Well, near the beginning of the summer, I caught up with “The Legend of Hercules” with Kellen Lutz as Hercules. If you remember that review, I did not like that movie so much, and I was definitely disappointed due to the fact that I am huge mythology fan. The year 2014 is another year of doubles as now I am greeted by “Hercules” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the gigantic character and directed by Brett Ratner, based on a twelve-issue graphic novel by Steve Moore (who was friends with comic writer Alan Moore, who were ironically not related.). There are some critics that said that this version of the character was better than Lutz’s attempt, while others have said that it is just as bad. Now it is time for me to weigh in on things, as I have finally gotten around to seeing the movie myself.
The trailers for this movie illustrate a big, highlight-filled, greatest hits version of Hercules. I am kind of glad that it wasn’t. All of the well-known Hercules stories are narrated to us at the beginning of the movie, feeling kind of like a Wikipedia page version of Hercules’ greatest adventures. I was happy to see that all “Hercules” added up to was not another “greatest hits” type of biopic movie, where the film would quickly run through everything that makes Hercules popular without weighing in on the subjects with much insight or gratitude. No, after the big opening sequence of Hercules past triumphs is done, we see Hercules rescue his fellow mercenaries; Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), Autolycus (Rufus Sewell),Tydeus (Aksel Hennie) Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and Iolaus (Reece Ritchie) from pirates. We learn that Hercules became a mercenary after Hera pulled strings to have Hercules’ family killed. Haunted by his past, he decided to become a mercenary and abandon his life as a demigod. He is Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson), daughter of King Cotys (John Hurt) to help train the Kings army against an invading force.
So the good stuff first. I don’t want that small sentence to indicate that “Hercules” is a bad movie, I would not call it a bad movie, and I wouldn’t call it a great movie either. “Hercules” is a mixed bag, although I will say that it is a grand step up from the Hercules movie that came out earlier this year. Part of the reason why this “Hercules” film works better is that the acting is much better. What would you expect from a cast that includes The Rock, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell and John Hurt? (There is even a good performance by Scottish actor Peter Mullan.) This is a big, crazy, mythological action movie, so the script is not stellar, but this cast is able to shine without much effort. The Rock makes for an outstanding Hercules, being as badass and charismatic as you would expect he would be. He gives an interesting life to Hercules that I enjoyed. McShane, Sewell and Hurt all do wonderful supporting work, and I can say that I enjoyed watching the rest of the Hercules’ mercenary group. I particularly like that Reece Ritchie stood up, playing the usual, younger-than-the-rest kid character, but in this movie the character is less annoying and brought to unique life by Ritchie. This guy could be someone to look forward to in the future.
I can also say that the action scenes are pretty good for the most part. This is not a movie that will change the action scene forever. It is not a movie that will have you reeling from the theater in excitement. It is not a movie that completely revisions the way gargantuan war sequences are shot, choreographed and practiced. But one thing is for sure, you will have fun watching them, and sometimes that is all that is needed. They are big and epic in a way you would expect them to be in a movie like this, and like I said, it certainly is fun; just no new ground is broken here.
The major issues I have with the movie come from the script itself. The biggest issue I have is that “Hercules” is one of those high-concept films that have a plot that seems to be more convoluted and confusing then it has to be. I guessed there would be betrayal, deception and double-dealing going on with some of the characters, but it seems that Ratner tries to wow us too much when connects the film’s story dots. It would be okay if the plot was simpler, it would be okay to keep the storyline fun and light. I don’t think anybody will get lost watching the movie, but it just seems like the movie tries too hard to be cool and clever and it didn’t need to.
Something else that I couldn’t help glaring at during this film is Hercules’ motivations at a crucial part of the film. After Hercules trains and helps in the fight against Coty’s enemies, he decides almost out of the blue, to investigate Coty to see if he is corrupt or not. Let me remind you that at this point, Hercules is a mercenary, far removed from his heroic roots, and I found it a little unbelievable that a mercenary would just decide to investigate his employer was a bit odd. It does not help that the entire scene is played off like a plot convenience more than anything else and is never explained in much detail, so it becomes a distraction.
But hey, there are some fun parts and I had a better time with this movie than with Lutz’s film. This never becomes the super-epic, super-awesome Hercules movie that I feel could and should be made, but it gets closer than ever before. The Rock, along with the rest of the great cast, is to thank for this. Director Brett Ratner is proving that even though he is not a flawless director, he can somewhat connect to a piece of material and that is at least worth mentioning too. I think this film might fit your bill if you are still in the mood for summer fun.
FINAL GRADE: C+