Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
The challenge for Dwayne Johnson and director Brent Ratner, I guess, would be if they could turn out a better Hercules film than the one that Kellen Lutz and director Renny Harlin turned in earlier this year.  If this was a blind bet taken before either movie came out, I would've put my money on Renny Harlin… I mean the guy did make Deep Blue Sea and Cliff Hanger, albeit that was a virtual lifetime ago.  Unfortunately, if I took that bet I'd be out a few bucks because Harlin's 'The Legend of Hercules' was awful.  So there wasn't much of challenge to be better than that movie.  But standing on it's own… this version of Hercules was pretty okay.

The warm, comforting tones of Ian McShane as the sage Amphiaraus will narrate for us on the myth of Hercules, a man allegedly born of a union between the god Zeus and some really hot woman.  Seriously, I don't know who that woman was they got to do that one scene playing Hercules mom, but she was distracting.  Here's the thing about the myth of Hercules though, in this particular time, it's just myth.

Sure, in the current time that this movie is set in, young Iolaus (Reese Ritchie) is telling some miscreants the tales of how Hercules single handedly took down the Erymanthian Boar or the Nemean Lion, and yes, it does look like when Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) shows up on the scene he wipes out most of these miscreants with a single blow from his mighty spiked stick… but unseen are The Crew of Hercules who are helping sell this myth, because once you get into the enemies head, the battle is half won.

The Hercules that we know, while plenty strong, is little more than a mercenary, doing jobs for the highest bidder while attempting to suppress some great pain that he hides inside.  Even his trusted crew doesn't exactly know the truth of the Pain of Hercules, which kind of doesn't make sense since his most trusted friend, Autolycus the Handsome (Rufus Sewell) tells the story of how he and Hercules were raised together as boys, so if anybody should know, you would think he does… but this version of Hercules really doesn't encourage much critical thought so put all that to the side.
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On this particular day, Hercules has been swayed by the beautiful Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) to work for her father Lord Cotys (John Hurt) to eradicate Rhesus, the scourge of Thrace.  For the price of his weight in gold, and that's a lotta gold to be sure, Hercules will train these scattershot men of Lord Cotys to do battle Rhesus and his warriors of legend, which is thought to even contain minotaurs.  But that's not possible, because none of these myths are real, right?

Hercules and his crew will train these men, and they will train them well… but alas… all is not what it seems.   When is it ever?  Our hero will have to dig deep into the recesses of his mind to slay his final labor, to discover the demigod inside of him… or not because who knows… to make things right.

Somewhat based on the comic book by the late Steven Moore, which is a bit of messy situation since Mr. Moore was not too happy with this movie or the fact that he received no remuneration from this film… but that's another story… 'Hercules' 2014, more likely due to my rapid aging process, illustrates what I like and what I don't care for as much in these modern action films.  For instance, for the first half of this film I was completely engrossed in the narrative as it was something of a character study with action slotted to keep things interesting for those who need that kind of thing to keep them awake.  By turning Hercules into a regular dude… a freakishly strong regular dude… freakish… it makes him semi-relatable.  Only semi because he's still almost invincible, but he does still suffer from the same issues that most of us non-demigods have to deal with on a daily basis.  It also helps to have some high quality actors in support of this quasi character study such as John Hurt, Rufus Sewell, Ian McShane, Joseph Fiennes in a bit of a wasted role as a slimy king and of course Dwayne Johnson as the lead.  Mr. Johnson should be quite pleased with his place in the business today for while there are a number of people who could pull of this role physically, and a number of people who could pull of the role emotionally, the number of actors who can do both is pretty slim.  He happens to be one of them.  Heck if I know another one at the moment.  Regardless, the first part of the film spending time with the characters, setting up the story, dealing with Hercules and his various issues and his relationship with the crew was satisfying for me.

The second half, more so the last act when it became a typical action picture, this I found less satisfying.  The all out action was decent I guess, but it was still somewhat repetitive, predictable, ridiculous and a little stupid.  Up until that point, with a few exceptions here and there, 'Hercules' had done a pretty good job of not being too terribly stupid, even clever in some parts, but all that goes away by the time we get to the action filled finale.

Regardless, I thought Lou Ferrigno closed the book on Hercules back in 1983, still easily near the very top of one of the wackiest movies ever made.  This version, was even better than that, and believe me when I tell you, that's no simple feat.
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