Tonight I watched Hercules (2014) staring Dwayne Johnson. I’ve heard some pretty bad reviews of this movie, so I kept putting off watching it until my son’s insistence wore me down. I’m glad I saw it. I even enjoyed it. While I haven’t seen all of “the Rock’s” movies, all that I have seen I enjoyed so I shouldn’t have been surprised. The below review does contain some spoilers.
This movie is a look at the man behind the legend using a ploy I’ve often used in my own stories. The movie takes a look at the myths of Hercules and puts a logical spin upon them. Such as centaurs are actually men on horseback or the Hydra is actually an army of men wearing serpent helmets. In this tale, Hercules is a mercenary who has fled Athens with a price on his head, accused of murdering his wife and children yet with no memory of the deed. As he made a living, he picked up companions along the way by helping one here, saving one there. His actions were told in such a way to build up his reputation so that they all could continue to find work. After their latest adventure, Hercules is approached by a princess of Thrace asking for help in defeating the army that is pillaging the countryside, promising his weight in gold as payment.
Hercules and crew aid the Thracian kingdom by training and fighting with the army only to find, upon winning the battle, that they’ve been helping the wrong side all along. The princess had lied to Hercules in order to save the life of her young son, the true ruler of Thrace. Hercules then saves the day by righting his wrongs and in the course of doing this he finds out what happened to his family.
Many tend to forget, especially polytheists I think, that Hercules used to be a mortal, with all the mortal problems and feelings that muddy our own lives. He has felt hunger. He has felt pain. He has felt joy. And he has loved and lost. Hercules didn’t always do the right thing but always seemed to atone for his actions. I think this movie portrayed a real man who became a myth, a legend and a god. It isn’t necessarily the Hercules that the ancients might have known and that is ok. We are not the ancients and can never by no matter how hard we try to imitate them. New stories for a new age. Let me tell you my seven year old son’s reaction to the movie. He immediately went and put on his play armor, then started playing games based upon the movie. He saw a man who screwed up, then gave up his gold and the easy way out in order to try to fix his mistake. Not so bad a thing to imitate, eh?
[Melia Brokaw is a stay at home mom, a Hellenic polytheist, and the editor of From Cave to Sky: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Zeus.]