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Film / Hercules (2014)

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Hercules is a Sword & Sandal fantasy film released in July 2014, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the titular role and directed by Brett Ratner. The cast also includes John Hurt, Joseph Fiennes, and Ian McShane. 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.

The legendary hero Hercules is 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:

  • Action Girl: Atalanta the Amazon.
  • 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 that love to eat the brains of his foes. He is lacks this trait and has a more tragic background in the movie.
  • 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.
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  • An Axe to Grind: Tydeus wields two axes.
  • Ancient Grome: The setting is ancient Greece with the Greek names of the gods used, but Hercules is the Roman name of the Greek Herakles, the Thracians shields are Roman shields, and the shield wall formation is closer to the Roman Testudo than the Greek Phalanx.
  • Arch-Enemy: Hercules has King Eurystheus, who drove him insane via poison and made him murder his own family.
  • 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.
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  • 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 that fights with frantic self-abandon.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Lord Cotys and King Eurystheus 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.
  • Blade on a Stick: Amphiaraus uses a spear. Also common to the era.
  • 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.
  • Breast Plate/Bare Your Midriff: Atalanta's leather armour 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.
  • 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 credit opens with animated scenes showing 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.
  • Death by Adaptation: Tydeus.
  • Demythtification: A constant theme of the movie is legend vs reality. The adventures of Hercules shown in the film are purported to be the "truth behind the legend", with fantastic elements rationalised as hallucinations or fanciful inventions/exaggerations though some things like Amphiarus‘ visions are treated as real.
  • 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.
  • Dual Wield: 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?
  • 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?
  • Famed In-Story: Hercules.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Cotys and Eurystheus. Both maintains a friendly attitude towards Hercules. However, one plots to defame him, and the latter seeks to use him for his own ends. Both dropped the act when they no longer need him.
  • 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.
  • Greek Mythology: The source material, though the movie maintains a hard-line on "reality" with monsters and stuff being hallucinations, exaggerations or outright lies. It is left open as to whether the gods are real or if Hercules is half-god.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Tydeus charges straight at a group of maybe two dozen archers to keep them from shooting Arius.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Averted, the movie uses fairly realistic strategy for the time period.
  • 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.
  • Knife Nut: Autolycus the rogue who wields throwing knives.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: Of a comicbook 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 its attributed to Rhesus "bewitching" them. It was probably because Cotys was the real villain.
  • 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 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 appears. Perhaps Zeus is giving his son a celebratory lightshow? Then again, Cotys did curse out Hercules's family, and Hera is the goddess of marriage. Cursing out your protector guardian isn't a good idea.
  • Male Gaze: There is a flashback in which Hercules' wife is shown topless from behind, showing her bare back and butt. 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 murder a child, continues to support him in his ambitions to expand Thrace into an empire.
  • 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 Labours. 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 demythifying, but also did the Labours 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.
  • One of the Boys: Atalanta.
    "It would be nice to have some female companionship for a change. Atalanta doesn't count. No offense."
  • 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 says a prayer to Artemis before the battle against Rhesus' forces.
  • 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, with Atalanta being changed from an acolyte of Artemis into an Amazon, although she does utter a prayer to Artemis right before a battle.
  • 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.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The stories of Hercules' Labours are heavy 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 fight mostly for personal gain, maker a living out of it, are individually more powerful than small groups of soldiers, can work together to defeat larger numbers, and are better for 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 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 & 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 consists 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.
    • 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, 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.
  • Whip It Good: Sitacles' weapon of choice is a menacing bone whip.
  • World of Ham: Hercules, Amphiaraus, and Cotys (given their actors, that's hardly a surprise). Iolaus hams it up when he's talking about the deeds of Hercules, but is otherwise calmer.
  • Wrong Side All Along: Rhesus says this trope almost word for word.
  • 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.
  • 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.


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