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Film / Hercules (2014)

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“I Am Hercules!” - Hercules

Hercules is a Sword and Sandal Epic Action Fantasy film released in July 2014, starring Dwayne Johnson in the titular role and directed by Brett Ratner and written by Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos. The cast also includes John Hurt, Rebecca Ferguson, Ian McShane and Joseph Fiennes. It is based on the indie comic miniseries Hercules: The Thracian Wars, written by Steve Moore, illustrated by Admira Wijaya, and published by Radical Comics which is based on the character of Heracles from Ancient Greek Mythology.

The legendary hero Hercules is approached by Ergenia, daughter of King Cotys, and summoned to the aid of Thrace, who is beleaguered by the warlord Rhesus and his forces. Together with a select band of followers, he trains the Thracians and leads them in battle — but all is not as it seems...

Trailer 1, Trailer 2.

The film contains the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: In the opening montage, Hercules' sword goes through the Hydra's necks like they're made out of butter. Of course, given the Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane setting of the film, this could've been the product of Iolaus' storytelling as well.
  • Abusive Parents: Cotys is revealed to have coerced his daughter into going along with him by threatening her son (his grandson, which means that he's an abusive grandfather as well). Naturally, she hates him. When she tries to stop his plot and is no longer useful, he promptly orders her to be executed.
  • Action Girl: Atalanta the Amazon. Cotys is initially doubtful about her skills, believing the coming battle is no place for women, but soon backs down when she shows off her archery prowess.
  • Adapted Out: Two of Hercules's companions, Meneus and Meleager.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Princess Ergenia, who was little more than a Honey Trap in the comic.
    • Tydeus was a cannibal who loved to eat the brains of his foes. In the movie, he has a more tragic background and lacks this trait completely.
  • Adaptational Mundanity: Implied to be the case with the movie's version of Hercules' Twelve Labours. The fantastical elements in the film (prominently featured in the trailer) are part of a fabricated story told at the start, and some of the labours we see turn out to be... less impressive than the myths. Notably, the Lernean Hydra is a bunch of enemy soldiers wearing snake-themed armour, and the Cerberus is a trio of normal wolves Hercules mistook to be a three-headed monster while hallucinating.
  • Age Lift: Cotys was middle-aged in the original comic, while he is played by a much older John Hurt here.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The ending seems to imply that Amphiaraus (who is holding a long spear during a thunderstorm), gets hit by lightning right after the final shot, fulfilling his prophecy.
  • Ambition Is Evil: The two villains, Eurystheus and Cotys, are depicted as willing to commit any atrocity they think will allow them to hold on to power or gain more of it. This includes killing family members in Cotys's case and framing an innocent man for murder in Eurystheus's case. This is in contrast to Hercules who is portrayed as preferring the simple pleasures of life.
  • Ancient Grome: The setting is ancient Greece with the Greek names of the gods used, but Hercules is the Roman name of the Greek Heracles, the Thracians shields are Roman shields, and the shield wall formation is closer to the Roman Testudo than the Greek Phalanx.
  • Annoying Arrows: Subverted. Tydeus and Hercules manage to shrug off one arrow shot each. However, once Tydeus is shot many more times while fighting the archers, he then succumbs to his wounds. All other characters are taken down by arrows when hit regularly.
  • Arch-Enemy: Hercules has King Eurystheus, who drugged him and then had Hercules' family murdered by trained wolves, while making him think that he'd done it.
  • Arch Nemesis Dad: Cotys, as it turns out, is his own daughter's worst enemy. In order to usurp her husband's throne, he had his son-in-law murdered and threatened her son—his own grandson—so she'd go along with his plans.
  • Archer Archetype: Atalanta. She tends to be a bit haughty and sharp-tongued, but she's got the team's back when it comes down to it.
  • Arrow Catch: Towards the end, Hercules manages to catch a flaming spear in mid-air before it hits Amphiaraus.
  • Asshole Victim: General Sitacles gets stabbed through the back of the neck by Iolaus. And There Was Much Rejoicing, indeed.
