Hercules

Posted: July 29, 2014 in Movie Reviews

The legend of Hercules, the great demi-god and son of Zeus, has always been a popular film topic in the past. But even more resurgent over the past few years has been the classic sword-and-sandal adventure taking place in ancient Greece. We’ve seen Clash of the Titans and sequel Wrath of the Titans, Immortals, 300 and sequel 300: Rise of an Empire, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief  and its sequel The Sea of Monsters, and January’s The Legend of Hercules (which I have not had the pleasure of viewing, but with a score of 3% on Rotten Tomatoes, need I waste my time?) Even Disney put its spin on the titanic character. And like Hercules’ own immortality, these kinds of films are likely to never die out.

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Summary: (Spoiler-free)

Having completed his 12 arduous labors, Hercules (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson——Fast & Furious 6) has plans of peaceful retirement, his name now renowned throughout all of Greece. However, his mind is changed when Lord Cotys, King of Thrace (John Hurt——Alien) offers Hercules his weight in gold if he trains his army and battles against the warlord Rhesus who has pillaged and burned the Thracian lands. Off to war with his five faithful companions, Hercules’ very strength is put to the test as he is challenged to live up to his legendary name.

Also starring: Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Reece Ritche, Joseph Fiennes, and Peter Mullan.

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 Despite all its eventual shortcomings, Hercules is a film that begs the ultimate question of how feasible is the legend? Is he a mere mortal man with an incredible title and false prominence? Or is he truly a god among men and the son of Zeus? While it never ultimately answers this question——leaving it up to you, the viewer——the film does provide plenty of muscular action and gory violence to show you that Hercules is indeed an extraordinary guy. But besides its moments of brief character development and spectacle revolving around the demi-god, Hercules fails to impress on nearly every level.

The film begins by showing Hercules battling through two or three of his key labors——taking on the five-headed Hydra beast and the mythological Nemean lion——but nothing more. While the labors are not the purpose of the story, but rather ways of establishing Hercules’ brute strength and ability, the story that ensues pales in comparison to the awesomeness of the introduction. I personally would have much preferred a film following each of his 12 labors——an episodic, serialized film along the lines of “The Odyssey”——to the general, step-by-step story that is the result.

Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane_Hercules

All the characters, save Hercules, are expendable and therefore non-memorable. They’re there simply as Hercules’ sidekicks and ultimately detract from his grandeur. It would be like Batman having several people fighting crime beside him. Even the big bad guy army is tacky and is there merely for Hercules to slaughter by the droves.

There’s no meaning or any sense of significance behind what happens over the course of the film, things just occur for the purpose of giving Hercules more opportunities to prove himself instead of creating a more intimate story for us to truly associate ourselves with the character. Even the ending and the eventual demise of the bad guy is anti-climactic and quite disappointing. The entire film concludes with one of Hercules’ companions narrating (and I paraphrase), “So there’s the legend of Hercules. I don’t know if all these things about him are really true or not, but hey. . . what do I know?” It just feels so lazy and incoherent. Apparently director Brett Ratner didn’t learn anything from X-Men: The Last Stand.

In a nutshell:

With a charismatic actor such as The Rock at its center and a timeless story, Hercules  should be so much more than it is. While there are moments of enjoyment to be found and one scene in particular that was done well, this iteration of the mythology falls short in its narrative. With campy scenarios and clichéd, unimaginative, fill-in-the-blanks storytelling, Disney still holds the honor of having the better film.

4 stars

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