King Aristo has been killed and his throne taken by Pelias. But it is revealed that there is a prophecy that one of Aristo’s sons (wearing one sandal) would bring the downfall of Pelias. But before Pelias strikes the child down, he is told that killing the infant will mean his own death.
Years later, a young man wearing a single sandal saves Pelias from drowning. The young man, named Jason explains (not realizing who he has saved) that he is undertaking a journey to find the legendary Golden Fleece to rally the citizens against Pelias. Seeing an opportunity, Pelias suggests this is a wise plan and encourages Jason, even offering him resources and a crew. Men come and compete to join Jason on his ship the Argos. Among the crew are Hercules and Acastus (son of Pelias and there to help hasten Jason’s death if necessary).
The film is full of trials and dangers. When the crew is dangerously low on any rations and out in the middle of the sea, Hera leads them to the Isle of Bronze. There, when Hercules disobeys a rule about only taking provisions, they face a giant murderous bronze warrior. In another sequence they seek the wisdom of a blind man who is cursed to be beset by Harpies who eat his food and leave him only scraps for every meal.
Jason has assistance from Hera, but Zeus has made a provision that she has only five opportunities to intervene for Jason when he asks it. Like the myths of old, Jason and other mortals are mere pieces of a game. The gods here are a bit more jovial than in the old stories, where their jealousies and lusts were powerful driving factors within their relationships to each other and man.
This film is full of grand visuals, from a giant Poseidon parting cliffs to allow the Argos to pass and a multitude of amazing monsters, such as the Hydra and the famous skeleton fight scene. Of course, the special effects are the work of the legendary wizard Ray Harryhausen.
My one criticism here is (and it is admittedly a big one) how the movie just kind of “ends”. The actual story is not resolved. Pelias is still king. I don’t know if there was an expectation that there was be a second film…but it makes it feel like an incomplete epic.