Hercules Schmercules

I recently had a day at the movies. You should go catch Snowpiercer but here are a few notes on Hercules. Hercules is currently playing in theaters.



Hercules (2014) РRated PG-13

Having endured his legendary twelve labors, Hercules, the Greek demigod, has his life as a sword-for-hire tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek his aid in defeating a tyrannical warlord.

Once again we have multiple projects on the exact same topic. Last year, it was an assault on the White House. Previous years have seen competing versions of Snow White to the pairing of Valmont/Dangerous Liaisons. This year, Hercules is our whipping boy.

Renny Harlin rushed his “The Legend of Hercules” out at the beginning of the year. I haven’t seen it but by all accounts it is pretty awful. It stars Kellan Lutz and straight-to-DVD action hero Scott Adkins. The Legend of Hercules was dumped into the graveyard of bad movies aka January.

We’re well into July which used to be prime blockbuster territory but now that the blockbusters are all scheduled for May with a few June holdovers, July has become a testing ground for movies that have summer appeal but we don’t think are going to be blockbusters. In this summer heat haze, Brett Ratner brings us Hercules.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is certainly physically like I would picture the mythical Hercules, way better than a model and sparkly vampire. His sense of humor would also seem to lend itself to a lighthearted approach to the material.

I suppose the most unfortunate part of Hercules is that Ratner and the writers can’t seem to figure out what they want the movie to be. This Hercules is adapted from the Radical comic of the same name by Steve Moore. I have not read the comic so I cannot comment on that but Evan Spiliotopoulos and first time film scriptwriter Ryan Condal did the adaptation. This is Spiliotopoulos’ first screenplay in five years. Before that he did treatments of the direct-to-DVD sequels for Tinkerbell, Lion King, Tarzan, Cinderella, and Jungle Book.

If you are looking for a Steve Reeves peplum romp, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a CGI monster heavy fantasy, look elsewhere. Hercules patterns itself as a cross between the Kevin Sorbo series (Hercules as more of an adventurer than a demigod) and The Magnificent Seven (themselves based on The Seven Samurai).

Hercules leads a team of mercenaries, each with their own specialty (female archer – how original, feral hand axe fighter, seer with a staff, man with knives, etc.) while Herc carries a large styrofoam club. The villains of Hercules are ridiculously underdeveloped. The movie could actually have used to be a bit longer but Ratner wanted to keep things breezy. Hercules runs a scant hour and thirty-eight minutes long.

I guess I should be glad that they kept CGI to a minimum as the scene with the snakes is laughably bad as are some of the fire effects late in the film. The Nemean Lion and monstrous boar, shown briefly in flashback/storytelling mode, looked good though.

The movie plays out a little darker than Johnson’s preferred acting style. He is still fun to watch as are Ian McShane and Ingrid Bolso Berdal as teammates. John Hurt effortlessly steals the show as Lord Cotys. The movie seems tailor-made for a series of adventures featuring Hercules and friends.

The movie isn’t terrible but I can really only recommend it for fans of The Rock.