HERCULES | MOVIE REVIEW

The second HERCULES film for 2014 is out – this is “The Rock” one, not the other won THE LEGEND OF HERCULES starring the Twilight hottie, Kellan Lutz. We are flooding with film reviews at the moment, literally so many screenings, it is brilliant, but a juggle, I was so keen to see this one (but was at another screening), the visuals look outstanding and while Johnson looks like a walking tank I would like to say hello Reece Ritchie – I see you :), this guy is very watchable haha. I digress, as usual, Kernel John hit this one up with limited expectations and like a lot of critics found a lot to like about it. HERCULES is out now, it released this THUR just passed, it is rated M and runs for 98mins. Enjoy John’s review below……..all the best………JK.

 

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HERCULES | SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | AUSTRALIAN MOVIE POSTER

 

REVIEW BY JOHN MCPARLAND

Brett Ratner of RUSH HOUR fame directs the action adventure epic HERCULES.  The film follows the story of the Greek hero Hercules as he journeys to stop an evil tyrant from taking over the land.  Enlisted by King Cotys of Thrace, portrayed by John Hurt (who ironically played the Greek God Zeus in IMMORTALS), Hercules and his merry gang aid in training the Thracian army on how not to stab themselves, before riding forth to do battle against evil.  Of course, by “evil” I mean the guy that Hercules is paid to stop, as it seems this film paints Hercules as less a righteous hero fighting for the weak and oppressed, and more a desperate mercenary, selling his club to the highest bidder, while fleeing from the dark deeds of his past.  Hercules actually cuts contract with his current employer within the first ten minutes of the film because Cotys offers him a greater payday, which Hercules then forces him to double!  Not exactly the honourable paragon of justice and moral fortitude that we have come to expect from a story about Hercules.  Thanks a lot Kevin Sorbo, you and your fabulous HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS have ruined for me films that show Hercules as a jerk.  As the movie progresses, Hercules finds his moral compass and learns to be the better man, but for me that is just a weak piece of writing.  Why make Hercules out to be a selfish bastard at the start, just so he can redeem himself at the end?  You do not need to break him down, just so you can build him up again and make his transition more believable.  He is Hercules after all; I am already expecting him to be the hero.

 

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HERCULES | SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | HERCULES (DWAYNE JOHNSON) IN BATTLE

 

Joining Hercules in his task are five other fellow mercenaries, each with annoyingly similar sounding names that made it very difficult to work out who anyone was referring too.  Chief among them is Autolycus (pronounced Or-Tul-i-cus; you put the emphasis in the wrong place and that name takes on a completely new meaning…) played by Rufus Sewell (ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER) whom I dubbed Knifey in my notes, after his favourite weapon.  Next is Ian McShane (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES) as Amphiaraus, or Prophet for short because of all the visions he gets.  Askel Hennie (AGE OF HEROES) and Reece Ritchie (THE LOVELY BONES) play Tydeus and Iolaus, or Berserker and Story Teller, respectively.  Lastly is Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (CHERNOBYL DIARIES) as Amazonian Atalanta, (I simply called her Amazon).  Put them all together and you have a frightfully comprehensive Dungeons and Dragons group.  You literally have a Rogue, a Priest, a Warrior, a Bard, and a Ranger, with Dwayne Johnson (FAST & FURIOUS) as Hercules rounding out the group with a nice Barbarian tank.  And that is mostly how the film plays out, like a giant DnD game.  During the big fight scenes of the film, Hercules even specifically arranges his men with Iolaus at the back of the group where it is safest, like the useless character that he is (Bards need to be carried through every dungeon crawl; you try killing a giant golem with nothing but a damn harp).  This array of characters does not detract from the film, so much as it moves it in a different direction.  If you were expecting a film where Hercules punches his enemies into submission with his demigod fists and saves the day all by himself, then think again.  His ragtag band of misfits are integral, and each member supports the others in mutual survival with their particular skill set.  Just like in DnD.

 

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HERCULES | SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | HERCULES (DWAYNE JOHNSON) AND HIS POSSE

 

But that is exactly this film’s point.  Hercules’s divinity is a key topic of contention.  Iolaus spreads tales of Hercules’s feats, making a specific point of not mentioning any of his group in the retelling.  Thus, the legend grows of a single man doing the impossible time and time again, and so, it is reasoned that he must be the son of Zeus.  However, the truth is that he is just a man, a strong and powerful man yes, but nothing more, because he is not a single all mighty being, he is one link of band of brothers chain that are greater than the sum of their parts.  Coupled with his mercenary lifestyle, this is a departure from the traditional vision of Hercules in cinema, and I for one approve.  It is not so far a change from the source that turned me off the character (as with Crowe’s portrayal of Noah in NOAH), but it is just enough to be interesting and refreshing.  Of course, Hercules is still massively impressive in his own right and when the chips are down and the lives of his friends depend on his god like strength, he throws that d20, rolls a critical hit, and proceeds to stomp his enemies into oblivion.

Johnson is the star and Johnson is the standout in this film.  Emotive when he needs to be, comical when it allows, and always blisteringly fierce in his presence.  The man has arms bigger than my torso and uses them impressively throughout the movie.  The film’s supporting cast are equally as solid in their portrayals, though with so many characters, we never really get a chance to know much about any but a few.

 

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HERCULES | SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | HERCULES (DWAYNE JOHNSON) ENMJOYING A SUNSET (OR RISE) IN HIS LION’S HEAD

 

The special effects are wonderful and hold up well in 3D.  Fire plays a big part in this film and I was very pleased to see it rendered so believably.  Either that or they actually lit large chunks of the set aflame, though I am tempted to think it was more likely quality CGI.

For all this film’s qualities, at the end of the day it has all been done before.  A fallen hero running from his past who finds peace and salvation at the last minute is a plot premise that has been done to death.  The action scenes, while entertaining, are also equally clichéd, with entire armies being dispatched by Hercules and his crew, while everyone else just wanders aimlessly, looking stupid and getting killed.  It was like watching a scene from AVENGERS, where the police and army just stand there and cheer while the heroes save the day.  I also have issue with Atalanta’s portrayal.  Not only does she own a Legolas style quiver that never seems to run out of arrows, but the leather mini skirt and boob tube that she wears into battle would offer about as much protection from war as an umbrella would in a tsunami.  Not every film needs to have obvious titillation, but if you must put sex appeal in then leave it to the tavern wenches and palace serving girls, and place the female warriors in damn armour!

 

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HERCULES | SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | HERCULES (DWAYNE JOHNSON) IN BATTLE

 

In addition, the story itself, while engaging, could have been so much more.  In classical myth, Hercules is most famous for completing twelve specific labours, among them killing the impervious Nemean Lion, slaying the Lernaean Hydra, and capturing the three headed dog and guardian of the underworld Cerberus.  Now that sounds like an entertaining storyline to me!  Instead, we get the same old tale of war between two nations that could easily have featured any character in history or fiction as the protagonist.  Though fun to watch, there was just nothing very herculean about this movie.

While still serious in form, HERCULES is a light action film, with a decent amount of comic relief to temper the harsher points.  Solid acting, beautiful special effects, and entertaining combat will keep audiences members enthralled throughout the film.  Unlike its predecessor THE LEGEND OF HERCULES, this is a wonderful film worthy of addition to the Hercules hall of cinematic fame.  Be sure to stay throughout the credits to see how Hercules really achieved all those feats attributed to him.

 

3 and a Half Pops