Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson stars in this revisionist take on the Greek demigod. Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Tower Heist, and X-MEN: THE LAST STAND) directs this action epic that seeks to answer the question nobody has ever cared to ask: does Hercules really possess supernatural strength or is he just an ancient celebrity?
The answer is both… kind of. Johnson already has supernatural strength, never mind Hercules, but that’s the only supernatural thing in this movie, which leads me to the most important thing you should know.
THE TRAILER IS A LIE! HERCULES is not set in a mythical world – at least not the kind with giant monsters. In this world, Hercules’ exploits were exaggerated by his fellow group of warriors to build his reputation and improve their business as mercenaries for hire. That means that all of those cool beasties he battles in the trailer never really existed in the first place and new ones won’t be showing up either.
Misleading? Yes. False advertising? I’d say so. But it’s not the end of the world. I kind of like the idea of grounding Greek Myths in reality as long as it’s witty. Let me save you 98 minutes. It’s not. IMDB tells me that one of the writers is known for Lion King 1 ½ so take that for what it’s worth. Despite making a huge change to Hercules by making him mortal, the movie doesn’t explore this side of the character at all.
HERCULES needed to be a whole lot funnier. He’s the plainest kind of protagonist: he’s strong, brave, and a really nice guy. If he really is just a mortal, shouldn’t he doubt himself at least a little bit? There are a million opportunities to be funny with a story like this but there’s nothing clever or subversive besides the premise. The jokes are cheesy and the dialogue falls flat constantly. Never mind John Hurt and Joseph Fiennes being underused (or just plain wrong for the movie) but Johnson – one of the most likeable, charismatic, strongmen in Hollywood – isn’t even given anything good to say.
The characters rounding out his team of mercenaries are nothing but walking, talking clichés: There’s the weakling who wants to be a fighter,
The badass babe/bow and arrow master,
The dude who says he’s all about the money but has a heart of gold
And the person who hasn’t spoken a single word since ____ then says ____ at just the right moment. Ian McShane is the one small highlight as Amphiaraus, a warrior who’s foreseen his own death so he doesn’t fear battle.
There’s plenty of action but nothing all that thrilling. You mostly bounce back and forth between shots of real actors and computer-generated crowds of soldiers that resemble living dolls more than warriors. Grounding HERCULES in the real world makes for less of an effects-driven flick, but, if anything, HERCULES should be an effects-driven movie. The fact that the most memorable scenes were included in the trailer is a testament to that.
For a story about the most famous tough guy of all time, HERCULES is really weak.