Is it crazy to say that Brett Ratner has given us the best Hercules movie of the year? Personally, I think it’s crazy to say that we’ve even gotten more than one Hercules movie in a single year. Why does Hollywood insist on reviving the same concepts over and over again? It doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon, so all we have to do is sit back and watch these things and see just how bad they are. After The Legend of Hercules back in January, I think the entire community of moviegoers could say without a shadow of a doubt that Hercules, while cheesy and over to the top, would be better than it. And you know what? Not only is it better, but it’s also kinda fun.
Based on the graphic novel by Steve Moore, Hercules tells the classic tale of Hercules, but brings a few twists and turns along the way to make it stand out, even if it isn’t by much. If it being based on a graphic novel and twisting a classic story around to bring an entertainment factor reminds you of Noah, that’s because it is like Noah. I think Darren Aronofsky’s take on the biblical flood epic was a much better film, but in its own right, Hercules is more entertaining than I would have ever predicted. Ratner’s film finds our hero as an adult (big, bulky, and brawny Dwayne Johnson looking like a literal rock) and a sort of outcast after being believed to have killed his wife and son. He is traveling with a group of warriors, scouting for gold. When The King of Thrace (an excellent John Hurt) asks him to save his land from rebels, Hercules finds himself and his group at a crossroads of what is right and what is wrong. Oh, and there are some battle scenes with death and stuff. Duh.
But let’s take a step back. Picture this: You’re walking into the theater and beside you there is a poster of Hercules. Dwayne Johnson is enormous and holding a weapon, screaming, every vein protruding from his body. The poster says “Hercules” in stylized lettering ripped straight from the comic its based on. You see “A Brett Ratner Film.” What do you expect? Do you walk into this saying, “They had better nail every aspect of the mythology of the character and the have references to the Disney film and…” No. You don’t. You expect big budget action scenes and fun set pieces. You expect Dwayne Johnson to yell loudly and behead animals and people. You expect arrows to fly. And with Hercules, you get all of that. Johnson doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking in his performance (though he does literally break the ground in the third act), but he is a great pick for this role because… well, he’s huge! He looks monstrously big in this movie and he continues to wow me with every movie. He just can’t be small like the rest of us and it makes me feel insignificant. But that’s okay. John Hurt does give a nice performance as The King of Thrace, a character who goes places I didn’t expect. Another character that had a surprising story element was that of Joseph Fiennes. His character culminates in the third act and it was very surprising and brought the movie up a notch.
Also praiseworthy is the direction from Brett Ratner. I know, he made X-Men: The Last Stand, but let’s try to forgive and forget. Don’t get me wrong though, I am not defending Ratner. I can’t think of any film he’s made that I’ve loved. However, with Hercules, he delivers exactly what the movie needs. And sometimes, what it doesn’t need. Which I’ll get to in a minute. As far as the look of the film, it’s good. There are a few battle sequences scattered throughout the first two acts that were very cool to watch on screen. When arrows were flying and armies were commencing and the camera was hovering over the lot, it did feel a bit like Ratner wanted to be like Peter Jackson, but I can’t deny that it looked good. Something I did admire about the film was the way it handled the Greek Mythology. Without giving away spoilers, I will only only say that the mythology is present, but it also presents Hercules as a man more than a god. It was very interesting to me. Also, I just can’t get over how cool Hercules looked with the Lion skin over his head. Johnson rocked it.
On the opposite side, Hercules has its problems. First of all, at 98 minutes, it’s too talky. There are crucial story elements, sure. But there I felt that a lot of the dialogue (in the first act especially) was too long and too boring. Just characters being introduced to other characters and telling them who they are and what they’ve done and blah blah blah. Another thing, it’s Hercules. It’s a big and somewhat dumb action movie, as could be expected. Battle sequences exist just to exist and for a movie like this, I guess you could say that’s okay, but it definitely doesn’t make the movie “great” just because you weren’t expecting any more. Also, despite having a nice twist at the end, the movie isn’t original and there really isn’t anything that makes this movie a defining new take on the character.
But I have to say, going into Hercules I expected a terrible, cheesy action movie. It’s cheesy at times, a bit too talky, and unoriginal. But it’s better than it could have been. It’s better than it should have been. In this world of unnecessary reboots and remakes and re-imaginings, we have to take what we get. Hercules isn’t great, nor is it really good, but it’s a decent surprise.
Hercules (2014) Rated PG-13 for epic battle sequences, violence, suggestive comments, brief strong language and partial nudity Cast: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Joseph Fiennes Writers: Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliottopoulos Director: Brett Ratner