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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I liked this movie a lot. Yes, it's made for TV and has made for TV
production values. Yes the special effects are less grand than they
could be. Yes a lot of things its critics say are true. But the story,
far from being a botched tweak on the standard Hercules myth, is a
totally new take on the myth, and it's a very interesting one.
Think about it. Zeus and Hera, king and queen of the gods. Their names permeate the story from beginning to end. But where are they? They are not played by actors, they are not rendered by CGI. They are not there. True, there is that scene where Hercules tries to destroy himself after he learns he has slain his children, and his dagger is knocked from his hand by lightning and the flames of the pyre put out by rain. These actions certainly could be the work of Zeus, assuming he were around. But they could just as well be the work of Deianeira, who is after all a goddess of nature and was there on the spot at the time. Or they could have been simply nature itself at play at a fateful time.
Another big question. Who was Hercules' father? Of course anyone who knows anything about Hercules will know the answer. It's got to be Zeus. Or does it? What we see in the movie is Alcmene being raped by a powerful man who we later learn to be Antaeus son of the Earth. True, he bears the mark of Zeus, but that is just a cut put on him by Amphitryon, and if it has an effect here it is the only time, for Antaeus is from start to finish a servant of Hera. So who is the father? Is it Zeus acting through Antaeus (makes no sense); is it Hera acting through Antaeus (makes more sense than the first choice); or is it Antaeus himself (the most plausible choice of all)? Or could it be that Antaeus did not actually impregnate Alcmene with his violent act, and that the father of Hercules is Amphitryon after all?
A story that raises such fundamental questions is clearly not a simple retelling of the Hercules myth. So what is it about? I think the answer is pretty obvious. It's about divisions. Divisions between the followers of Zeus and the followers of Hera, divisions between the branches of the house of Perseus, divisions between husband and wife, between parents and children, between siblings. Divisions between noble instincts and base instincts, between societal values and personal values, between conflicting desires. Divisions everywhere, within society, within families, within the individual.
And so what does it say about divisions? Again the answer is pretty obvious. That divisions cause conflict and hurt, that the conflict and hurt will go on as long as the divisions exist, and that the only way to get out of the cycle is to break down the divisions and bring warring sides together and set about healing the wounds they have inflicted on each other. The process requires will and sacrifice and above all open-mindedness. Hercules' speech to the gods, the rising of the people, the (willing or unwilling) sacrifices of Alcmene and Megara, the marriage of Hyllus and Iole are all about this process and its goal.
Paul Telfer said something interesting in one of the interviews he did for the movie: "There is also an idea of these myths becoming so pervasive in culture and lasting so long because they are endlessly re-interpretable. All the problems and dilemmas faced by those characters are universal and outside of history, also part of story telling is to take your story and relate it to today. Our Hercules is very different than the Hercules of ten years ago and 20 years ago, as it should be." In our present age of red states and blue states, conservative and liberal, religious and secular, pro-war and anti-war, and so on and on, I can't think of a Hercules we need more than the one in this movie.
It's great that so many people know the myth well enough to see where the movie departs from it. But the myth is not as fixed as it seems. The version most people know, though clearly based on early sources, is quite late - in fact hundreds of years later the great age of Athens and Sparta. When we go back to that age we find variations that may surprise us. For example, most people know that Hercules performed his labors as a penance for killing his children; and yet, if they look in Euripides' play "Heracles", they will see him quite clearly killing his children after his labors, which were done for a quite different reason. Was Euripides using a different version of the story or did he change the story himself for his own dramatic purposes? All that's certain is that he offered a version that differs significantly from the one we regard as standard today.
We should keep such ancient differences in mind as we look into Charles Pogue's script and see, for example, that Iole's parents have been changed from two outside people to Megara and Eurystheus, and, that Iole herself has been changed from the cause of Hercules' downfall to the symbol of his triumph. The point is that the myth is as fluid today as it was two and half millennia ago. Which, as Telfer says, is the way it should be.
I hope everybody will take another look at the Hallmark "Hercules" when it appears again on TV or DVD and give it a chance to tell the story it is trying to tell. It will still be a TV movie and it will have its faults. But it's an interesting and worthwhile artistic work, flawed as it may be, and deserves a second look.
