July 27, 2014

Movie Review: Hercules (2014)

Way back in January a Hercules movie hit the theaters with very little fanfare and proceeded to bomb at the box office. This was not wholly unexpected considering it seemed to be a late pickup by Lionsgate with the hope of making a few bucks. That movie was Legend of Hercules, starring Kellan Lutz and directed by Renny Harlin. It was one of those movies when my instincts kicked in and successfully steered me away. The logic being I would wait for the big summer Hercules movie with Dwayne Johnson. That would have to be better, right? Well, it has arrived and I did go and see it. Long story short, it's not good.

I am not one to speak on the mythology surrounding good ole Hercules, but I daresay it is a lot more exciting than what this movie turned out to be. I saw a video clip of director Brett Ratner saying this would be the defining Hercules movie for this generation. If that is true, it is a very sad generation and we would be better served looking to the past for our inspiration and defining moments. I daresay this generations defining moments are not likely to be delivered by Brett Ratner (even if I have enjoyed a few of his movies).

If you were hoping for a big movie filled with mythological tales and big fights with big monsters, you will be sorely disappointed. You've seen the clips in the trailer of him fighting the hydra, boar, and tiger? Consider them teases, as much as you see in the trailer, that is about what you get in the movie, and it all happens before the title card. You see, this is one of those revisionist tales that seeks to inject a slice of humanity into the legend, plus it is based on a comic book by Steve Moore (and as I further understand, has had some of its more extreme and controversial content excised for a theatrical movie bearing a PG-13 rating).

The problem with this approach is that we do not get the big stuff of legend, we get a more “realistic” story of Hercules (whose demigod origin may be a complete myth in this version) where he is basically a sword for hire, complete with his own band of mercenary cohorts. This is set after the mythical 12 labors, where Herc is just out to make some money slinging his sword on the backs of fanciful tales spun by his nephew, Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), in advance of his arrival.

The bulk of the story is when Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) is approached by Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) on behalf of her father, King Cotys (John Hurt) of Thrace. They offer him his weight in gold to help stop an impending war that would leave many dead. Hercules and his team agree, but upon arriving in Thrace, it appears that not is all what it seems.

What follows is pretty much in fast forward. The movie barely crosses the 90-minute, so don't think about some sort of sprawling epic or even well drawn characters. What we get is perhaps a step or two above your typical SyFy Channel offering. Hercules and his team train townsfolk, walk around looking tough, march into battle, swing swords and clubs for a little while, discover something else is afoot, and then, as quickly as it began, it is over.

Hercules (the movie, not the character) takes itself too seriously to be any real fun, and is too campy to be taken seriously. It is caught in that no man's land where it has no singular identity, no sense of purpose. This is a movie that exists on an island unto itself. It dnever really goes anywhere, never really does anything, and never gathers any meaningful energy.

The plot doesn't even really matter, it flows by as so much smoke and mirrors. There are a couple of big fights, but they are temporary distractions from the bigger issues. Still, the fights are not without issues of their own, like with all the blades flying around, where is all the blood? Then the fight ends and we are back to wondering about the story, what the point is, when it may actually be, you know, interesting.

Hercules is just not a good film from top to bottom. I do give Dwayne Johnson a little credit for surviving this mess. No, he is not good, but he has the convincing physique and actual charisma that should carry him through unscathed. The rest of the cast is just there to look tough, including Rufus Sewell (a long way from his turn in the fantastic Dark City), Joseph Fiennes, and Ian McShane (who provides some comic relief), and Ingrid Bolso Berdal.

The one thought I kept having during this was that Conan would have kicked his ass and moved onto something more worthy and exciting. I also wonder if I chose the wrong 2014 Hercules movie?

Not Recommended.

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