I’m back! a look at animated gods
I miss doing this blog at times, so I’m going to start it up again. No set schedule. To encourage myself to keep writing, I just have to start watching more animated films, right? I’ve padded out my Netflix list with movies I haven’t yet seen or have only seen once. Two of the films I got one after the other had a surprisingly similar theme on becoming gods.
Hercules: by Disney – a full length film basically about a young man’s attempts to get the approval of his father and achieve godhood at the same time.
The Road to El Dorado: by Dreamworks – a film about two young men in search of wealth who randomly have godhood thrust upon them.
I found Hercules to be highly disappointing. I certainly understand the massive sanitizing the stories underwent, because it’s Disney, but I felt it could have been done much better. The music was blah, the love interest, Megara, is cold and unpleasant, and everybody’s selfishly dreaming of achieving personal goals. I never really felt that any of the characters ‘connected’ with each other. Hercules is a rather bland stock character, young and looking for his place in life, and his only reason for helping people and undertaking impossible challenges is to gain the approval of his birth father, who happens to be Zeus, king of the gods. With that approval he gets to be a god himself! Surprisingly little altruism! What would he have done with that super strength if he continued to think he was human? The sidekick, a rotund, dirty satyr named Phil, is especially unlikable, and weirdly cast as a washed up ‘hero trainer.’ (really??) He’s glum because no one he trained ever made it big, but is convinced to give it one more shot to achieve his own fame at Hercules’ efforts. In the end, everybody (but Hades) has worked hard, gotten what they wanted, and they all live happily ever after. Except me. I was bored and unimpressed.
I was particularly disgusted with the whole hero training thing. You can’t train to be a hero! Heroism is something that happens spontaneously, a selfless act – risking your own life to save that of another. For most heroes it’s unexpected, unplanned, and after it’s over, if they’ve survived, they’re kind of shocked that people are excited about what they did. I think soldiers, police, or fire fighters are different. They’re training to handle specific situations so that they don’t have to sacrifice themselves. I was also annoyed by the whole ‘You have to prove you’re worthy before I call you son’ thing. Very offensive. He already has a foster father who loves him just the way he is. Go back home, Hercules.
The Road to El Dorado had a much lighter, original storyline. The animators also had some fun playing with new animation technologies, so we have some incredible scenes where you can’t tell if it’s real, drawn, or somewhere in between. Dated now, yes, but at the time and on a full size movie screen it must have been incredible. The story features Tulio and Miguel, two fun, snarky friends with the sole goal of achieving personal wealth. Unpleasant circumstances occur, and they find themselves in the New World with nothing but a treasure map and a horse. When they reach El Dorado, they are presumed to be gods due to their appearance and being on a horse, and are treated accordingly. Tulio wants to go home with the treasure being freely bestowed on them, Miguel is kind of enjoying the attention and wants to stay. They are forced to make a decision when they realize the town is in danger from a marauding conquistador and a high priest who is furious that the ‘gods’ he has spoken for for so long are now contradicting him.
Now THIS story I like because the characters grown and change. Unlike Hercules, who mostly just gains a little self confidence, Miguel and Tulio must sacrifice their own plans to save a city. They have learned that there’s more to life than riches and fame. On the other hand, I dislike Chel, the female love interest, almost as much as Megara. She’s selfish, greedy, and surprisingly hard to understand, having been given a thick latin accent, which frankly she shouldn’t have yet, not having been exposed to Spanish influences. If possible, she’s even more conniving and greedy than our two heroes.
Is the adoration of people all it takes to make you a god? Hercules might have some problems with that. For that matter, so might Thor, although he was more of a king/leader than a god as depicted in the recent films. Fuzzy lines. Hercules certainly didn’t have worshippers, although technically he had fans, which are kind of he same thing. (If you’re interested in this topic, you might enjoy a book by Terry Pratchett, called Small Gods, that discusses what happens to gods when their worshippers disappear.)
These movies deal with ancient religions that have devolved into folklore. There are a few religious animated films, like The Prince of Egypt, where the God of current, monotheistic religions is treated with an air of mystery and seclusion. He shows up only to save the day for the faithful, and we’re not likely to see him display any human emotions or characteristics. We’d be lucky to see Him in a human shape and not as a stream of light or a burning bush. Moses temporarily gets the ability to control water, parting seas and pulling it from rock, but he certainly is not elevated to godhood status.
Godhood in animated movies is kind of vague, and generally hard to distinguish from comic book superheroes. There’s very little difference between Mr. Incredible and Hercules, or even Frozone and Zeus. Frankly the only thing that made Tulio and Miguel gods is the willingness of the people to treat them as such, with gifts, sacrifices and a complete willingness to obey their every command. They didn’t even exhibit any super powers, they just looked different and had a horse, a completely unknown species to them at the time. (having an ancient image depicting them also helped. presumption.)
So, which is a better choice, being a god or a super hero? Super hero is certainly less controversial, although you generally have to live a double life, which can be frustrating and unpleasant. Certain super heroes, like Iron Man and Batman, have shown that you don’t even need to have a special power to become one, just a lot of money. Lucky them. And is there that much of a difference between being a god and a super villain, for that matter? Gods get to be responsible for both the good and the bad, and don’t really have to answer for their actions. Villains and gods are also more likely to demand gifts and sacrifices.
What would you want to be most?