My sons and I enjoyed this movie. In fact the 3 boys were disappointed when it was over. It's a shame it was cut down to 3 hours. The acting was convincing (for a fantasy movie) and the scenery was breathtaking. I believe the action and bravery of the hero are what held my Sons' attention. Although the storyline didn't follow what I remember for mythology class, the story was interesting and entertaining. I appreciated that the action sequences as well as the sexual content were kept to what I would consider as a PG level. I would recommend this to anyone who likes action, romance, or has any interest in mythology. Unlike some of the other reviews on this site, this movie was perfectly enjoyable if you don't take it too seriously. My family and I are looking forward to either another TV presentation or the opportunity to see the movie on DVD.
I just finished watching this on Sci-Fi, and rushed online to see if I
could order the DVD. This is also the first online review I have ever
felt motivated to make OF ANY MOVIE.
IMO this is THE best done Hercules movie I've ever seen, primarily because the message. The point of the movie was not the heroics, nor the political intrigue, nor the subplots, nor the eye candy (though, I have to admit Paul Telfer was certainly that! then again, I've always been partial to dark hair and blue eyes... *purr*) or about the special effects. It was about an ordinary man who, through his actions and determination, fought back against the prevailing beliefs of his day, to come to the ultimate self-realization: I, AND NO ONE ELSE, DETERMINE MY DESTINY.
I watched this journey with my 10 year-old son, and in addition to the above, found example after example of courage and morals demonstrated. (Wish it was a little less gory in spots though.) The second biggest lesson my son took away from the movie was how Hercules, though it wasn't completely "his fault", took full, unremitting responsibility for his actions, and made every effort to make full restitution and make the wrong right. In contrast, we have the dumb-butts who took no responsibility at all for their actions. Wow!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What are you all complaining about? NBC's HERCULES had everything I
want in a Hercules movie:
Recipe for a Sword & Sandal Movie:
Ingredient 1: A Hero With Muscles. Step aside, Kevin Sorbo. The young actor cast as Herc is no Steve Reeves -- but then, neither was Reg Park or Ed Fury. At least he had big muscles and an enthusiastic delivery. Given that he plays Herc at the beginning of his heroic career, his lack of facial hair was perfectly acceptable. Mythology often characterized Herc as somewhat of an oaf, and the likable goofus who becomes a confident hero worked well in the context of this movie.
Ingredient 2: A Heroine With Big... Hair: The six foot tall Leelee Sobieski would have been better cast as an Amazon rather than a wood nymph, and her golden body makeup, subtle and effective in close-up, turned bright orange in longshots (not her fault), but she's always a likable presence and in the final battle she wields a bow with the best of 'em. As soon as she fondles the wounded Herc's pecks, she falls for The Big Lug, and eventually gives him the loving family he so desires. What more motivation does a sword and sandal character need? (The obligatory "heroine caught bathing in the river" scene was also nicely done. )
3: A Hissable Villain: In this case two of 'em, Eurystheus the gay king and Antaeus the brute whose strength comes from contact with the Earth. Though the movie takes liberties with the identity of Antaeus, they were perfectly acceptable within the context of the convolutions of mythology (Oedipus just happens to meet his dad on the road and kill him? What are the odds of THAT?). Its called Dramatic License.
4: A Villainess With Eye Shadow: Herc's mom Alcmene is a B-level Livia (from I, CLAUDIUS), and Elizabeth Perkins plays her for all she's worth. She and her younger accomplice Megara make for a nice tag team of bad girls.
5: Monsters: Though some of the CGI was on the level of a Terrytoon, the Hydra was very nicely done, even moving like a Harryhausen monster. Add centaurs, satyrs, harpies and a Nemean Lion more like a Lion Monster, and I'm a happy viewer.
6: Speeches Delivered To The Gods: Any movie that opens with Timothy Dalton (as Herc's dad Amphitryon) standing on the bow of a storm-tossed ship bellowing "ZZZEEEEEEEUUUUUSSSS!!!!!!!" is off to a good start. Sacrifices to Hera and Herc's speech to The Gods -- sounding like a modernization of The Lone Ranger Creed -- add up to plenty of enjoyably cheesy histrionics.
7: An Oracle: In this version, its Alcmene who castrates the hermaphroditic Tiresias, turning him into the Oracle of Delphi. Gotta getta prophesy.
8: Battles & Fights: Lots of 'em, with swords, bows, clubs, men against men, men against monsters, The People against soldiers -- if they'd had kitchens in ancient Thebes, Herc would have wielded a sink, I'm sure.
9: A Comic Relief Sidekick: Linus the lute player, played by everyone's favorite sidekick of the moment, Sean Astin. A few pratfalls and wisecracks, and loyalty to The Hero.
