Saturday 26 July 2014

Film Review: Hercules

"Hercules? Honey, you mean Hunkules!"

A film about Hercules starring Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and directed by Brett Ratner. If ever there was a recipe for movie disaster, this was it. 

Hardly surprising then, that Hercules is kinda lame. It's not (demi) god-awful, but it also isn't as good as it could've been.

Hercules is a movie by Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand) about Ancient Greek legend, Hercules (duh). The titular character is played by Dwayne Johnson and the supporting cast includes Ian McShane and John Hurt.

The story follows our hero several years after he has completed the many 'trials' the God set him, and he is working as a mercenary to earn the money to live out his life by the sea. However, he and his team take on a contract with Lord Cotys of Thrace (Hurt), whose lands are being terrorised by a mysterious centaur army.

First off, it is important to note that this is a very silly movie - it doesn't strive to be the latest Gladiator or Ben Hur (but then why are we not surprised?). Instead, the movie concerns itself with being simple, entertaining summer fun, thin on character but thick on action and hilarious spills.

The only thing is, I didn't find this movie particularly funny. At least, not the same way something like The Mummy is funny. The Rock brings a bucket load of charm and charisma to the party, but the script doesn't dazzle with joke after joke after joke. There was a smattering of laughter here and there, but it could have been a lot better.

This is probably because the movie is tonally uneven at times, indecisive on whether it wants to be a straight-up family film (again, I draw your attention to The Mummy) or a more serious, fiery ancient epic. For example, there is a point where one character is stood, arms open accepting his approaching death, only for Hercules to pluck the oncoming arrow out of midair to save his life; goofy, right? What about when the heroes ride through an army of enemies on chariots, slicing their backs open with gigantic swords. Err, are we supposed to cheer or laugh?

Hakuna Matata?
There is also a point where the Rock literally throws a horse over his shoulder to defeat an enemy before turning around an uttering a soon to be classic one-liner, "Fucking centaurs". Hahaha...? Not exactly the kind of thing you'd take your 8-year-old to see. I mean, he just threw...a horse...through the air...

There's also dark twist to the film concerning Hercules' past that is unexpected (given what we saw in the trailer), and this backstory is revealed to us in creepy flashes and blood spatters. The end result is a movie too dark at times to be a straight-up romp, but way too silly to be anything serious as well.

Some of the plot also felt quite forced, with one of Hercules' friends determined to leave and take his money mid-way through the film even though it was completely out of character. Of course, it's shoehorned into the plot so that he may come back later at a crucial juncture (Han Solo-style) and everyone is supposed to act surprised.

The action is a redeeming factor, with the battle sequences being well directed and framed by Ratner. A big plus factor is the fact that the movie actually makes a point to focus on not just Hercules. The film tells us that his legend is upheld by the combined efforts of a whole team, with Hercules being the poster boy who must realise his own legend. This means that the action sequences are varied, with each of the team getting their moment in the sun.

It did kind of bug me that the casting of the supporting characters was really off however - Norwegian actress Ingrid Bolso Berdal plays an 'Amazonian warrior princess' with sorta Elvish ginger hair, skin as pale as the moon, bright blue eyes and freckles. And a bow and arrow. Totally Amazonian amirite?

Tobias Santelmann (also Norwegian) plays Thracian warlord Rhesus, whilst Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson plays Ergenia, a Greek princess. Meanwhile, Russian Sports Illustrated model Irina Shayk plays Hercules' wife Megara. Now, I'm not usually one to complain about whitewashing films set in Ancient time periods, but this one sort of stuck out like a sore thumb. Seriously, why cast tons of Scandinavian people in a movie set in Ancient Greece? It doesn't make any sense. Was there really any reason to casting Shayk other than having her flash her ass at the camera? Nope, and the movie doesn't care that you know that.

Also, the supporting characters have really throwaway names that are hard to catch, so I found myself just referring to them as 'the Amazonian chick', 'the crazy mute guy', 'the young one', 'the bearded one' and 'the Ian McShaney wisecracking one'. They all play important roles, but are somewhat forgettable.

Also, for a film set in Ancient Greece, this movie is surprisingly devoid of any Gods or mythical beings. Sure, we get a Hydra at the start, but where is Zeus? Where's Olympus, or Hades and Tarturus? I can't have been the only person expecting an epic journey akin to Clash of the Titans. Instead, we get a brief prologue that only hints at Hercules' parentage.

If you're looking for a fun way to kill two hours, consider Hercules. It's entertaining enough to fill a vacant Saturday afternoon. But if I'm honest, I'd still rather watch the Disney animated version...

The Verdict: 5/10

Hercules is a fun but forgettable film chock full of sword swinging and horse flinging action. I guarantee I won't be giving it a second thought this time next week. It isn't the disaster everyone expected, but since when is that a compliment?


  1. Now I want to see this just for the "fucking centaurs" scene. That sounds glorious. lol

    This one seems more fun than the other Hercules movie that was out this year, but I'm bias for The Rock. Great review!

    1. It was pretty bonkers, I'll be honest. Extra points right there! I didn't see the other Hercules movie this year, I read a lot of stinking reviews :) Thanks for commenting Brittani!

  2. Like I said on another site, glad it's not complete crap, but I'm not rushing out to buy a ticket, either.

    1. Maybe wait for the DVD then? I'd agree on the whole 'not rushing out' idea, but its worth seeing if there is little else on. I'd still rather watch this than Transformers or Sex Tape ;)

  3. Good review. Wasn't perfect, but definitely better than I expected it to be. Especially since it was just fun.

    1. It was fun wasn't it? :) Probably owing to the Rock's popularity! Thanks for commenting Dan! :)

  4. I haven't seen this one, and I'm not sure I will, but at least it sounds like it's better than the mighty dump that was The Legend of Hercules from earlier this year...

    1. I bypassed Legend of Hercules and judging by your review, I'm pretty glad I did :) Thanks for commenting Zach!

  5. If you like these mythology type action movies and don't expect it to be award winning, it is a good action flick.

    1. Pretty well said Thomas - most of my main complaints were with the cast :) Thanks for commenting!



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