By the gods! The mighty Hercules in ancient Greece was the then equivalent to today’s superheroes. It’s been debated for a while on whether or not a real Hercules existed, but the legend certainly kept him alive. The story is that Hercules was the son of the king of the Gods, Zeus. He lived as a mortal as he slayed many beasts that gave him his reputation as a demigod or a half god. He’s been the subject of many artifacts found by archeologists and has appeared on many works of art related to the Greeks.
Now what I know about Hercules I learned from school. I have not seen any of the Italian adaptations nor did I catch The Legend of Hercules from earlier this year. When I think of Hercules, I think about the Disney animated adaption from 1997. This is the only version I’ve seen and I liked it, even if it was artistically misguided. That said, the movie I’m reviewing is based off of the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars which gave the legend a full personality and his own journey of exploration to find his place on Earth. The adaptation by Brett Rather (the Rush Hour trilogy) translates it to a high action-packed Hercules.
If you think that our Greek hero will be fighting monsters and magical creatures, think again. This is a revisionist Hercules that tries to dispel everything that he’s done. This Hercules (played by Dwayne Johnson) fights along with a fellow group of hunters including a prophet (played by Ian McShane), a thief Autolycus, a warrior Tydeus, a female archer Atalanta, and a storyteller/P.R. guy Iolaus. The team helps establish Hercules’ reputation as the son of Zeus by playing up the factor that he fought mighty creatures that were actually ordinary animals or nonexistant. But Hercules is still powerful enough of a fighter that he can be no match for another person.
One day, Hercules is approached by Ergenia (played by Rebecca Ferguson) representing her father Lord Cotys, (played by John Hurt) who wants the legend to train his army for an upcoming battle. The group accepts the offer in exchange for their weight in gold as a reward. Hercules does his best to build up the strength of the men and wages war with an enemy general Rheseus. The battle proves victorious for Hercules, but he’s told later that this might have been a trick from Lord Cotys who has intentions on becoming an emperor of the Ancient World. The legend needs to prove the truth behind the name.
When you see the posters of a loin-clothed Dwayne Johnson fighting warriors, Hercules’ delivers exactly what you would expect out of that. The more movies I see Dwayne Johnson in, the more convinced I am that he’s the modern day Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s very charismatic and is a lot of fun to watch when he battles his enemies. Hercules reminded me of Conan the Barbarian minus the fantasy elements and campy performances.
Is the film as memorable as Conan? Unfortunately, what Hercules lacks is two things; interesting side characters and an exciting first act. I cannot remember the personalities of the sidekicks other then that they were good fighters. I don’t even think that they go through any kind of change. Ian McShane is the only one I liked as he got some good lines and of course John Hurt works great as the villain (any movie that guy touches turns to gold). Part of me felt that much of the first hour was filler for the second act. Not that it was bad, but when compared to the battles and climax finale, you’d wish that the whole project worked together.
I’ll give this three and a half paintings of Hercules out of five. It’s mindless entertainment, but something like this could have been a lot worse