All in all, this movie was far more faithful to the Hercules myth than any other version made. They even tackled Herc's murder of his own children, successfully weaving it into the story of Herc's self-actualization. The violence is bloody, the sex is sexy, and Herc's weapon of choice is a big fat club. When this comes out on DVD, I'm watching it again.
I love Greek Mythology and this saga did a good job bringing the hero Hercules to life. The scenery, costumes and actors were great(even the children). Others have complained about the special effects, but this was made for family entertainment. The sex, violence and gore were just at the correct rating. Hercules was a welcome relief in the fantasy genre from the usual "dribble" on T.V. What ruined the overall story-line were two things: -Too many commercials -The original version got cut by over an hour. Perhaps the additional footage would have held the continuity of the film better in spite of all the commercial interruptions. I hope Hallmark will issue the DVD in its uncut, original version.
It was a great mini series with the flavor of Clash of the Titans. The
CG was just enough to force you to use a little imagination which I
loved. The issue I have is that I liked it so much that I went and
bought it at my local video store only to find that it was not the
entire movie. It had been edited for time and unfortunately ruined the
experience. It felt like a nonstop marathon because it was so fast.
Additionally, the DVD showed that it contained the full frame version,
which it did not and subtitles, which it did not.
Check out the Sci Fi channel for showings.
Love this movie.
My guess would be this was originally going to be at least two parts,
and thus at least a quarter longer, because otherwise how can one
explain its confused, abbreviated storyline. I was never completely
lost, but I was often partially lost and usually unclear on character
motivation. The movie feels as though joining plot points were dropped
to squeeze it into its time slot.
If it were longer, it might make more sense, but it still wouldn't be much good. The movie's most interesting idea is of the war between Zeus and Hera as being a war between the male and female, but the movie drops the ball on this, making Hera's followers fairly horrible while not being clear on what Zeus' followers do or believe. The movie is also interesting because you don't see the gods and there's no real certainty that they exist. So it's got a couple of intriguing ideas, but it doesn't do anything useful with them.
Bad dialog, cardboard characters, and one interesting scene involving Hercules and his three antagonistic sons. Not unwatchable but also not worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I thought there might be some level of worth to this movie, and sat
through the whole thing. I can summarize by saying it left a bad taste
in my mouth.
The movie started out OK, I think the initial characterization of Herc was true to the myths. Both as a child and a young adult he started out pretty strong but not the brightest bulb. But later on he somehow transforms into a charismatic speaker beloved by all. Huh?
Other problem: terrible CGI. The satyr looked OK, but the rest of the critters just looked terrible, especially the hart, the phoniest looking beast in the movie. And how come Leelee Sobieski's skin was sometimes golden, sometimes normal? The worst part for me--and everyone should cringe at this--was the twelve labors of Hercules. Because the producers obviously didn't want to cover all of them; maybe they thought us primitive screw-heads watching this garbage couldn't count that high. Instead of the TWELVE labors of Hercules, we got the FIVE labors of Hercules. Yes, the five labors! WTF?!? He did't even finish the last one, so it was really the 4 1/2 labors! Just terrible. I'll take Hercules: The Legendary Journeys over this piece of crap any day of the week.
Absolutely great miniseries. Great cast and locations. Don't get caught
to this pointles 'it isn't word for word Hercules story' complaining.
That's just pointles. Story id of course very loose take on the legend
but it doesn't matter since this movie and not a book Also great acting
from everybody. Paul Telfer was great as Hercules and did great perfect
job. Much better than Sorbo ever could. Real surprise was Timothy
Dalton who obviously really had fun doing the role and it showed as
great performance. Same with Perkinks as evil mother.
Only negative side is that special effects aren't very good at times.
Great movie ! Watch it. Can't wait for the 4 hour version !
The latest version of Hercules is thoroughly entertaining with stand out performances from Elizabeth Perkins and Kristian Schmid. The scenery was magnificent and suited the epic nature of this adventure. Director Roger Young really got the most out of his actors, many of whom are highly respected. (Perkins, Dalton, Astin)There is nothing stuffy about Hercules (unlike many other Greek tragedies which have been filmed). The performances are charged with emotion. The stakes are high. The adaptation was accessible and clear, far superior to the last production starring Kevin Sorbo. My only query is why everyone except Leelee Sobieski was in English accent. I really enjoyed it and would like to see the longer version, which will hopefully come out on DVD. It's a shame it was up against Everybody Loves Raymond's finale because Hercules should have reached a wider audience.
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