In “Death of glory…,” Ian Garrick Mason discusses the epic film. He claims that the last great era of epic film was the period between the 50s and 60s which saw the release of Ben Hur, Cleopatra, and El Cid. According to Mason, public interest in grandiose movies with triumphant characters was rooted in America’s confidence during this time period. World War II was won and the impending conflict with the Soviet Union painted the United States as a lone defender of freedom against a clearly portrayed evil. Moreover, the introduction of Cinemascope in the early 1950s allowed these ostentatious tales to be appropriately depicted on the big screen.
Even though the genre persisted after reaching its pinnacle during the 50s and 60s, the character of epics shifted. Epics began to focus on the underground. They celebrated the nefarious over the great. Two examples of this phenomenon can be found in Coppola’s canon: The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. With high production values and an exotic locale, Apocalypse Now earns the title of epic. Rather than celebrate the life and triumphs of one man, the film focuses on the downfall of Kurtz and the destruction the American military brings. Even though it retains the spectacle of earlier epics, the underlying themes change dramatically.
Mason claims that films like Apocalypse Now changed the genre permanently. The film created a new type of epic that has been recreated up to the present in films like Goodfellas and Scarface. Meanwhile, traditional-style celebratory epics like Troy and Alexander have proved to be commercial and critical disasters. Coppola’s filmmaking changed epic filmmaking and the mindset of the film going public, making them more cynical and less receptive to laudatory, triumphant movies.