Hero's Journey: Hercules vs Hades

Fig. 1 Banner Image.
'Hercules'(1997) directed by John Musker and Ron Clements is an animated film about the Myth of the Mighty Hercules with a twist of the modern and realistic version of a hero. Interesting about Hercules is that his personal world and story is very close to the story of Superman, who is the modern interpretation of a superhero/alien and loner, who is tasked with the protection of the innocent 'In both 'Hercules" and the Superman story, the hero has otherworldly origins, is separated from his parents, is adopted by humble earthlings, and feels like a weirdo as a kid before finally finding his true strength and calling'(Ebert, 1997).

Fig. 2 Movie Still of Zeus and Hades.

Hades, the God of the Underworld (James Woods), whose powers were bestow upon him by his brother Zeus(Rip Torn) the God ruler of Mount Olympus, plans to summon the titans so he can overthrow his loved-by-all brother. However the Fates foresee that in 18 years when the planets will align in a perfect line, the only thing that can destroy his plans is Zeus's newborn son Hercules (Tate Donovan). After hearing this Hades decides to change his future by sending his loyal servants Pain (Bobcat Goldthwait) and Panic (Matt Frewer) to kidnap the baby, turn him into mortal and kill him. This way nothing can stop Hades from taking over Mount Olympus.  While the two demons feed the baby with the potion, two commoners hear them and go over to check what is happening. In panic the two servants drop the bottle and leave the baby alone, letting the last drop of the potion drop on the ground. They try to assault the baby whilst in the hands of the two commoners, but he defends himself. Realising they have failed their task, they never tell Hades the truth, that the baby lives.

Fig.3 Movie Still of Phil training young Hercules.

Hercules grows up in the mortal family, for whom he was like a blessing as they wanted to have a child so much. He grew up into strong teen, who doesn't know how to control his power and tends to destroy everything around him. All of the villagers run away when they see Hercules approaching, worried he might break something by mistake. For them he is an alien, which makes him feel lonely.  This is the world he inherits in a way from his uncle Hades. Finally, after so many years his adoptive parents decide to tell him the truth about his origin, at least what they know of. He decides to go to the temple of Zeus to seek the truth. There he speaks with his real father and learns that in order for him to gain back his godly status, he must become a hero amongst the mortals. Zeus sends him to the most famous trainer of heroes, Phil, who will teach him how to be a true hero and will help him achieve his goal.

Fig. 4 Movie Still Meeting Meg.

After years of training, Phil takes Hercules to Thebes, The Big Olive where he would have the opportunity to help people, thus becoming a hero. There he meets his first damsel in distress - Megara (Meg) (Susan Egan), which also becomes his love interest (The Goddess and Temptress). Soon enough Hades finds out that this new hero in town is Zeus's son and of course he attempts to get rid of him, but what he actually does is showing the citizens how strong Herc is. Quickly after that Hercules becomes so famous for his heroic deeds that people worship him 'Triumph in the field of battle accords Hercules the hero status of a modern athlete, and soon everything from Grecian urns to sandals bear his likeness' (Klady, 1997). What is ironic is that his enemy is the one who turns him into a hero. This is the point of the film where the rivalry between Herc and Hades because rather aggressive from both ends, but for different goals.

Fig. 5 Movie Still Hades vs Hercules.

While Herc is eager to do as many good and heroic deeds as possible, so he can achieve again his godly status, Hades simply wants to kill him before the planets align so he can win over his brother Zeus. In a way their conflict is what allows Herc to become successful, which is exactly the opposite of what Hades aims for. For Hercules, all these monsters are real thread from which he saves the innocent. In his mind, he is ready to become a God and join his family on Olympus and goes to his father to claim his title 'Father, I've beaten every single monster I've come up against. I'm the most famous person in all of Greece. I'm an action figure!', he says to his father, to which he replies 'I'm afraid being famous isn't the same as being a true hero'.

Fig. 6 Movie Still Hercules showing his action figure to his father.

Disappointed and confused, Herc loses motivation to keep being the 'Hero'. His fame has made him create a wrong idea about what it means to be a hero. Meanwhile Meg tries to seduce him and find his weak spot, in return for her promised freedom by Hades. What she doesn't anticipate is that she also falls in love with the clumsy and kind Hercules. She tells Hades that he has no weakness, but she will not help him either even if he does. As wicked and evil Hades is, he proves her otherwise. He decides to get more aggressive about his plans, by offering a deal to Hercules - Meg's safety and freedom in exchange for Herc's super strength for 24 hours. If she gets hurt, he will get his powers back. His cruelness doesn't stop there when he reveals the truth about Meg's trickery and breaks his heart.

Finally Hades manages to free the Titans and sends all of them, but one off to Mount Olympus, where all Gods would have a battle against them. The Titan he keeps behind, he sends to finish off Hercules. As he struggles to fight with only his human strength and wit,he wins thanks to Phil's lessons. Amids the hassle, Meg jumps in to protect  Herc thus gets hurt- the deal is off and he gets his powers back.  In the whole Hero's Journey, this is the Magic flight, when Hercules fights off the Titans to help his family, he wins this battle, but he losses Meg as she dies from her injuries. He then travels to the Underworld and trades his life for hers. He jumps into the river of lost souls and as he manages to take her out of there, upon coming out of it, he finally becomes God again. He has now done something heroic, for someone he cares, he is now a true hero.

Fig. 7 Movie Still Hercules saves Meg's soul and becomes a God.


  • Fig. 1. Banner Image, URL:  https://fanart.tv/fanart/movies/11970/hdmovieclearart/hercules-560a6c761e19f.png (Accessed on 03.12.2016)
  • Fig. 2. Movie Still URL: http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/disney/images/3/32/Hercules-disneyscreencaps.com-520.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130207210025 (Accessed on 03.12.2016)
  • Fig. 3. Movie Still URL: http://sites.psu.edu/wildspiritatheart/wp-content/uploads/sites/21608/2015/04/hercules-1997-movie-review-phil-training-hercules-zero-to-hero-danny-devito-tate-donovan.jpg (Accessed on 03.12.2016)
  • Fig. 4. Movie Still URL: http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/megara_3856.png (Accessed on 03.12.2016)
  • Fig. 5 Movie Still URL: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/90/4c/b3/904cb3e7ef653e0866560b25453c9afd.jpg (Accessed on 03.12.2016)
  • Fig. 6 Movie Still Hercules showing his action figure to his father, taken directly from the film.
  • Fig. 7. Movie Still URL: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/84/12/31/84123171c74d221e29fc1b30b294cbab.png (Accessed on 11.01.2017)


  • Ebert, Roger 'Hercules', RogerEbert.com URL: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/hercules-1997 (Accessed on 03.12.2016)
  • IMDb  URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119282/?ref_=nv_sr_2 (Accessed on 03.12.2016)
  • Klady, Leonard, 'Hercules', Variety.com URL: http://variety.com/1997/film/reviews/hercules-2-1200450181/  (Accessed on 03.12.2016)

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