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Themes in Hercules: Critical Analysis of Movies

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Anthropology is the scientific study of human beings, how they behave, and their societies, both in the past and the present (UCDavis 2020). There are three categories of anthropology, that is, social anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and cultural anthropology. Social anthropology studies the behavioural patterns of human beings while linguistic anthropology studies what influences language has on the social life of human beings. In contrast, cultural anthropology studies their culture, values, and norms (UCDavis 2020). Anthropology is built upon knowledge from natural sciences, which includes the evolution and the development of the homo sapiens. This trait has made anthropology the centre of attraction in the development of the late 20th century related fields such as ethnic studies, cognitive studies, and global studies of human beings. This paper will address how the characters in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey are depicted and how they contribute to developing the film.

2001: A Space Odyssey and Mythology

2001: A Space Odyssey portrays the author’s imagination of the future. This science-fiction film came into existence and predicted the technology that we are taking for granted today. This film begins with the genesis the author’s masterpiece and his partnership with author Clarke. Their relationship extends throughout the future of film. As future of this film was being set in space, NASA was also racing to put a man on the moon. The 2001: A Space Odyssey dramatically outdid the NASA emerging technology. Kubrick did this because if it had given NASA any chance to succeed in its mission, his idea could have been portrayed as outdated. This film was inspired by Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel” and other short stories which were written by him.

Furthermore, the film follows a voyage to planet Jupiter with the computer HAL, after the invention of the monolith, which was affecting human evolution, and technology. In addition to that, film is well known for how accurately it depicted space flight and the ambiguous effects. Dialogue and sound effects are used sparingly, in places of narrative techniques. The soundtrack includes several classical kinds of music, which makes it even more interesting to watch. Moreover, film has received many diverse responses as some people saw it as ‘darkly apocalyptic’ and others who saw the film as optimistic and hope for humanity. In film, Hercules is a Roman god and hero who is well known for his strength and power in fighting enemy. Hercules is a Latin name, which was borrowed through Etruscan as Heracles. There are several myths that Hercules had that were specifically Roman. One of the myths was when Hercules defeated the Caucus, who was terrorizing country of Rome.

Background of 2001: A Space Odyssey

The early alien race played a fundamental role in the evolution of the human species and human technology (2001: A space in Odyssey). 2001: A Space Odyssey is a science fiction film, which tries to explain that an early alien race influenced the evolution of human species. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, the film tried to portray his meditation on what age the space flight could mean to evolution of human beings. In this film, we learn that during creation of the universe, there was a group of beings who came into existence. They were known as the ‘firstborns,’ and their main purpose on earth was to act as caretakers of universe, by controlling issues before they become worse, and to encourage development of new species throughout the universe. Moreover, ‘firstborns’ invented a mysterious stone-like structure, which human beings commonly referred to as ‘monoliths,’ which can advance into species.

It is believed that monoliths placed strategically around the world significantly helped to shape evolution of technology. Around the year 4,000,000 BCE, four monoliths were positioned in universe. One was placed on earth in prehistoric Africa, near tribe of apes, the second was placed below moon surface, the third around Jupiter, and the last monolith was in a third-dimensional construct. The film 2001: A Space Odyssey opens on earth, in prehistoric Africa, where the first monolith was placed. It is evident that apes are sharing but have also built territories within their species. After that, a monolith is shown appearing near the apes, and apes are filled with fear. They then manage to stay calm, and out of curiosity, they all touch the surface of the monolith, and the ape leader leads this act. When an ape from enemy tribe reaches out to drink water from their water hole, the leader ape attacks enemy ape.

Themes in 2001: A Space Odyssey

A theme is a bigger idea or picture that an author is trying to convey in his film. It is the beliefs about life that the author is trying to put forward and is usually universal. Some of the themes that have been depicted in this film include the theme of evolution, conflict of human evolution, and higher intelligence in human development.


The evolution of humanity is the first theme that is addressed in this film where the apes evolve from using their primitive hunting techniques to using a more advanced hunting tool, the monolith. At the beginning of the film, human beings are represented by apes, which mostly lived in caves, and are not that intelligent (Heathcote 2018, p. 119). However, the apes are inspired when a monolith appears, and they begin to hunt using stones. The apes are now able to provide for themselves because of their hunting tool.

Conflict of Human Evolution

The conflict has arisen from the human evolution from the psychological costs that come with the reliance on technology. Later, in the film, Dr. Floyd is called to the base of the moon to see a monolith, which looked like the one the apes found and has disappeared from the surface of the earth. Floyd becomes the center of attention in this phase of evolution. Humankind had now evolved from apes to human beings and greatly relied on technology despite the conflicts.

Higher Intelligence in Human Development

Human development began the moment the apes discovered the monolith. The first monolith was discovered on earth, and the second monolith, which appeared under the surface of the moon, wanted to determine the ability of humankind to reach beyond the surface of the earth. This marked the first step to human development.

