Hercules (1997)

Inciting Event: After hearing the Fates prophesy that his plans to take over Olympus will fail if Zeus’ newborn son Hercules fights in the battle, Hades commands his minions to feed Hercules a potion that will make him mortal. However, they fail to force feed him the last drop, leaving him supernaturally strong. This is the turning point in the First Act—as it usually is after a “prologue” opening.

However, the Inciting Event in the main conflict comes a bit later when a teenaged Hercules learns that he has been adopted by his mortal parents and goes searching for his true parentage.

First Plot Point: After Zeus tells Hercules he can only return to Olympus after proving himself a true hero, Hercules leaves his Normal World with his adopted parents and goes to be trained by Philoctetes. This is properly the Key Event. After a lengthy training montage, Hercules then enters the “adventure world” of the Second Act and engages with the main conflict when he goes to Thebes to prove himself a hero—saving Hades’ unwilling minion, the beautiful Meg along the way.

First Pinch Point: Hades learns from Meg that Hercules is still alive—and therefore a threat to his plans for dominion. He forces Meg to lure Hercules into a battle with the Hydra monster.

Midpoint: Hercules defeats the Hydra and—in another song-and-dance montage—is proclaimed a hero. He moves from clumsy reaction to assured action in chasing his goal of becoming a true hero and returning to his parents on Mt. Olympus.

Second Pinch Point: Hades realizes Meg is Hercules’ weakness. Meg is now in love with Hercules and refuses to help, but Phil overhears what he believes is Meg’s complicity with Hades and warns Hercules of her treachery. Hercules refuses to believe it and offends Phil into leaving.

Third Plot Point: Hades threatens to kill Meg unless Hercules makes a deal to give up his strength for twenty-four hours, dependent on Meg’s safety. Hercules agrees, unaware of Hades’ true plans. He is zapped of his strength, turned completely mortal—and then learns the woman for whom he just sacrificed everything was indeed working for Hades, at least previously.

This is a really nice Third Plot Point. Usually, when we think of “the worst thing that could happen to a character,” we think of the death of a loved one. But here, everything that’s important to Hercules (his strength, Meg, his family on Olympus) is swept away by a single devil’s deal. And all without having to resort to actually killing anyone.

Climax: After Meg mortally wounds herself to save Hercules, his strength is restored. He kicks Hades out of Olympus, then goes to the River Styx to save Meg’s soul. Note how the battle moves from wide-scale (vs. the Titans for global stakes) to narrow focus (vs. Hades for very personal stakes).

Climactic Moment: Hercules proves himself a true hero by sacrificing his own life to save Meg. Just as he is about to die, his immortality is restored. He returns Meg’s soul to her body, and together they go to Olympus, where he reunites with his parents.

Resolution: Hercules decides to return to Earth as a mortal to be with Meg.

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