Saturday, August 2, 2014


Based on the comic book mini-series from writer Steve Moore and artist Admira Wijaya, Hercules removes the myth and legend of the figure choosing to cast Hercules (Dwayne "It's Okay to Call Me The Rock Again" Johnson) as a weary nomadic mercenary rather than the true son of Zeus (although he certainly trades on the legend for his own profit) well after completing his legendary 12 labors. With a band of loyal warriors around him, Hercules' legend has grown over time as his exploits have been exaggerated to the point that everyone believes the mythic warrior to be the unstoppable son of a god.

Director Brett Ratner's film reminds me a little of Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur which similarly removed the mythical trappings and magic surrounding a legendary figure in an attempt to focus on the man behind the legend and those closest to him. Hercules may not be as successful as Arthur, but The Rock is perfectly cast in the role and Ratner surrounds him with a strong supporting cast and impressive effects for a B-movie that's better than expected.

Hercules' band of warriors includes the seer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), the money-driven Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), the tortured Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), the Amazon warrior Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), and Hercules' nephew and storyteller Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). The Rock is certainly the film's biggest selling point, but a close second turns out to be Berdal as the ass-kicking Amazon who holds her own against countless foes. I'd love to see the character spun off into her own film or, if that doesn't happen, DC and Marvel should begin a bidding war for the actress' services who could be cast to carry the first female-led super-hero film since Elektra.

After a brief introduction to the various characters through an action scene narrated by Iolaus, the film begins in earnest when Hercules is hired by Lord Cotys (John Hurt) of Thrace to lead his armies against the bloody warlord Rheseus (Tobias Santelmann) which has divided his kingdom.

Over the course of the film we get flashbacks to the true versions of a few of Hercules' labors as well as the happy years with his wife (model Irina Shayk) and children. Although it teases us with the character's half-remembered nightmares, and murmurs of Hercules being responsible for the death of his family, the script waits to reveal their fate until offering a fairly well-handled plot twist late in the film where Hercules is forced to come to terms with who he is and the ramifications of his recent actions.

Hercules turns out to be the best film Ratner has put out in a decade. The Rock's age may make it impossible for us to see Hercules at his peak performing the labors, but the choice to focus on an older haunted version of the character works well. It's not a great film, but for those looking for a solid action-packed summer popcorn flick with plenty of archery and sword play (and The Rock brutally smashing foes with his spiked club), it certainly delivers far more than the either the awful Hercules film from earlier this year or the disappointing 300 sequel combined.

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