myth

Is the Reality of Dwayne Johnson More Interesting Than the Myth of Hercules? Should You See “Hercules?”

hercules dwayne johnson

Brent Hopkins

In our rarely-running kinda-series Should You See It? we talk about movies that just came out. You can figure out the rest of the premise from the title of the series. That’s right: We talk recipes. Should you see Hercules?

Last week I had the opportunity to watch Brett Ratner’s take on the tale of Hercules. This film stars Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. “The Rock” from wrestling fame, as the eponymous Hercules.

I, like many others, have grown to genuinely like Dwayne Johnson as a celebrity. There are so many things he could be — rude, egotistical, abusive — yet he has managed to break the mold for super-juiced up athletes and has this genuinely endearing air around him.

He is constantly doing stuff like this. His life is a perpetual Old Spice commercial.

Now, I could write an entire article about why Dwayne Johnson is awesome but I will leave you all to Ask Jeeves that question. This is about the movie Hercules and there honestly isn’t much good to say about it. Ratner decides to eschew the various trials of Hercules (a.k.a. the interesting stuff) to instead focus on how a super strong (but entirely mortal) Hercules deals with being known as a demigod.

We meet his team of super talented warriors that help him take on the various trials he is known for. His group is an Amazon archer-woman, a rogue who throws daggers, a battle mage who can see the future, a mute berserker, and Hercules as a heavily armored “tank” of sorts. We see that the trials are all just tricks set up by various evil people that have entirely rational solutions. We learn that Hercules becomes about as popular as the Emperor he is receiving patronage from due to these accomplishments and then he is suddenly outcast after a tragic night involving his family (spoiler alert: they dead y’all).

The plot focuses on Hercules doing one last job as a mercenary to help pay for his self exile to atone for his sins. This does not go as planned and an insidious plot is uncovered that requires Hercules to effectively unwin a war he just won. This is all incredibly stupid and never takes the viewer off guard. It truly feels like a poorly written tween version of 300, except with none of the cool supernatural stuff.

Dwayne Johnson honestly does well in the role, and he is one of the few celebrities I could imagine playing Hercules. The main problem I ran into is that the man playing Hercules is honestly more Herculean than the character he is portraying. If the entire film was just about him going to the gym, listing the food he eats on his cheat days, and making Vine movies I would have enjoyed this film more. The supporting cast is completely superfluous and you will not care about any of them in any way, shape, or form. This holds true for the villains as well, who are just dicks for the sake of being dicks.

Should You See It?

There is absolutely no reason to see this film. It is a bad film, and it falls into that category of movies that just don’t have enough heart to be memorable. I wasn’t angry that I paid money to see it like I have been with other films, I just instantly forgot about it when I left the theater.

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Major Issues: Head Lopper #1 and What We Talk About When We Talk About Lopping Heads

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In Major Issues, we look at one newly released comic book each week. Updated Fridays.

Gardner Mounce

Head Lopper: Issue 1
Written and Illustrated by Andrew Maclean
Colors by Mike Spicer
Self-Published
Release: 7/9/14

Comic books are stuffed with “Badasses.” These are characters so “Awesome” they encroach upon the “Mythic.” These are the characters who, in the first scene, catch a flying fist to the astonishment of a gathered crowd. These are the characters who lie sleepless on motel mattresses, hardly aware of the lusty nude figures curled against them. These are the characters who barely keep cigarettes tucked into mouth corners. Whose silhouettes can be seen in a screen of smoke. Who don’t have pasts until issue four (The Past Issue), when it’s revealed that everyone they’ve ever met died in a car accident. These are the characters who have clipped, masculine conversations with clipped, masculine men of any race. Who command presence. Who walk unafraid down the middle of dark echoey streets. Who splash water on their faces. Who reveal weapons just long enough for their assailants to say, “Oh, shit.” Who stand in a circle of assailants, allowing the tension to build with the knuckle-cracking and the jeering. Who then attack every assailant with every limb all at once, and somehow even use the assailants’ limbs against them. Who then stand in the epicenter of all that violence and hurt and look off somewhere else, to some new fight, to some new arena in which they can prove themselves again.

The badass myth speaks to a desire that (some/most/all) men have to be validated for physical strength and cool detachment. Something that most comic book readers are not known for, if you can even believe that. The desire runs deep. That means that the badass myth, however played out it is, will be here as long as men reading comic books are. The flip side is that so will parodies (thank god).

Head Lopper is one such parody. This self-described tongue-in-cheek “sword and monsters” comic is the story of a nomadic warrior, Norgal, and his unlikely companion, the severed head of Agatha the Blue Witch, who arrive on the Isle of Barra to slay a sea serpent. The promise of this series is lots of cartoon violence that toys with (and hopefully subverts) badass tropes and Nordic mythology.

Most of the tongue-in-cheekiness is carried by the art and dialogue and not the narration. There is hardly any narration, which is a good thing, since narration would have slowed down all the fun to be had lopping heads. A steady narrator would have also invited unnecessary backstory to a two-dimensional archetypal character who needs none. The Head Lopper is the Head Lopper is the Head Lopper. Who is the Head Lopper? The One Who Lops Heads. Anything more would run counter-purpose to the comic’s hack-and-slash readability. The story translates well visually, and the only major flaw in the writing in this issue is the dialogue. It never establishes a steady tone and see-saws between unpracticed “medieval speak” (people tend to say “indeed”) and the tongue-in-cheek modern dialogue that better suits it.

The art is simple, clean, and colorful. Maclean delivers wonderfully cinematic aspect-to-aspect panels that either establish setting and mood or cleverly show the passage of time and the silence between one head lopping and the next. Spicer’s colors really make this thing stand apart. He establishes a cool blue-green-gray-purple world and then tactfully splashes hot oranges and torrents of red to ratchet up the action. Characters are drawn in a simplified way, suggesting their archetypal, mythical roots–these are the symbols of masculinity.

Hopefully, in future issues, Maclean will make more use of his source material and give us something even more fun and subversive. Though there’s no guarantee, because as Maclean says, this is a sword and monsters comic–nothing more. True, it’s badass mythology, and played out, but what sets Head Lopper apart from the literally thousands of other comics of the brawn genre is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are a thousand writers of badass stories out there, but very few who allow themselves to have a little fun with it.

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Should you get it?

I wouldn’t recommend this comic to someone new to the art form. This is more for seasoned comic book fans who want a nice break from all the up-their-own-asses badassery. Plus, it never hurts to support a talented self-published writer/artist. Get Issue 1 at the publisher’s site or from digital comic stores like Comixology for $1.99.

Gardner Mounce is a writer, speaker, listener, husband, wife, truck driver, detective, liar. When asked to describe himself in three words, Gardner Mounce says: humble, humble, God-sent. You can find him at gardnermounce.tumblr.com or email him at gmounce611@gmail.com