutz and The Rock playing the Greek hero in separate movies, both planning on providing a more realistic take on the Greek hero. Hence, a realistic take makes it difficult to differentiate Samson from the Hercules movies to be released soon. Then there’s the matter of the hair. The bottom line is that if you cut Samson’s hair, he loses his powers. To most, this is ludicrous and trivial. Imagine a seen where the villain, Delilah, in this case, creeps up on Samson after some shenanigans in bed, and cuts his locks off to weaken him. It’s almost impossible to see that deed done in a serious manner on screen, without creating a laugh or two. 

I thought that Samson would thus be an unfilmable idea, primarily due to the hair, but it turns out that I was wrong. There’s a 1949 movie ‘Samson and Delilah’ which won 2 Oscars and a 1996 TV movie with Elizabeth Hurley in it. There were also some films in the 1960s made in Italy, with titles such as ‘Samson vs. The Pirates’. I’m guessing that it falls into the category of a mash up film of sorts, the kind you see with monsters, like Godzilla vs. King Kong. Must be quite entertaining. Anyway, it seems that Hollywood was working on Samson long before I thought about it. While the movies that are currently available on the Biblical character may not be suited to the tastes of the present generation, it may only be a matter of time before someone harvests an idea that translates the idea into a palatable film for the present day. If Noah’s Ark can make a Hollywood premiere, why can’t Samson’s glorious locks?