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5 Mythical Superheroes in Movies

Writer: Casey Lee


Are you prepared to seize your glory as the mythical heroes of yore?

Long before there were superheroes flying around in capes or technologically advanced suits, the image of a superhero were those that were told from history that had wild tales of their unearthly exploits and extraordinary adventures. While these ancient heroes of myth and legend would be the basis that would inspire the modern superheroes that we have today, their stories are just as immortal and just as fascinating to us when they are told on film.

With the coming of war in "300: Rise of an Empire", the time has come for heroes to rise and battle for what they believe is right, as we look at five other heroes from a forgotten era, both east and west, that continue to fuel our imagination in movies.

Hercules

Hercules is most probably by far the most well-known mythical superhero that we can think of. As the half mortal son of the Greek god Zeus, Hercules was the first superman who is blessed with divine super strength and is best known for performing the 12 Labours that had him battling against dangerous beasts and monsters like the Nemean Lion, the nine headed Lernaean Hydra, the Cretan Bull and the three-headed Cerebus.

As an early icon of strength and heroism, the story of Hercules has been adapted into films as early as the 1950s till today (as recent as 2014) and there have also been plenty of movies of him as a character outside of the Greek mythology. To play as this symbol of masculinity and muscle, Hercules has always been played by beefy actors among which such as Steve Reeves, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, and Kellan Lutz, with Dwayne Johnson next in line.

Movies he appeared in:
"Hercules in New York" (1970)
"Hercules" (1997) by Disney
"The Legend of Hercules" (2014)

Perseus

Born as the son of Zeus and prophesised to be the man who will kill his grandfather, King of Acrisius of Argos, Perseus and his mother were cast out to sea to let the waters seal their fate. But somehow managed to survive after washing ashore on the island of Seriphos, where Perseus was adopted and raised. Perseus would grow to be one of the great heroes in Greek mythology, best known for his quest to slay the stone-turning Gorgon and saving the Princess Andromeda from the Sea Serpent Cetus, aided with the divine gifts from the Olympian gods.

The first recorded film adaptation of the story of Persues was in 1963, but the story would have its light in the day with the groundbreaking effects work of Ray Harryhausen in 1981's seminal "Clash of the Titans". It would be another two decades later when that story of Perseus would be remade to be more relevant for modern audiences.

Movies he appeared in:
"Perseus the Invincible" (1963)
"Clash of the Titans" (1981)
"Clash of the Titans" (2010)
"Wrath of the Titans" (2012)

Thor

We all probably know who Thor is by now partly because of the Marvel movies and the comics by Stan Lee, so there is very little left to add about this hammer-tossing God of Thunder from the Norse mythology, who is the son of Odin and the eternal nemesis of Loki, the God of trickery. Famed for his strength and his trusty hammer, Mjolnir, that he could use to summon lightning, it is foretold that Thor's end would come when he defeats the World Serpent on the day of Ragnarok.

While his most well-known appearance on the big screen was his comic incarnation that had Chris Hemsworth playing as the arrogant warrior god, like his Greek counterpart Hercules, Thor has made appearances both in and outside of his mythology (including one done by a Malaysian interpretation of the Norse god). We would definitely like to see more actors bring the thunder God to life.

Movies he appeared in:
"Thor at the Bus Stop" (2009)
"Almighty Thor" (2011)
"Thor" (2011)
"Thor: The Dark World" (2013)
"Vikingdom" (2013)

Sun WuKong

Mischievous but resourceful, Sun WuKong is one of the most beloved characters in the 'Journey to the West' saga that populates Chinese mythology today. Aside from being strong and able to cover over large distances in a single leap, the Monkey King, as he is often called, was also trained in the mystic arts of shapeshifting and can blow clones of himself into existence from his hair. For bringing chaos to the Jade Emperor's heavens with his arrogance but overbearing fighting skills, Sun WuKong was finally subdued and imprisoned underneath a boulder by Buddha, until he is allowed to repent by accompanying a monk to retrieve the holy scriptures of Buddhism from the west.

As a central character in "Journey to the West", his appearance in movies are as common as adaptations that have been made about "Journey to the West" since the 1960s, that it has become an anticipation for which actor can ape the character the most.

Movies he appeared in:
"Monkey Goes West" (1966)
"Monkey King with 72 Magic" (1972)
"A Chinese Odyssey" (1995)
"Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons" (2013)
"The Monkey King" (2014)

Hang Tuah

We did say mythical heroes from the east and west, so it would be a remiss if we did not include local legends in our list. For Malaysians, Hang Tuah is historically one of the real-life most iconic local heroes of ages past that we still know of today. Famed for his fierce and undying loyalty to the Sultan of Melaka which had been tested over numerous occasions during the reign of the sultanate, Hang Tuah is a revered local 'mythical' hero, not only for his mastery in Silat, but for his magical powers that makes him invincible for as long as he carries his famed Kris, the Taming Sari, hence the 'mythical' portion.

As the most popular folk hero, Hang Tuah has undoubtedly been the subject of local stories to tell on film. Although his most recent and memorable appearances are played by singer M. Nasir and Jamal Abdillah, the most irreplaceable appearance of Hang Tuah to date is by none other than the screen legend P. Ramlee himself.

Movies he appeared in:
"Hang Tuah" (1959)
"Tuah" (1990)
"XX Ray 2" (1995)
"Puteri Gunung Ledang" (2004)

Cinema Online, 24 February 2014


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