Titus is a 1999 film by Julie Taymor (Frida, Across the Universe (2007)), adapted from William Shakespeare's play Titus Andronicus.
The plot concerns a Cycle of Revenge between the families of Titus Andronicus (Anthony Hopkins) and Tamora (Jessica Lange).
In addition to tropes from the play, this film provides examples of:
- Actor Allusion: One gets the impression Anthony Hopkins was cast solely for the infamous dinner scene.
- Anachronism Stew: The entire film, and proudly so.
- Asshole Victim: It's satisfying to see Chiron and Demetrius butchered like a couple of hogs and turned into mincemeat pies by Titus after their rape and mutilation of Lavinia. Their mother Tamora also qualifies for this trope when she meets her end at Titus's knife (after being fed the meat of her own sons), as she was the one who encouraged them to do so.
- Bittersweet Ending: All of the bloodshed has been carried out. Young Lucius hears the cries of Aaron's infant son. He frees the baby from his cage and presumably any mistreatment that the boy would suffer. Then Young Lucius carries him towards the exit of the colosseum into a sunrise.
- Book Ends: The main story begins and ends in the colosseum. The audience is invisible in the opening, but visible in the end.
- Casting Gag: Titus, the guy who brutally murders a bunch of people and serves their remains as food, is played by Anthony Hopkins.
- Chewing the Scenery: The script lends itself to this, and some of the actors (Anthony Hopkins, most especially) take advantage of it.
- Circus of Fear: Downplayed with the carnival performers, who appear with very off-beat circus music, dance for Titus and his entourage before finally presenting him with the severed heads of his sons and his own hand that he had cut off in exchange so they could live.
- Cue the Sun: The film ends with Young Lucius carrying Aaron's child away into the sunrise.
- Determinator: Lavinia on telling her father what happened without having a tongue or hands.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Chiron and Demetrius. They also have a lot in common with Oedipus Rex in terms of how much they love their mother...
- Even Evil Has Standards: Even though he confirmed that it is acceptable for the father to honor-kill their defiled daughter, Saturninus is horrified when Titus nonchalantly performs said honor killing on his daughter Lavinia and he sympathetically asks Titus who were the perps. He's even more appalled to learn she was violated by his own stepsons and demands they be brought out for justice. He soon finds out Titus already used his unique brand of justice.
- Evil Chef: The film plays up Titus' role as a chef when he serves up Tamora's sons to her in a pie by having Anthony Hopkins dressed in the chef's traditional white smock and toque (while sporting a Slasher Smile and carrying a large cleaver).
- Forgotten Framing Device: The film opens with a modern-age little boy playing violently with toy soldiers and other military toys. Suddenly a Roman soldier bursts into the room and drags him away, and the boy then becomes Young Lucius in the story. This is never called back to, although the final shot may imply an emotional resolution to it.
- Good Hair, Evil Hair: Alan Cumming as the emperor seems to be sporting a Hitler-combover.
- Heel Realization: It's implied Young Lucius has begun to see the mass destruction of the bloodshed and pities Aaron's child when he hears the baby's cries after being taught to despise Moors. He decides to take the baby out of the violence.
- Neck Snap: Lavinia is executed in this manner.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Played with for drama and for laughs. Tamora and her sons dress as metaphorical deities of Rape, Murder, and Revenge so they can pretend to ally with the insane Titus. Clearly, the costumes and makeup, elaborate as they are, don't really hide their familiar likeness. Of course, Titus is not fooled, but plays along so his brother can have time to capture the sons.
- Primal Stance: The two evil sons adopt this pose while taunting Lavinia after they mutilate her.
- Setting Update: The film leaps and bounds through various time periods at the whims of the director.
- When She Smiles: Lavinia after her rape and mutilation. Despite the horrible physical and psychological torture she has endured (and is still going through), the rare moments when she smiles, such as when her nephew presents her with new prosthetic hands, are heartwarming - and the camera continues to emphasise her beauty with close-ups of her face.