Classics Society Secretary Christopher Wilkinson gives us his take on two of his favourite films: Hercules and Gladiator.
Ever since I was a little boy, I have always been encapsulated with stories of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Perhaps it is because they are so entrenched in legend and (sometimes) fantasy, or perhaps it is because the morality of the stories (sometimes) rings so true today and proves their immortality. I’m not sure, but I do know that this obsession was ardently followed through film. Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts, Hercules and Gladiator, these films introduced me to a completely different world and left me there for a long time.
It was just my luck, then, that the Classics society had a film night, in which both Hercules and Gladiator were played to an extremely enthusiastic crowd. Having hired out the Quilliams' Film Room, a whole night of crisps, tea, and Greek myth ensued, in which I think a whole rooms worth of childhood memories were brought out once again into the open.
Hades is voiced stupendously by James Woods, as a pseudo-suave psychopath who regularly erupts in a furnace of fury over his two inept sidekicks
First on the bill was Hercules. No, not that horrendous but quite entertaining one with The Rock in. It was the classic Disney one, where Danny DeVito voices a hilarious satyr indistinguishable from real life, and Hades is voiced stupendously by James Woods, as a pseudo-suave psychopath who regularly erupts in a furnace of fury over his two inept sidekicks. What I brought away from this re-watching is in fact how brilliant Hades is as a bad guy. He arguably walks away with the best animation in the film, and his portrayal as a Machiavellian usurper, in contrast to the simple and naïve Hercules, is a contrast so similar to a lot of the Greek myths themselves. Besides this, there is the soundtrack – please tell me you remember the soundtrack – which brings endless confusion but satisfaction as we wonder, how do soul numbers work so well when dealing with mythological monsters?
Second had to have been Gladiator. The archetypal film of vengeance and retribution, the film which brought Rome and Greece back in a big way, the film that revealed Russell Crowe to the rest of the world, and the film which makes everyone cry a little bit (a lot) when they first see it. First off, the cinematography is astounding. Trees flutter in cold Gallic wind above the heads of hundreds of legionnaires, and sand scatters into the air underneath the rough trod of a thickly – clad gladiator. Without ruining too much, Ridley Scott shows us that the life of the soldier is not too far distant from the life of the Gladiator. Both fight for the glories of Rome, both must kill or be killed, both live a life bonded to their comrades, and both are subject to the will of the Roman People. As brilliant as the film is, though, one thing strikes me whenever I watch it. The soundtrack is almost identical to Pirates of the Caribbean. It is stupidly similar.
I’m so glad I re-watched these films, and if you want to as well, I’d strongly recommend joining the Classics society.