Written by Dania Syed
What To Expect
Let’s cut straight to the point as quickly as this movie did. You’ve got a mythical ancient Greek demi-god, the mighty Hercules, played by Dwayne Johnson – excuse the pun – rocking the invincible hide of the Nemean lion, which he defeated with his “bare hands.” Oh! And Brett Ratner directs him. What’s that saying?
Ratner, infamous for directing the most disappointing X-Men film (X-Men: The Last Stand), had a herculean task cut for him with 2014 seeing an upsurge of Hercules titles. Kicking January off with Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules, followed by a Direct-to-DVD July release of Hercules Reborn, Ratner can safely be credited for wrapping up a far better rated film.
What’s It About
The mighty Hercules is but a mercenary who fights for gold accompanied by his loyal band of heroes, the world-weary Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), a taciturn but raged Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), comical prophesier Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), and nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). Rhapsodizing Hercules’s fabled reputation – the son of Zeus – they intimidate hostile armies, and jack up his worth.
Lord Cotys (John Hurt) hires their services to train the armies of Thrace, and help defend the kingdom from the inhuman warlord, Rheseus. Venturing through the battle, Hercules must confront a sin from his past that persistently haunts his present.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Writers Evan Spiliotopoulos (Battle For Terra) and first-time Ryan Condal pen down an anti-mythical outlook to a character whose stature feeds on legends. Or to dumb it down as the trailer did:
“Before he was a legend, he was a man.”
When you’re selling The Rock as Hercules in a movie whose Greek and Roman legends can’t be kept in order, retelling this fable with a revisionist kick was probably a great idea. Unfortunately, what could have been a very promising feature simply did not deliver a satisfying tale.
The first half of Hercules yields vigorous action sequences – coordinated sublimely by Greg Powell (Stunt Double for the 70’s films The Spy Who Loved Me and Superman) – and exhilarating battle scenes that are visually captivating – picking up a charging horse and hurling it over? Yes please – and are cinematographed in some beautiful settings. Dante Spinotti was Ratner’s pick again, after their endeavors in the forgettable X-Men: The Last Stand, and Red Dragon, and he has done justice to the costumes, the sets (although they do look like – well – sets), and scenery as Director of Photography.
After a steady build and a climax unforeseen by even Amphiaraus, however, the movie is devoid of any excitement, emotional involvement, quite obviously some VFX compositors who may have had to break early for pre-fall, and the riveting dialogs one expects from a character of Hercules’s illustriousness.
(“I… am… HERCULES!”
No, shit! Who were you for the first 60 minutes?)
In fact, here is an excerpt of the script from our creative labs:
(PS – I know it’s not Dumbledore, it’s Mr Ollivander. But play along!)
To Perform Or Not To Perform
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has come long way in his career. How he amplified his already robust built demonstrates how seriously he took this character. He gives a very earnest, and genuine performance as a commanding hero with a tortured soul. Johnson responsibly bears the weight of his humanised titular character, albeit not alone.
Ian McShane (Blackbeard, Pirates of the Carribean) injects some impeccably timed comical cues into his performance as the seer Amphiaraus. The Illusionist antagonist Rufus Suwell’s cynicism is convincing as Hercules’s childhood comrade Autolycus. Norwegian actor Aksel Hennie plays mute Tydius, whose unquestionable loyalty to Hercules makes him one of the most memorable characters of the movie. His compatriot, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, makes her Hollywood big screen debut as Atalanta, stunningly resembling a more strappy Nicole Kidman, and fits into Hercules’s side well as the Amazonian warrior.
Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time actor Reece Ritchie seems a little misplaced as Hercules’s nephew, who is very expressive about his desire to start writing history for himself, rather than enthusing about his uncle’s.
Rebecca Ferguson, who is set to appear in Mission Impossible 5, plays Ergenia, the daughter of Lord Cotys, who is somewhat the damsel in distress. However, there will be no dame other than Hercules’s late wife to ignite any sparks of romance in this sword-heaving spectacle.
John Hurt (V For Vendetta) could have brought in authority and autocracy as Lord Cotys more proportionately to his longstanding career. His counterpart, King Eurystheus, portrayed by Joseph Fiennes’s stint, is more emphatic.
What – surprisingly – cut straight to the chase without any epic prologue, and after a slightly shaky start rose up to some enamoring display of visual effects, stunts and action alike, suddenly plummeted into a pit of disappointment. Everything, from writing to performances to graphics work, seemed to disintegrate and deteriorate in terms of quality the closer the film drew to its end. It certainly isn’t the worst of films to have released under the Herculean franchise, but it simply didn’t exploit its assets to their full potential.
Expect nothing – just retelling and entertainment.
Star Rating: 2 / 5