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The Legend of Hercules

January 14, 2014
The Legend of Hercules

I really didn’t want to bother writing up a review for The Legend of Hercules. Did anyone think this would be at all good? It showed up with almost no notice, buried deep in the January dump-zone, made barely half of the eighth week of a Disney princess movie, and — until Adam Sandler’s Blended comes out — is widely regarded as the unchallenged leader for this year’s Razzies. But then I got off on a Twitter rant and, well, I figure I gotta write it down.

The thing is, there’s really not that much to say overall about this movie; for the most part it’s just plain bad. It bears almost no resemblance to the actual Greek and Roman mythology it claims to be derived from. The writing is hackneyed; the acting is hammy; the editing is haphazard; the denouement is a complete failure. The special effects are really low-rent, and the stereography is some of the worst I’ve seen since Alice in Wonderland. I’m not even going to try to summarize what there is of a plot, nor to name-and-shame the cast and crew that should be embarrassed to be associated with such a colossal misfire.

I say “should be”, since at least one of them retweeted something I said last night, showing no awareness that it was actually a complaint. The really galling thing about The Legend of Hercules is the way it overlays the Greek hero with all sorts of Christ symbology — divine father, time in the wilderness, popular support, and persecution by the authorities he will overthrow. But this is a hypermasculine, militaristic Christ figure, seemingly designed to appeal to a puerile, particularly American fundamentalist theology. As I said: this is a Christ who, rather than beg forgiveness on his persecutors for they know not what they do, tears down his own cross and beats them to death with it.

And, at least for me, this is a really serious problem. Whatever your opinion on religion in practice, the amazing thing about Christianity from a cultural perspective is just how mild it is. With only a few exceptions, the Gospel narrative is pretty unspectacular, especially for a movie. And given that most other religions of the time were centered on deities that were as into fighting and screwing as people were — if not more so — a god who not only is killed but lets it happen is mind-blowing. Even in the Old Testament we find a warrior-god who leads the Israelites to victory and smites their enemies.

It’s understandable why movie producers would think Christ imagery and symbology would play to a certain segment of the American population, and why they might cynically assume that segment aligns with the one that demands lowbrow, beefcake action. But in overlaying the two, these producers are betting that this segment of the moviegoing public is not ready to put away childish things — is still eager to talk and think and reason as children. I hope that the audiences staying away in droves mean that they’re wrong, but when people show so little awareness that the movie is an insult to everything their supposed savior stood for, my faith is tested.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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