  • Badass Army: Once they're properly trained, the Thracian shield wall is able to march through fire, stand up to any attack in the world, and defeat a barbarian army three times their size. As Cotys boasts at one point, even Hercules can't break through their wall. Not directly, anyway. Dropping a statue on them is another story.
  • Badass Crew: Hercules attracts such figures as Autolycus, Iolaus, Tydeus, Atalanta, and Amphiaraus to his side.
  • Berserk Button: Don't call Hercules "child killer". Just ... don't.
  • The Berserker: Tydeus is a feral warrior who fights with frantic self-abandon.
  • Big Bad: Rhesus is the commander of the forces attacking King Cotys' kingdom. Except he is actually a heroic Rebel Leader trying to take down the tyrants King Cotys and King Eurystheus, who are in alliance to take over Greece.
  • Big Guy Fatality Syndrome: Tydeus dies in the climax, but only after wiping out a dozen archers and becoming a Human Pin Cushion.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Averted. When there are close-ups of weapons going into people, expect a spray of blood to follow soon after.
  • Boring Insult: Autolycus calls Hercules' retirement plans "boring". Later, he also tells Iolaus that his ideas for the appendage to Hercules' feats sound "boring".
  • Bow and Sword in Accord: Atalanta doesn't wield a sword, but her bow does have a large blade on it that she can use as a melee weapon.
  • Bowdlerize:
    • The film omits any mentions of Greek homosexuality and bisexuality, including Hercules's. It Adapted Out Meneus, the youngest member of his crew who was hinted to be his eromenos ("beloved").
    • It also dropped Atalanta's sometimes-Hopeless Suitor Meleager, along with Atalanta being one of Artemis' priestesses, in favor of her being an Amazon.
  • Breaking the Bonds: Hercules is chained to a pillar at one point, but of course this doesn't last long.
  • Break Them by Talking: Both used and inverted, as Iolaus' role in Hercules group, to basically continue telling heavily embellished stories to their enemies and allies, causing enemies to be demoralised by Hercules' legendary feats and to give courage to his allies.
  • Breast Plate: Atalanta's leather armor only covers her upper chest, not her belly, and is clearly shaped like female breasts.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The bad guys continue to taunt Hercules about the death of his family even after he demonstrates that he really does have incredible strength.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Hercules' way of waking up from his troubled dreams.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Hercules wields a big studded club as his main weapon.
  • Catch and Return: After Hercules catches a flaming spear thrown at Amphiaraus, he throws it back at the soldier who threw it, killing him.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Amphiaraus to Hercules, after Hercules stops a flaming spear from killing Amphiaraus (who is a bit of a Death Seeker).
    Amphiaraus: Excuse me, that was supposed to be my moment!
    Hercules: You're welcome.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The closing credits are animated scenes depicting how Hercules' group defeated the Nemean Lion, Lernaean Hydra, and Erymanthian Boar.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The second battle against Rhesus is remarkably one-sided, with the trained Thracian army steamrolling a force three times larger.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • The deaths of Hercules's wife and children.
    • Many of Hercules' crew have their own as well.
  • Demythification: A constant theme of the movie is legend versus reality. The adventures of Hercules shown in the film are purported to be the "truth behind the legend", with fantastic elements rationalized as hallucinations or fanciful inventions/exaggerations, though some things like Amphiaraus‘ visions are treated as real.
  • Dies Wide Open: After Tydeus dies, Hercules closes his eyes for him.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Hercules is originally contracted to put down a rebellion lead by Rhesus. Rhesus is captured an hour in, after which it is revealed that he's been Good All Along, and Cotys is the real threat to Thrace.
  • Disney Villain Death: Happens to Cotys, right after he gets slammed by the head of the statue of Hera.
  • Doing In the Wizard: The film dismisses much of the fantastic elements from the legend of Hercules. His labors, as it turns out, are just stories that were deliberately spread as they helped his reputation. All mythical creatures are just unfounded beliefs. Hercules' murder of his wife and children, the result of a curse by Hera in the legend, turns out to be committed by a jealous king who'd drugged Hercules, then had his family killed while letting Hercules believe he did it later.
