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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Gorgons, minotaurs and Zeus, oh my!”

    Movies and video games often use classical mythology as a starting block to base their stories upon. Producers and directors will tweak the stories to make them unique, obviously, but the spine of these stories remains the same. It’s the gods against the world, and an unexpected hero comes along to save the day.

    The most recent example is “”Clash of the Titans,”” a remake of a 1981 film of the same name. The movie is loosely based around the story of Perseus. Hades gets pissed at Perseus’ adopted parents, so he releases the Kraken, the centerpiece of the movie traliers, upon Argos, the city in which he lives. After a battle against more trailer darlings, the giant scorpions and an epic fight with Medusa, Perseus is finally ready to fight the big bad sea monster.

    But how true to the mythological story of Perseus is the adaptation of “”Clash?”” Well, besides Perseus being the son of Zeus, being found in a crate as an infant, battling some type of sea monster and his fight with Medusa, not very.

    According to the ancient stories, Zeus impregnates Danae, as he is wont to do. Terrified by a prophecy that his daughter’s son will one day kill him, Danae’s father puts her and her new son, Perseus, into a coffin and sets them out to sea. They wash ashore, time passes and Danae garners the attention of many men in their new home. Polydectes, in particular, wishes to take her as his own. To get rid of Perseus, Polydectes sends him on a quest to kill Medusa, a Gorgon, and take her head.

    The Gorgons were women, three sisters with heads full of snakes and  gazes that could turn people to stone. As the only mortal Gorgon, according to classical mythology, Medusa is used as a punching bag in modern adaptations. And though Perseus chops off her head, he is not the only warrior to brawl with the legendary creature.

    Kratos, the anti-hero of the “”God of War”” video game trilogy, not only kills Medusa but beats the tar out of her and then parades through the original game toting her head as a weapon. He also kills Eurayle, one of Medusa’s supposedly immortal sisters, and trots around the rest of “”God of War II”” with this new head.

    The “”God of War”” series follows Kratos, a Spartan general who makes a deal with Ares, the god of war. As Kratos is about to be slain by a barbarian king, he pleads to Ares to kill his enemies in exchange for his servitude. The deed is done, and Kratos becomes a slave to the gods.

    One day, Ares sends Kratos into a bloodlust, and, in doing so, tricks him into killing his wife and daughter. Kratos is covered in the ashes of his family, staining him white, and is forced to remember the horrific act he committed. Kratos cries out to Athena, who promises him forgiveness if he is able to stop Ares’s destruction of Athens, beginning Kratos’ gruesome vendetta against the god of war.

    The original “”God of War”” was groundbreaking in two ways. Though the game was released in March 2005, the graphics were far above any console game. These visual achievements allowed for some of the most violent encounters in video game history. Kratos can be very creative when it comes to beating gods over the head with their own limbs. But the most shocking thing about the game was that it didn’t seem over-the-top. Think back to what Kratos had to go through, and you’ll understand why this guy was so peeved.

    Second, the “”God of War”” series was the first franchise to introduce a new headlining character into the milieu of classic Greek mythology. The producers at Sony Santa Monica, the studio behind “”God of War,”” made their own story while borrowing characters and settings from mythology, who they then punched squarely in the face. But one of the best things about “”God of War”” is that the mythos that the game presents is one hundred percent accurate. From the Golden Fleece to the Great War, in which the gods overthrew the Titans for control, a player can actually learn a lot about the classic stories through this romp of myth. And as a person who knew a good amount of mythology before playing the games, seeing Kratos tear through this universe helped me to appreciate a lot of the hard work that went into the game, something that most people acknowledge, but few understand.

    These would be moot points if the game were subpar. But “”God of War”” is one of the most critically acclaimed series of all time. The main trilogy has earned impressive accolades from numerous video game publications and Web sites. And, thankfully, there are more “”God of War”” games to come.

    Switching from the hyper-violent to the hyper-musical, Disney’s animated film “”Hercules”” presents us with a complete 180 on the mythological Hercules. In the ancient stories, Hercules was a kill-first-ask-questions-later demigod. In the Disney adaptation, Hercules is a full god, but due to Hades’s meddling, receives only part of a potion that would have turned him into a mortal, keeping the demigod idea in a roundabout way. Hercules discovers his lineage, and is told by Zeus that he can return to Olympus if he becomes a hero. Hercules seeks out the satyr Phil, a trainer of heroes, who has given up his profession after he failed with Achilles, a jab at the Illiad. Hercules then saves a damsel in distress named Megara, who has made a deal with Hades. Hades learns that Hercules is still alive, and uses Meg to coax Hercules into giving up his power for a day in return for her safety. Hades then uses this time to overthrow Zeus, and sends a cyclops to Thebes. Meg is killed in the battle, and Hercules’s power is restored because Hades broke his promise. Hercules must jump into the River Styx to save Meg, and in doing so, is proclaimed a hero. Zeus then allows Hercules to live with Meg, down on earth, instead of on Olympus without her.

    The movie is a completely different take on the legend of Hercules, but sometimes these differences bring ancient stories to a wider audience. Sometimes they make a quick buck and are reamed by the critics. The remake of “”Clash of the Titans”” received one star out of four from Rolling Stone and The Chicago Tribune, along with countless below average reviews. But others, like “”God of War”” and Disney’s “”Hercules,”” both of which did very well financially and critically, can be instant successes and classics, expanding classical mythology to a contemporary audience. And they also make beating the crap out of Medusa loads of fun.

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