Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hercules (2014) Review

In “Hercules,” director Brett Ratner really wants you to know that it’s about Hercules. And he keeps letting you know that all throughout. In fact the movie is ninety-eight minutes of people being blown away by Hercules.

Is that Hercules?

Oh my god, that’s Hercules!

Hooray for Hercules!

You can’t stop the mighty Hercules!


Hercules, Hercules, Hercules!

In all seriousness though, “Hercules” is an awful, utterly pointless retelling of the Greek legend and what’s most frustrating about it is that it thinks it’s doing something different. In this new version, you see, Ratner and his crew want to tell us the “real” story of Hercules. Hercules isn’t the son of Zeus; he didn’t fight a super strong lion or a three-headed dragon. He’s not immortal. So then who is he? He’s a common mercenary with a set of really good publicists. He’s mortal. And through storytelling and much much exaggeration he’s been boosted to legend status.

The problem is, when you eliminate the mythology part of Hercules’ character and don’t add any ‘human’ depth to him you’re left with just another “mercenary with a sword” (well in Hercules’ case, a wooden club. Along with his regular non mythological lion hide he looks more like Homo Habilis) that has nothing going for him other than he’s like a good guy and stuff. Ratner eliminates the only compelling and unique qualities the character has. On top of that, Hercules doesn’t need to be a demigod for us to know that he will inevitably kick ass. It’s Hercules! Of course he will destroy everyone that challenges him. So there’s no point in trying to normalize him. It’s similar to what happened when Ridley Scott thought it would be a good idea to show us what Robin was like before the Hood in “Robin Hood” (2010) and ended up making another Sandals and Swords feature in which Russell Crowe played another generic warrior with dirt on his face.

In a not so surprising move, Ratner has cast Dwayne Johnson (with bigger juicer biceps than normal) as the titular demigod—er, I mean, the totally normal every-warrior. It’s perfect casting, therefore bad casting. If you’re going to do a retelling of Hercules than you probably shouldn’t cast the jacked up ex wrestler/human action figure in the lead role. As usual, Johnson doesn’t act as much as just stand there and look tough…and hit men with a club. So basically we’ve got a non actor playing a hollow protagonist. But hey, he has big bulging muscles. And he’s tan. That’s something, right?

As far as the rest of the movie is concerned there’s not much to say. The plot is as generic and unpredictable as it could possibly be. Another good way to retell a story. Friends are made, enemies are made. Enemies become friends, friends become enemies and battles are fought. You better belive battles are fought, in fact there are two big tedious battles back to back to close out the movie. Along with three pre battle speeches delivered by the man himself.

There aren’t any Dragons or Centaurs, however the movie could of used some to liven things up. In addition the picture is populated by supporting characters as bland and one note as Hercules himself, including his merry band of mercenary friends who just think he’s the best guy ever. And finally there’s CGI that goes from mediocre to straight up horrendous looking (a wall of fire that blazes during the final battle and somehow engulfs a stone temple).

Perhaps the most surprising thing about “Hercules” is that it’s not the worst Hercules movie to come out this year. Renny Harlin’s “The Legend of Hercules” barely gets that award, only because Ratner’s “Hercules” manages to poke some fun at itself and show self awareness at times (although for some reason near the end it decides to get serious and collapses into unintentional stupidity), whereas Harlin’s decided to take itself completely serious and the CGI is even worse.

Sadly, that’s the only praise I can give Ratner’s picture.

Boy, it’s been a rough year for the muscly super Greek hasn’t it?


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