Directed By: Brett Ratner
Written By: Ryan Condal, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane
Let’s begin by mentioning the obvious, you don’t go into a Brett Ratner directed flick looking for Oscar worthy entertainment. You also don’t go into a film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson looking for top-notch acting either. You go strictly for slightly mindless entertainment and popcorn movie fanfare. My advice is to make sure your expectations are realistic before viewing. This is the second release of 2014 centered around the hero of Greek mythology. Admittedly, I refused to view the earlier release, The Legend of Hercules, in anticipation of Ratner’s effort. As excited as I was, I had no idea Hercules would be a different take on the tale. I was actually prepared to see just another take on the famous 12 labors of Hercules. It’s based on the graphic novel titled Hercules: The Thracian Wars. I won’t go into heavy detail as I rather leave an element of surprise for those who aren’t aware of the complete story.
The 12 labors of Hercules are beautifully explained in the first several minutes of the feature, before getting to the actual plot. The Greek demigod is accompanied by a team consisting of three other warriors and a story-teller, who also happens to be his nephew. Each member of Hercules’ team carries their share of the load well in this film, but it’s Tydeus, played by Aksel Hennie, who steals the show on several occasions. This is most impressive because he doesn’t have a single line of dialogue the entire movie. How is that for screen presence?
The true beauty of Hercules is that it knows exactly what it is and plays through accordingly. There are countless laugh out loud moments, even in the middle of intense action. One of the most notable moments is when Hercules’ nephew and story-teller, Iolaus, mentions he wants to title their adventures, “The Legend of Hercules”. Hercules then takes a jab at this year’s earlier release by replying, “eh, sounds like a bore.”. That spirit of humor and self-awareness is displayed throughout the feature. A bit of information that may make some scenes funnier to you: Dwayne Johnson’s hair is actually a wig made of hair collected from the testicles of yaks.
Although the film never takes itself too seriously, the story harbors enough character depth and development to keep the audience attached to the protagonists’ plight. About the first 75% of Hercules is a story of battle and victory. From there, it briefly transforms into a revenge tale. This format worked immensely, in my opinion. Once the movie hit the climatic turning point, I actually found myself yelling at the screen. I find it rare that I cheer for the hero in today’s breed of action flicks, so that moment was as refreshing to me as it was surprising.
Hercules boasts beautifully shot battle sequences, some of the most crisp and intricate 3D effects to date, and a great balance between humor and action. This film was nearly enough to allow me to forgive Ratner for X-men: The Last Stand(I said almost). It also harbors a great message about only being as powerful as you believe you are. Without a doubt, some of the most fun I’ve had at the theater this year.