In the 1990’s, a hit television series got its start from a mini-series of movies that preceded the show. A show filled with action, adventure, romance, humor, and a pinch of good quality sound advice. Mix that all together and you’re in for a treat! Fortunately, the movies live up to the show – same cast and same creators. It’s about a legend from Greek folktales named Hercules…”Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” that is.
The first movie of five total in the mini-series, Hercules and The Amazon Women is directed by Bill L. Norton and produced by Sam Raimi. It follows him through his young adult years. The movie begins in a beautiful lush green forest where a group of men are carefully treading so as to not be noticed. But danger lurks here…One-by-one, they disappear into the jungle by mysterious invisible forces, except for one man. Unscathed, he flees to safety.
We meet up with our heroes, Iolaus (played by Michael Hurst) and Hercules (played by none other than Kevin Sorbo) when they reunite in a town where Iolaus resides. After an uncalled for sparring match, Iolaus reveals that he is getting married! Hercules, of course, being the best man. Both are dashing world-class warriors and very well-mannered, especially considering the time period. Cruel times these days were indeed, for most tales of the Greek Gods were tragic ones.
On their route to see Alcmene (Herc’s mother), the two come across a Hydra, disguised as a little girl at first. A hydra is a legendary creature, much like a dragon without wings, that has the ability to sprout two heads anew for every head chopped off, reviving itself in the process. Best way to kill it indefinitely is to burn them. It took three heads for our heroes to come to this conclusion. Well, better late than never right? A peacock feather left in the Hydra’s place gave Hercules the clue that this was doing of Hera, the Queen of the Gods. In Hercules’ opinion, it’s a “perfect example of what happens when a woman gets too much power.” Low blow, Herc.
Later, Hercules sitting with his family and friends notice a man outside the house suspiciously lurking around. Without delay, Herc is out the door on the hunt. Turns out it’s the man who escaped the eerie woods earlier. This man, Gargarean, explains that his town is being tormented by monsters and needs Hercules’ help. Like the hero he is, Hercules accepts.
As hard as Hercules tried, he couldn’t sway Iolaus from wishing to accompany Hercules on his quest. One last time before he settled down. So all three men take-off next morning, with hopes that they’ll be back in time for Iolaus to attend his wedding celebration to his future wife, Ania, in about five days time.
The woods greet the men with an ambush from the infamous “monsters” naturally. Clothed in armor and animal carved masks, these beasts were monstrous per say, but they appeared to be human. During the fight, before one of them was about to strike Hercules, one unveils her mask to reveal that she is a woman. She yells to “save him for the Queen” in front of Iolaus. He turns to tell Hercules they’re women, but in turn he gets rewarded with a stab to the heart from her. Just like that, Iolaus dies from the injury and Hercules gets captured by these women, who are actually Amazons. One of the actresses playing the Amazon, Lysia, is the beautiful Miss Lucy Lawless (who happens to play the role of Xena from Xena : The Warrior Princess). Another fantastic television series, also made by the same creators.
Wheeled into the Amazons’ camp, Herc is stripped shirtless and forced to kneel before their Queen. A woman with beauty and brains – just his type. The Queen, Hippolyta, (played by Roma Downey) and her band of Amazons worked under the control of Hera.
Hippolyta tells him that all men are the same – that they are all weak, and can never be changed. She claims that his father, Zeus, the King of the Gods, cares not for women. “Women mean nothing to him, nor to you. They’re just play toys to be used and thrown away. Your father, like all fathers, teach this to their sons on the day they’re born. And it doesn’t change as you grow older,” she says. He disagrees of course. To prove her point though, she bends over near Hercules coming face-to-face with him, allowing tension to rise. She says, “You hate me, yet you still desire me..”
When Hercules was a young boy, his mentor at the warrior training school he attended would say things like, “Cultivate hardness, cause a man is stone. If you have any emotions left, grind them into the dust. Emotions are for the weak… Girls. Most of all, you’ll be known by the enemies you make – make good ones.” What a bold thing to say. Complete rubbish if you ask me. Emotions make you more compassionate – one of many traits of a strong individual. In the animal kingdom, if animals had this selfish mindset, they wouldn’t last. Animals, after developing a rapport, tend to work together when resources are low and alert one another when danger is nearby. It’s like how the saying goes, ‘Together we stand, divided we fall.’
The visions pass and the present unfolds again allowing Hercules to come back to reality He admits that he wants to change and she should show him how to be different. Impossible she says. “Because you don’t know any other way. You become exactly like the men you hate”, he states.
Hercules lets himself be held captive in hopes of convincing the Queen he’s become attracted to, but only stays until he realizes she is planning to attack the village. Well not if Hercules can help it! Making it in time, the Amazons seem to be invading the village for an unexpected reason…They are here for “business” only. The village, where only men and male children reside at, is at war with the Amazons because the women are rebelling the status quo of a woman’s role, due to the laziness of the men who are always relying on the women to tend to all the chores.
Hippolyta awaits on standby, atop a hill overlooking the village, ready to blow the retreat horn when the timing is right. But Hercules knows this and appears only to distract her from their mission. He told her that she was afraid to love, and to prove him wrong she allowed herself to love him. Meanwhile, the townsfolk were busy among themselves. Each man doing their absolute best to romance and converse with the Amazon visiting their home. The Queen was quite distracted, so much in fact that it was morning when she finally remembered to blow the horn. All the women retreat, leaving Hercules heartbroken by Hippolyta’s leave.
Needless to say, all the men are smitten by the women, and vice-versa surprisingly. Even the Amazon Queen wanted to end the hatred and let her warriors return to their families. But Hera was not taking no for an answer. Hippolyta becomes possessed by Hera and commands her army to storm the village. This time for war. Against their better judgement, the Amazons obey their queen and head into town.
No Amazon could bring themselves to hurt anyone, except the Queen, who was more than happy to bear arms. Riding in like a knight in shining armor atop a horse, Hercules distracts the Queen, yet again, this time by leading her out-of-town. Leaving the town out of harm’s way, a game of cat-and-mouse commences between the two warriors. Zeus (Anthony Quinn) makes a timely appearance to give his two-cents on how to deal with women to Hercules, but Herc dismisses him and his advice. Good riddance! Unfortunately, Gargarean also makes an appearance to save Hercules, but it backfires when Hippolyta slices his throat.
Hercules soon finds his way to a grand waterfall, and she corners him. Surrendering, he admits that he should die if anyone is to. Life without her would be worse than death. An evil grin appears on her face and snarls, “Then live without her,” before jumping the waterfall to her unfortunate death.
In his despair, Herc commands Zeus to make his presence be known, and to aid in turning back time using the magical candle (yes, the same candle as before). Turn goes back to when Hercules is visiting at his mom’s house feasting, just before Gargarean makes his appearance. Delighted, Hercules rejoices at the sight of Iolaus, and makes his way outside to tell Gargarean that he’s not needed. Their village’s problem can only be solved by being attentive (or at least attempting to be) and being respectful towards one another. It was a long speech but that’s pretty much the gist. In the end, you realize that everyone lives including the Amazon Queen.. The only thing is, Hercules never got the girl.
I was very surprised at how well the messages came across in this film. A difficult thing to explain, especially to kids, but a success this film in that field. I find this series to be a delight in general for all ages, and I believe even mature audiences will get a kick out of it too. So do yourself a favor and go watch it! You can thank me later.