Friday, January 10, 2014

The Legend of Hercules [2014]

MPAA (PG-13) (1 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (1 Star)

IMDb listing
ChicagoTribune/Variety (S. Foundas) review (S. Wloszczyna) review

The Legend of Hercules [2014] (directed and cowritten by Renny Harlin along with Daniel Giat, Sean Hood and Giulio Steve) is really kinda a mess.  Presenting an "origin story" for the Greco-Roman hero Heracles (Hercules), it actually borrows more from The Gladiator [2000], Oliver Stone's Alexander [2004] and 300 [2006] than from the classical myth.

Now why should this be a problem?  After all, Marvel Comics has done a pretty good job converting the Norse God Thor [wikipedia] [marvel] into one of its comic book Superheroes, a character that's happily appeared in three Marvel films reviewed here [1] [2] [3].  Further, the Percy Jackson series, its latter film Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters [2013] reviewed here as well, did a reasonably good job re-imagining the various Greco-Roman heroes for the present day (I've found it particularly amusing that Percy, et al have been portrayed as growing-up with largely "absent fathers" ;-).  And I didn't find it particularly necessary to check the classical mythology underpinning films like Clash / Wrath of the Titans [2012], the latter film reviewed here as well.  Yet in the case of the current film, The Legend of Hercules [2014], I did find it necessary to do so and let me explain why:

Though bearing the name that derives from the Greek Goddess Hera (the Goddess of Hearth and Home), in the classical myth Heracles was actually tormented by Hera throughout most of his story.  Why?  Because he was the illegitimate son of her serially unfaithful husband, Zeus (the head of the Olympian Gods).  Indeed, in the classical myth, so terrified was Alcmene, Heracles' mother, of Hera's wrath that she left her infant Heracles exposed (to die) after giving birth to him.  Yet Athena (the Greek Goddess of Wisdom) seeing this injustice taking place, had pity on the infant and (playing a trick on Hera) brought him up to her, who (as Hera is the "Greek Goddess of Hearth and Home") cheerfully raised him as her own even giving him the name Heracles -- meaning "Hera's glory" because ... well that's what a Goddess of Hearth and Home does when she sees an abandoned infant: SHE TAKES CARE OF HIM / RAISING HIM AS HER OWN.  Imagine then Hera's anger when she discovered that her "pride and joy" Heracles was actually the illegitimate son of her philandering husband-God Zeus!  So she then took-out her anger on Heracles in all sorts of ways for the remainder of his earthly life.  That's the classical myth.

In the case of THE CURRENT FILM, Queen Alcmene (played actually quite well by Roxanne McKee) irritated with her husband King Aphrytion's (played by Scott Atkins) endless-warlike ways prays to Hera (again the Goddess of Hearth and Home) to knock some sense into her husband who was causing SO MUCH PAIN TO SO MANY HOUSEHOLDS (including her own) with his constant wars.  Okay, that would kinda make sense.  In the Greco-Roman world, Hera would probably be the Goddess to pray to with such a request. What doesn't make sense is Hera's answer to Queen Alcmene's prayer: HERA sends her randy/ever-philandering husband Zeus to impregnate Queen Alcmene so that she'd give birth the to the future Heracles (here understood as "Hera's Gift").  ANYONE WHO KNOWS ANYTHING ABOUT GREEK MYTHOLOGY WOULD KNOW THAT THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN IMPOSSIBLE.  There's simply NO WAY that Hera would "vend out" her husband like that.  Not only was she EXTREMELY JEALOUS in the Greco-Roman conception, she was THE GODDESS OF HEARTH AND HOME.  She wanted peaceful households, NOT ones where there was infidelity present.

So from the get-go this story is "Hollywood, in your dreams" nonsense ...

Then the rest of the story simply plays on elements of the three above mentioned Hollywood films:  King Aphrytion is never sure whether Heracles (played by Kellan Lutz) is really his son (shades of Oliver Stone's Alexander [2004] where Alexander the Great's father is portrayed as having similar worries).  At one point, Heracles is betrayed by King Aphrytion and Heracles' older/half-brother -- and SOLD INTO SLAVERY (as in the Russell Crowe starring The Gladiator [2000]).  How does regain his freedom? Through a series of "Gladiator-like" arena fights...  Finally, in case one didn't remember from 300 [2006] what a phalanx battle formation looked like, I can't imagine how one would forget it after this film, as this CGI friendly formation is used OVER AND OVER AGAIN THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE OF THE MOVIE.  There's even an a la last Hollywood version of Troy [2004] "doomed love story" between Heracles and a Cretian princess named Hebe (played by Gaia Weiss) which could be have been at least partly inspired by the Classical Heracles' falling in love with a Princess named Iole.  However, one gets the sense that the film-makers here really could care less about the Classical Heracles and just wanted to produce a generic, heavy on the CGI, "sand and sandal" movie with a more imposing name than the film in any way merited.

Sigh, there's a second Hercules movie coming out in the summer.  We'll have to see what this next one brings ...

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  1. simply nothing but an idea on how to milk money by making a movie., it's never about making a hercules origin movie., love the review.

  2. The trailer features some amazing feats of strength, so I figured they were probably the best the movie had to offer. The good news is that there is a lot more where that’s coming from. The bad news is that you don’t get to see any more cool, mythical monsters after the first 10 minutes of the film.