  • Dreadlock Warrior: Atalanta wears her hair up in dreads constantly, both in and out of battle.
  • Dual Wielding: Tydeus fights with twin axes. Most of the "zombie" warriors from the first battle fight with two sickles.
  • Evil Gloating: The bad guys just love to rub it in when they think they've won, don't they?
  • Evil Plan: King Cotys and King Eurystheus manipulate Hercules into putting down a rebellion against them while plotting to conquer Greece.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Amphiaraus keeps trying to do this because he had a vision of his death, but he never actually gets killed. Or does he?
  • False Flag Operation: It turns out that Cotys attacked his own villages, and framed the rebels (who he claimed followed a warlord) for doing this.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Cotys and Eurystheus. Both maintain a friendly attitude towards Hercules. However, one plots to defame him, and the latter seeks to use him for his own ends. Both drop the act when they no longer need him.
  • Five-Man Band: The five fighting characters from Hercules' team fit this, with Hercules as The Leader and the one who brought the team together, Autolycus as the pragmatic rogue whose views conflict with Hercules' the most, Amphiaraus as the Seer who serves as the voice of wisdom, Tydeus as the Pint-Sized Powerhouse who can single-handedly break through a shield wall formation, and Atalanta as the bow-wielding Action Girl of the team. Iolaus serves as Sixth Ranger, being the latest addition to the team and the one who takes the non-action role of a storyteller.
  • Glorious Death: Amphiaraus received a prophecy that he would die when a flaming spear runs him through, a fate that he seems to find to be an ideal way to go. When it almost happens and Hercules saves him, he's visibly put off.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Atalanta is The Archer of the team (however, she still can hold her own in melee since her bow has blades on it). Autolycus subverts this—while he does fight in melee more than Atalanta, he very clearly prefers to stay back and use throwing knives if at all possible.
  • Hate Sink: Eurystheus is the King of Athens, who grew jealous of Hercules after saving his city. He drugged Hercules and set wolves on his family, using his delirium to frame him for killing them himself. Years later, Eurystheus has united with the ruthless tyrant Cotys to divide Greece between them. After Hercules arrives to stop them and uncovers his betrayal, Eurystheus immediately breaks down sobbing for his life.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Tydeus charges straight at a group of maybe two dozen archers to keep them from shooting Arius.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Averted. The movie is famous for using fairly realistic strategy for the time period, with the heavily armored infantry forming shield walls and marching in lockstep rather than charging, and the archers firing as a massed unit. Doubles as an example of Shown Their Work.
  • I Have Your Wife: Cotys threatened his grandson's life to ensure his daughter's cooperation while he has her enlist Hercules to his side. He also does this earlier on to force her into accepting his rule.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: Iolaus wants to be a tough warrior, just like Uncle Hercules.
  • Iconic Outfit: The lion skin, club, and bow and arrows are iconic items of Hercules in mythology and art, especially the first two.
  • Kaiju: The Nemean Lion, the Lernaean Hydra, and the Erymanthian Boar, all iconic giant monsters from classical mythology.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • King Cotys massacring a bunch of villages to frame a revolutionary against his rule.
    • King Eurystheus killing Hercules' family and drugging him into thinking he did it because he was jealous of Herc's accomplishments.
  • Kneel Before Frodo: After Hercules pushes down the giant statue of Hera and causes the death of King Cotys and several soldiers at the end of the film, the rest of the Thrace army decides to kneel to him.
  • Kneel Before Zod: In the climax of the film, King Cotys demands Hercules to surrender and bow down to him. Of course, he refuses to obey.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to its source material.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: Of a comic book called "The Thracian Wars".
