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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Hercules

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Dwayne Johnson stars in a scene from the movie "Hercules."
This much can be said for the passable 3-D adventure "Hercules" (Paramount): By comparison with this year's earlier cinematic addition to the store of lore about antiquity's most acclaimed strongman, "The Legend of Hercules," the new film is practically a masterpiece.

Considered on its own, though, director Brett Ratner's mildly demythologizing take on the subject -- which stars Dwayne Johnson in the title role -- nets out as amiable and reasonably diverting, but unlikely to linger in moviegoers' memories.

Based on Steve Moore's graphic novel "Hercules: The Thracian Wars," this variation on a durable theme finds the hero -- who may or may not be a demigod -- following up on the completion of his 12 canonical labors by leading a band of super-skilled mercenaries around the political patchwork of ancient Greece.

His quintet of comrades is comprised of fighting prophet Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), brainy strategist Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), mute, feral slaughter survivor Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), Amazon archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and callow warrior -- but gifted storyteller -- Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). In addition to being Hercules' cousin, young Iolaus is also the ancient equivalent of his PR man.

When fetching Princess Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) turns up to offer this formidable ensemble a job, her proposal seems straightforward enough at first. She wants Hercules and his followers to help her father, King Cotys of Thrace (John Hurt), rid his realm of a marauding rebel called Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann). Their reward? Hercules' weight in gold.

Of course, anyone familiar with court intrigue, at least as it's portrayed on screen, will realize that all is not what it seems and that Hercules and company will end up getting more than they bargained for when they struck their initial deal with Ergenia.

The odd witticism and some on-target messages about believing in oneself and putting strength at the service of goodness are scattered through Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos' script. But the real agenda of Ratner's sweeping movie is large-scale combat and plenty of it.

Still, for those grown-ups content to munch popcorn in an air-conditioned theater, this summer dole out of derring-do will no doubt ... well, do.

The film contains constant, mostly bloodless violence, some gory images, a glimpse of rear nudity, occasional sexual references, at least one use of the F-word and a handful of crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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