Background to Hercules

There are many myths in Romans surrounding Hercules. Hercules was a Roman hero and god, who is well known for his strength and wild adventures (Krämer, 2020). The Romans adapted the myths that were revolving around Hercules for use in their literature and artwork under the name of Hercules. Hercules had many conflicting characters, which made writers and artists think deeply about how they want to represent him. Hercules is portrayed as the champion of the weak, but his problems started right after birth when Hera sent two witches to kill him, and when they failed, a serpent was sent to kill him (Kubrick 1969). Hercules was born of Jupiter and Alcmene, and in another myth, it is said that Alcmene hid his son in the woods to prevent the wrath of Hera. Then coincidentally, the goddess Athena found Hercules and brought him to Hera, claiming that he was abandoned in the bush.

Hera, then suckled Hercules from her breast until one day, Hercules bit her nipple, and Hera pushed him away, in turn spilling breast milk across the night sky. This is how the Milky Way was formed. Hera then gave back Hercules to Athena and told her to look after the infant and nourish her by herself (Bernstein 2017). When Hera suckled the child from her breasts, she did not know that she has added him more power and strength. Hercules was raised in a family where he learned about wrestling, horse riding, and singing, among others. Later, he was married to Megara, had three sons, and when Hera found out about this, she was not pleased. She struck Hercules with madness, which led him to kill his wife and children.

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Themes in Hercules

Strength and Skill

This is the main theme that keeps appearing throughout the life of Hercules. In almost every story, Hercules performs a superhero act. For instance, the twelve labors showed how skillful and strong Hercules was in accomplishing his tasks. His strength is depicted when he holds up the sky for Atlas (Gloyn 2018, p. 114).


This theme revolves around the queen of gods, Hera. Hera portrays her jealously almost throughout the entire life of Hercules. Being that Hercules was among Zeus many illegitimate kids, his sight constantly reminded Hera of her husband’s cheating habits. Hera’s jealously becomes extreme when she strikes Hercules with madness and makes him kill his whole family.


No normal human being could have accomplished the twelve labors, in the same way, Hercules did. However, strong Hercules was, he needed the perseverance to accomplish all the tasks.

Similarities between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Hercules

Both have similar character traits

Odysseus and Hercules are both strong and heroic. This is seen from the tasks that they must accomplish.

They both share almost the same death experience

The wrath of the gods triggered Odysseus’s death experience, and the same happened with Hercules, only that he almost dies from accomplishing the twelve labors.

Differences between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Hercules

There are differences in why the two main characters intend to stay alive. For instance, Odysseus struggles to stay alive because he wants to reunite with his wife, whereas Hercules stays alive to live with his people peacefully and win their hearts (Prezi 2020).

Odysseus is proud of himself and has a thirst for greed, whereas Hercules is courageous, strong, and brave.

Heroic Myths in Relation to Anthropology

In both 2001: A Space Odyssey and Hercules, the heroes have played different roles, which have influenced the societies in which they live. For instance, in the Odyssey, the first incident of social anthropology is seen when the apes are sharing. This shows the behavioural characteristics of human beings and how it has developed over time. Secondly, leadership traits also emerge from the film. This is seen when the apes are curious to touch the monolith, and the ape leader leads them. Leading is a human trait that shows the interrelationship between those in top positions and their juniors. Anthropologists can tell that leadership role begun long before the evolution proves to take place. Thirdly, the theme of conflict between societies is a clear indicator to anthropologists that conflicts between societies lead to the progress of different societies. Conflict can lead to disputes at first, but later, peace reigns and societies start progressing. In Hercules, the theme of perseverance shows anthropologists how perseverance has enabled people to achieve many positive things.

Linguistic anthropology also occurs when Dr. Floyd is called to see the monolith that has disappeared from the surface of the earth. The fact that communication was enacted shows how the role of higher intelligence has impacted language. Anthropologists now know how language has evolved over the years, and how human beings have improved their social lives through communication.

When Athena picked Hercules from the bush and thought he was an orphan, it shows how caring she was. She then took the child to Hera, who suckled Hercules until he bit her nipple. Maybe it was in their cultural practice to be nice and caring to other people, and that is why Athena took care of Hercules for some time. The theme of strength and skill shows how skilful Hercules is. He possesses various skills, which allowed him to accomplish his tasks. There is a similarity with the modern world, in that most people or companies who become successful possess various skills, which help the company is growing.


In conclusion, Odyssey and Hercules both played the same roles; in that, they were both strong and were heroes to their community. In addition to that, both fought for their societies, and this shows how cultural anthropology started in the early times. Hercules and Odysseus believed that they had to protect their society from living peacefully. Human beings evolved from apes, who could not communicate effectively and in an intelligent way, to people who can socialize with other people and communicate perfectly.

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Themes in Hercules: Critical Analysis of Movies. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from
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