  • Let's You and Him Fight: The villagers that Cotys' forces arrive to protect attack him when he arrives. Hercules wonders why, but it's attributed to Rhesus "bewitching" them. It was probably because Cotys was the real villain.
  • Made of Iron: Hercules, who's mauled by three wolves at once and shot by an arrow, but keeps on going.
  • Magical Realism: Most of the fantastic elements are dismissed as exaggerations, misconceptions, or outright lies. Yet Amphiaraus's visions of the future are stated to always come true and Hercules displays strength far beyond what is humanly possible. The climax also features what may be an intervention of the gods or simple coincidence: The statue of Hera, established early as the protector of Thrace, crashes down upon and kills its usurper, and during Hercules' triumphant moment, thunder and lightning appear. Perhaps Zeus is giving his son a celebratory light show? Then again, Cotys did curse out Hercules's family, and Hera is the goddess of marriage. Cursing out your patron goddess' realm isn't exactly a good idea.
  • Male Gaze: There is a flashback in which Hercules' wife is shown topless from behind, showing her bare back and butt. It becomes Fan Disservice when the scene shifts to her bloody corpse
  • The Magnificent Seven Samurai: Well, six - Hercules and his Badass Crew train and fight for the Thracians.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Most of the fantasy elements of Hercules' journey are dismissed as exaggeration, however Amphiarus‘ visions are left more ambiguous. He could be having divine visions or simply hallucinating. Similarly, Hercules' immense strength and several other (apparently divine) events in the movie are never explained either way.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Hercules, of course, played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, looking more jacked up than ever.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: The Thracian army, despite Cotys being a usurper that murdered the rightful king and would harm a child, continues to support him in his ambitions to expand Thrace into an empire.
  • Nemean Skinning: Hercules wears the skin of the Nemean lion (or a lion at least since that story was possibly made up in-universe: it's left ambiguous in the film).
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The film's plot unfolds absolutely nothing like what the trailers indicate. The trailers played up the monsters Hercules fought as part of his Twelve Labors. In the movie, these monsters are shown in a montage and revealed to be tall tales. The rest of the story is more of "Conan the Barbarian in Ancient Greece" than a Clash of the Titans monster mash. The original comic wasn't as de-mythifying, but also did the Labors montage in one page. Discussed in an article (and it even mentions TV Tropes!)
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Autolycus goes his own way once he's been paid. Fortunately, he also changes his mind.
  • Offing the Offspring:
    • Hercules believes he killed his own children after being drugged, but it turns out that he was only made to think that he did.
    • Cotys orders his daughter beheaded after she's outlived her usefulness and defied him by revealing his plot. Hercules saves her right in the nick of time.
    • Cotys threatens his grandson in front of the Thracian army.
  • The Paragon: Hercules, both man and legend, is seen as an inspiration to others.
  • Prophecy Twist: Yeah, that "flaming spear" Amphiaraus is looking for couldn't possibly be a bolt of lightning, could it?
  • Protagonist Title: Hercules is the protagonist of the movie.
  • Redshirt Army: The Thracian army is this at first. Though they do manage to win a battle that they're in, that's mostly only because Hercules and his group were there, and even after that, in Cotys's words, half of the army dies in the battle.
  • Religious Bruiser: Amphiaraus is both a seer and a tough spear-wielder. Atalanta also takes the time to offer a prayer to Artemis before the battle against the crazed villagers, much to Autolycus' annoyance.
  • Sadly Mythtaken:
    • Played With. For all its liberties and demythtifying attitude to Greek Mythology, the movie is generally faithful to even the more obscure bits of the Herakles legend.
    • The same can't be said for the other characters though, with Atalanta being changed from the fleet-footed Arcadian huntress into a Scythian Amazon. Though she's still a worshiper of Artemis in both cases.
  • Say My Name: A variation, as Hercules screams his own name.
    Amphiaraus: Remember the deeds you have performed. The labors you have accomplished. Are you only the legend, or are you the truth behind the legend? Now tell me! WHO ARE YOU?
