US Release Date: 07-25-2014
Directed by: Brett Ratner
- Dwayne Johnson, as
- Ian McShane, as
- John Hurt, as
- Lord Cotys
- Rufus Sewell, as
- Aksel Hennie, as
- Ingrid Bolso Berdal, as
- Reece Ritchie, as
- Joseph Fiennes, as
- King Eurystheus
- Tobias Santelmann, as
- Peter Mullan, as
- Rebecca Ferguson, as
- Isaac Andrews, as
- Joe Anderson, as
- Stephen Peacocke, as
- Nicholas Moss as
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Hercules.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is perfectly cast as Hercules in this lightweight, but entertaining summer blockbuster. Director Brett Ratner (Rush Hours 1, 2, & 3) keeps the pace moving and the action coming. Clocking in at just over 90 minutes, it never has a chance to out stay its welcome and its briskness helps cover some of the script's weaknesses. With its PG-13 rating, the filmmakers do seem to be aiming for a young audience and being able to channel the 12 year old inside of you will definitely enhance your enjoyment.
The film opens with a narration relating the legend of Hercules, but then in the script's most clever change, as based on the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars, it's revealed that most of the legend is simply a good story that Hercules has spread around with the help of his companions to enhance his reputation and to increase the amount of gold he can charge for his services as a mercenary. Following an opening battle scene, Hercules is hired to help the Kingdom of Thrace defeat an invading army. This leads to several battle scenes, before we and Hercules learn that the politics of Thrace aren't as straight forward as we have been lead to believe.
Of course this isn't a movie people are watching for intricate plot details and they take a back seat to the action. Johnson seems to have bulked up even more than usual and is able to make the most extreme display of strength seem plausible. He and his band of companions are able to take out entire armies and while the action is over-the-top at times and surprisingly bloodless to keep that PG-13 rating, it's also enjoyable in a summer action movie kind of way. That is, don't expect any of it to carry emotional weight, but just sit back and enjoy the fun. Those moments are certainly more fun than watching the Rock try to convey the anguish over a dark episode from his past. His acting has improved over the years, but he'd need a better script and a different director to really sell those moments.
Another smart addition to the story is the inclusion of Hercules' companions. They're a motley crew with assorted back stories. Ian McShane as the aging soothsayer is a scene stealer, as is Ingrid Bolso Berdal as the Amazonian archer Atalanta and one of just 2 women with a speaking part. Their interactions help humanize Hercules and provide some of the best comic moments.
There's a brightly lit look to the film that is in keeping with the PG-13 mood. Despite a very brief flash of nudity, a couple of profanities and many battle scenes, the proceedings are all family friendly. It's never allowed to get too dark or gritty. This may help at the box office, but a darker, edgier Hercules would have been more interesting.
With this sort of movie it's very easy to become cheesy or campy. When it gets cheesy here, at least the filmmakers seem self-aware of it, thus mitigating that problem. They haven't produced a masterpiece, but they may have started a franchise. Hollywood loves sequels and another go-around with these characters and this cast would be welcome.
Dwayne Johnson is Hercules
Brett Ratner wanted it both ways with this interpretation of the Hercules legend. Instead of being a demi-god, this Hercules is a mere mortal whose feats have been exaggerated to the point that he has become larger than life. This makes Hercules a man with human weaknesses and a more sympathetic character. However, as Scott noted, the action is over-the-top at times and Hercules does things that no man, no matter how much he exercised, could do. The movie constantly has lines that remind us that he is mortal but his acts of strength argue otherwise. Is he the son of Zeus or the beneficiary of propaganda?
The pace indeed moves along quickly from one action scene to the next, making for a film with nary a dull moment. The battles are exciting, as is the scene where he yells, “I AM HERCULES!” and commences to dish out some angry revenge. Johnson’s acting may not be award worthy but he is convincingly confident and comfortable in a fight scene.
Although my son and I completely enjoyed this movie, I was bugged by a few points. The Greek gods are worshipped but never shown as Ratner tried to create a setting that could have taken place in the real world. If the god’s are unseen and unheard from, how does Amphiaraus foresee the future? Hercules and company are paid to train an army of farmers in Thrace, a city by the sea that sits on a dry rocky, mountainous locale. When they enter the city and exit it, all you can see for miles in every direction is more rough terrain. Where and what exactly do these men farm? Why did they just not call them fishermen?
Making Hercules a human with a good PR man was not a bad idea. It provides for some opportunity for some lighter moments but it does however, remove it from the original context. If Zack Snyder could create sympathy for Superman, why can we not have a script that makes us emphasize with the son of a God? This movie is not exactly how I personally would like to see the Hercules story told but it still remains vastly superior to the version that came out earlier this year, starring Kellan Lutz, which completely abandoned the original story all together.
Hercules has all the action and spectacle you could want from a Greek myth, even if some liberties were taken with the source material.
Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Dwayne Johnson, Reece Ritchie, Rufus Sewell, and Ian McShane in Hercules.
Sure the graphic novel on which this movie is based isn't exactly faithful to the Hercules myth but neither were those old Italian Steve Reeve movies. Brett Ratner has put his own stamp on the legendary hero's adventures and in Dwayne Johnson he's found the perfect actor to rock that lion's head and loincloth skirt. Not since Arnold Schwarzenegger has an actor used their sheer physical brawn to such advantage.This Hercules is like Conan in personality, appearance, and plot (with a tiny bit of Samson thrown in for good measure).
The movie looks good and the pace doesn't really ever let up. It's a good old fashioned epic adventure film with a solid cast. The Rock, who will never be accused of being a great actor, has become a great movie star in the tradition of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. He knows his strengths and weaknesses and plays to them accordingly. Anguish isn't his strong suit but he can do heroic and brave in his sleep. He possesses an open face and -I say this only partly in jest- he has talented eyebrows. He can smolder with them or arch them comically.
Eric, I don't think the script wants it both ways. I think they wanted to create a bit of mystery by adding another layer to the character. Clearly this Hercules is really supposed to be a demigod and the son of Zeus. The movie leaves this open to interpretation but I'll bet we learn more if a sequel gets made. If not then Eric is right and the character is unevenly written – no man is capable of these incredible feats of strength without a little divinity flowing through his veins.
Like Scott wrote, if you channel your inner twelve-year-old you will enjoy this movie more. It's definitely aimed at young males with imagination (or young at heart males with imagination). I liked the motley crew of mercenaries that make up Hercules' companions (see photo). Their camaraderie adds humor and heart to the proceedings without ever outshining the star of the picture. John Hurt gloriously overacts as Lord Cotys, most notably during the climax when his true colors are revealed.
If you're going to make a mindless summer spectacle this is the way to do it. Take a legendary character everyone's heard of, base the script on a popular graphic novel, cast the current most charismatic action star on the planet in the part, and hire the guy who did the Rush Hour movies to direct. Since the dawn of cinema the ancient, classical, -sword & sandal- world has been a popular setting for fantasy/adventure films and Hercules keeps the tradition alive with unabashed enthusiasm.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (2014)