In ancient Greece and Rome, a hero was set apart by their strength and their achievements, which far surpassed ordinary mortals. These heroes were demi-gods of half-mortal, half-divine percentage. In order to be seen as a true hero, he followed what they called the ‘hero pattern’, beginning with his origin, followed by his journey. His journey is then divided into 3 distinct parts; separation or departure, penetration of the power source, and finally the return or reintegration. Today, we don’t have such high expectations.
Our heroes don’t have to follow any extensive ‘hero pattern’, as long as he is simply a man of perfection; courageous, intelligent, selfless, handsome, etc. When comparing the stories of our Greek heroes traditionally versus modernly, we will notice that the flaws they once portrayed have either been glamorized, or are no longer present. They have been simplified to fit our ideal modern day hero. We’ve all heard the story of Heracles, but those who have never studied mythology only know Disney’s version.
When comparing the modern day movie Hercules with the traditional story of Heracles, many changes have been made, and many details have been left out. One example is his reasoning for completing the 12 labors he is given. In our Disney version, he completes these labors in order to prove himself worthy of becoming immortal, so he can become a real God, like his father Zeus. However, he traditionally completed these tasks is to be forgiven for his sin, which was the brutal murder of his wife and children.
Although interesting, our modern day society would find it more heroic for a man to accomplish these tasks in order to prove himself worthy, rather than to make up for murdering his own family. Considering Disney is intended for younger audiences, the movie not only simplifies certain story elements, but also changes the actual depiction of the other characters revolved around Hercules. The movie also upgrades his personality into a more intelligent, loving character than he really was.
People don’t want to see an unintelligent hero save their city; they want a smart, genuine man to save their city. The movie Troy makes a modern day representation based on the myth of the Trojan War, which was originally told in an ancient Greek poem called ‘The Iliad’. Achilles was a man known to be the greatest warrior of the Trojan War, making for a heroic story worthy of re-creating. Achilles’ character is well represented in the movie Troy, emphasizing on his narcissism and never-ending pride that is portrayed throughout his original story.
Audiences want to see characters that have a strong personality. Everyone wants to see a movie with a happy ending, and although historically inaccurate, Achilles’ is led to a personality transformation making him into a more sympathetic and respectful man. The story of Perseus was originally made into a fantasy film called ‘Clash of the Titans’ in 1981, and has recently been updated into a new 2010 version. The movie leaves out a few important characters that were told in Perseus’s original myth.
Originally, Perseus set out on his quest for Medusa’s head in order to save his mother Danae from King Polydectes. In the movie however, they replace the importance of his mother with his lover Io, who he must save from the sea monster, the Kraken. Film makers know the importance of a love story in today’s movies, which is probably why they make this change. Also, the movie is given an obvious villain, which is where Hades is brought into it. With him being the easily identifiable evil character, that leaves no room for confusion.
Perseus’s character is only given minor changes from the original myth to the movie, still portraying him as a brave and compassionate hero. In conclusion, I think it is understandable why directors have made changes to each of these original stories for their movies. Although each hero’s original story is vivid and compelling, the details can be very in depth and confusing. These modern day films give a fresh take on the genre of classical greek mythology.