  • Seers: Amphiaraus, played by Ian McShane, who is also a mentor of sorts to Hercules. As a Running Gag, he keeps predicting his own death throughout the film but always least until that bolt of lightning that closes the movie.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Tydeus. He doesn't utter a single word throughout the whole film, except for animal-like grunts and the occasional battle cry. When he dies, his last word is Hercules' name.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The stories of Hercules' Labors are heavily implied to be a fanciful exaggeration of more mundane but still heroic deeds.
  • The Sociopath: King Cotys, a tyrant who is willing to slaughter his own people and frame the rebels for it just to conquer Greece.
  • Soldier vs. Warrior: Hercules and his band compared to the Thracian Army. Hercules' group fights mostly for personal gain, makes a living out of it, are individually more powerful than small groups of soldiers, can work together to defeat larger numbers, and are better in situations that require small, versatile groups. Yet, they cannot defeat the superior numbers and tactics (specifically the shield wall) of the highly disciplined Thracian army who follow the orders of their king, regardless of how corrupt he is. They can also use their tactics to defeat the superior number of a more unorganized army.
  • Spiked Wheels: The group's big chariot provides a variation. It has a folded blade mounted on its sides, instead of on the wheels.
  • Super-Strength: Hercules is stated outright to be abnormally strong. Several of his feats of strength are far beyond what even a strong human could do.
  • Sword and Sandal: The setting. John Hurt plays King Cotys of Thrace, who enlists Hercules's aid to fight the warlord Rhesus.
  • Take That!: When Iolaus suggests "Hercules: The Savior of Thrace" or "Hercules: The Legend Begins" as an appendage to Hercules' feats, Autolycus remarks that "both sound dreadfully boring."
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Cotys, eager to end the war, orders his troops (which almost entirely consist of farmers) to intercept Rhesus' army. If not for Hercules and his friends, they would have certainly been slaughtered. Even with their aid, the army still takes terrible losses.
      • A case of Adaptational Wimp as the real-life Thracians were well-known for their warrior prowess.
    • Instead of killing Hercules first, the villain decides to start with the companions, so that the hero has enough time to gather Heroic Resolve.
    • Cotys again, who keeps urging his soldiers to move forward and kill Hercules, even though at least two walls of fire, and when a giant statue is falling towards him.
  • Training Montage: When Hercules trains the Thracian army after the first battle.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Hercules does this early in the film. This becomes a problem when he and his group then have to fight them.
  • True Companions: Hercules' group. Spelled out by Atalanta who tells him they haven't followed him out of debt, but because they are a family.
  • Use Their Own Weapon Against Them: Hercules fatally stabs Eurystheus with the latter's own dagger as revenge for killing his family.
  • The Usurper: Cotys it turns out murdered the true king, his son-in-law, and then took over.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Cotys threatened to kill his own grandson before the events of the film to get his daughter's cooperation. Later, he cruelly has the boy dragged about by the hair, preparing to slit his throat.
  • World of Ham: Hercules, Amphiaraus, and Cotys. Given who their actors are, that's hardly a surprise. Iolaus hams it up when he's talking about the deeds of Hercules, but is otherwise calmer.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Spoken word for word by Cotys, but ultimately averted. Despite Hercules and his comrades confronting him about the truth behind the civil war, Cotys still elects to pay them for their services and send them on their way rather than kill them—at first. He later views his own daughter this way, and orders her killed, but Hercules stops it.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Rhesus and his army are defeated a good half hour before the movie is over—a hint that he's not the real villain.


Video Example(s):


Excuse me, that was my moment

Amphiaraus has foreseen that his death is finally imminent and is resolved to accept his fate. Hercules has other plans.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / ComplainingAboutRescuesTheyDontLike

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