Some of the same elements appear
in this story as in the Samson saga in the Book of Judges.
Samson’s birth was foretold by an angel of
the Lord, and the boy was to never have strong drink, or eat anything
unclean, or cut his hair, because he’s born to be his country’s
birth was also supposed to contain divine participation:
the union of Zeus and the mortal Alcmene (no,
we aren’t going to compare that to the birth of Jesus).
And Hercules, as well, became the mighty
warrior capable of delivering his country from oppression.
The trouble is, in this film, he first gets it
wrong about who’s doing the oppressing.
But Samson gets it wrong a
couple of times himself:
in the curious story of the riddle involving
the lion he killed after the bees made honey in the carcass, and of course,
in his infamous misjudgment about Delilah, his would-be girlfriend who
betrays him to his enemies.
Hercules, also, is known for
majestic feats of strength, one also involving a lion.
And in this film Hercules is played by Dwayne
Johnson, who does, in fact, look strong enough to tear open the mouth of a
lion with his bare hands.
Fortunately for the conduct of this
toga-and-sandals epic, Dwayne Johnson is a better, more experienced actor
than most any other muscle-bound screen hero you can name, though
admittedly, this does not exactly put him in the company of thespian
Nor is he exactly immortal in
this film. He
has his tongue planted firmly in his cheek when the bard sings of his
legendary Twelve Labors, a look duplicated by my attorney friend who
sometimes comments upon returning from trial work that he feels like the
Philistines before Samson:
slain by the jawbone of an ass
Samson, of course, also managed to escape
imprisonment at the hands of the Philistines, and our Hercules, also,
escapes imprisonment at the hands of his tormentors, and even manages, at
the end, Samson-like, to pull down the pillars of the temple to slaughter
great numbers of his enemies at once.
The main difference, of course,
is that this Hercules doesn’t have the “Achilles Heel” of the short
he not only manages to survive the final confrontation with his enemies, but
even watch them bow in obeisance to him, after their evil ruler is killed.
The other difference is that
Samson is such a loner, while here, Hercules has a band of soldier-warriors
who watch his back, and look with bemusement on all this talk about being a
figure it’s good publicity to strike fear in the hearts of their rivals.
Well, that’s not exactly how the Greek
mythology goes, but this “Hercules” is more approachable than that.
He even can show some tenderness toward women
and children, but we really don’t have time for romance in this film.
We’re too busy slaying piles of hapless heathens.
No, it’s not great cinematic
it is a 3-D extravaganza of “action” scenes, lightly dusted with
dialogue and seasoned with just a faint whiff of irony.
For the die-hard testosterone film junkie, it
could be a lot worse.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the
Minister of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,