Believe it or not, this is the second Hercules film this year and it’s by far and away the best one thus far. That’s not saying too much, since the first one was absolute crap, but at least this new Hercules does attempt to have some fun with the character and his legend. Hercules is always going to be one of the more interesting subjects of Greek Mythology because he’s put through the ringer in order to prove himself and he does some really amazing, unbelievable things. The question is, can he make a worthwhile movie?
Once the protector of Greece and a family man, Hercules (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) roams the land as a mercenary for hire. His legends are told far and wide and the 12 Labors he performed strike fear into the hearts of any enemy. There is some legitimate debate about whether or not Hercules is just a man, or if he’s actually the son of Zeus, the God of all Gods. Hercules does not act alone, however, as he travels with his gang including: Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), and his nephew Ioalus (Reece Ritchie).
During their time off, the group is approached by Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson), daughter of Lord Cotys (John Hurt), a man in need of mercenaries. A war is about to begin between lord Cotys and Rhesus (Tobias Santleman), a supposed Centaur with a Centaur army. It’s going to mean a lot of gold for the group, so training an army seems like a no-brainer. However, the enemy supposedly has mystical powers and no mere man can defeat him. Well, it’s a good thing that Hercules is playing for the good guys… Or is he?
Hercules finds another way to retell the Demigod’s “true story” and this time around, they went for a very interesting approach that I’m still not sure makes complete sense. This film is just like any other swords and sandals flick, but with a lead actor who doesn’t need a buff suit, or CGI enhancements. There’s a ton of fighting, killing, and shouting in this flick and that’s exactly what I expected of a Hercules movie. Well, that and for this to be a live-action remake of the Disney film of the same name. I’m sad to say that Phil was nowhere to be found. I figure he must have been on-duty with Pegasus.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson does the best he can as Hercules and I was more than satisfied with his portrayal of the conflicted character. The Rock sees Hercules more as a caring mercenary, who does love his gold, but also has a heart and mind that work when they need to. Building more mass and size than ever, The Rock towers over the buffest of men and with one punch, can send them flying in the opposite direction. I totally thought his veins were going to bust whenever he yelled, but they didn’t and instead he flung more people and clubbed them into the neighboring city. For what it’s worth, The Rock was pretty awesome.
For a film about Hercules, we get to know his ragtag group of fighter friends fairly well and they’re pretty fun to watch as a unit. Autolycus throws knives and cracks jokes. Tydeus is more animal than man and can go absolutely berserk. Atalanta is an expert with the bow and she does more than Hawkeye. You can’t forget Iolaus, who spreads the tale of Hercules far and wide. Amphiaraus is pretty funny with his foretellings, but he also kicks ass in a spectacular fashion. When combined, they make for some of the best action and their teamwork is more than effective against any enemy.
The twist that this film attempts to put on the Greek mythology, is that Hercules may not actually be the son of Zeus. The whole film revolves around the legend that is Hercules and how he made it through all 12 Labors, killing beasts of grand scale. Well, Hercules jests that the legends are but exaggerations and his buddies don’t really see him as the son of Zeus. It makes everything less clear in the film and I think that they want us to buy that he’s just an insanely strong man who can lift horses and the like. There was a lot of narration about finding the hero inside yourself, believing that you have what it takes, and other stuff that had no reason to be in this film, other than to add mystery to Hercules. Is he the son of Zeus? I’m not so sure, but that whole question is dumb and I don’t get why it’s a part of the film.
I do think that a few musical numbers would have benefited this film. There are some training montages that look an awful lot like the one in Mulan, so I was hoping to hear I’ll Make a Man Out of You. There was scattered humor in this film, but it felt very out-of-place and the things that characters would say made little sense for the time (yeah, I take issue with that). All the coolest parts of the film are during battle, but we only catch glimpses of a few of Hercules 12 Labors. What?! How could they not show each individual one?! That’s absolute madness, because you could do a whole film on all 12 and have yourself an awesome time. Instead, we get armies battling it out, fake centaurs, and a lot of really bad CGI fire. I’m not sure who was in charge of the effects, but some of them are incredible laughable.
Hercules, while not a great film, is a fun enough time at the movies. It has some of the action elements that make 300 so much fun, while also having a questionable mythology background. This film isn’t setting out to win any awards and they could have made a much better film all around, but it’s still mindless fun and I had no problem spending an hour-and-a-half watching it. The Rock is such a likable person and the charisma and machismo he brings to the role of Hercules is great. He kicks a ton of ass, throws people, kicks people, and shouts. Whether he’s the man, or the legend, he managed to entertain me for long enough! What more could you ask for (besides authenticity and maybe Pegasus)?