Directed by Brett Ratner Starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Reece Ritchie, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Aksel Hennie and… well, a whole mess of people
Hercules (Johnson) is a legend in his own lifetime; the son of Zeus, slayer of monsters, and now a sword for hire… for the right cause. He travels with his prodigiously skilled companions, a best of list of supporting heroes: Amazon archer Atalanta (Berdal), knife-man Autolycus (Sewell), war-scarred berserk Tydeus (Hennie), Amphiaraus (McShane) the hardest seer in all Greece, and Hercules’ nephew Iolaus (Ritchie), who tells the stories. Hired by the King of Thrace (Hurt) to bring down a rebel, they turn a band of farmers into an army, matching their myth-making against a cavalry force who convince their enemies they are centaurs. But Hercules has his ghosts, and he is a man that empires would follow, and that sort of man is guaranteed to fall out with kings.
What’s wrong with it?
Hercules is directed by Brett Ratner, of X-Men: The Last Stand infamy, and Rush Hour 1-3. It’s basically The Expendables if it was set in classical Greece with a bunch of European b-listers in place of the great action heroes of the 80s. There is no way this film ever had a chance of working.
Atalanta’s skimpy battle armour is a bit… well, I would say a bit much, but a bit little.
What’s right with it?
And yet, it is fucking glorious!
Come on; it’s The Expendables in classical Greece, with John Hurt and Rufus Sewell and Ian McShane as a crazy battle seer, and Joseph Fiennes popping in as the weak king of Athens that you know is going to show up later ’cause, hey, Joe Fiennes right?
I don’t forgive Brett Ratner for X-Men III, but I’m happy to say that he’s paid his dues now.
Even the end credits are awesome, showing the ‘real’ story of some of the labours, with Team Hercules working together to bring down monsters which are less supernatural than they at first appear.
How bad is it really?
Best bit (if such there is)?
Amphiaraus stands ready to receive the flaming spear he has forseen will kill him, but Hercule catches it.
Amphiaraus: Excuse me! That was my moment! My fate! Hercules: You’re welcome.
What’s up with…?
The film’s wishy-washy attitude to gods? Amphiaraus seems to genuinely see the future, and Hercules is supernaturally strong, yet the demigod rumours are firmly poo-pooed.
Atalanta’s battlekini? The rest of the costumes maintain a pretty consistent feel of classical Greece, but she gets two bits of leather. In the film’s defence, she does nonetheless get to kick actual arse and even pull out some saves on Herc, rather than going all damsel.
King Eurystheus’ pack of wolves? They’re there to tie to Hercues’ Cerberus visions, but it’s a wicked overcomplicated way to bump off someone’s family.
Production values – Pretty top drawer, really. The scenes of the legends have pretty impressive monsters, even if they are then shown to have been less than supernatural. 4 Dialogue and performances – Aside from a slightly cheesy ‘we’re family’ moment, the dialogue is pretty good, and the cast… The weakest is Berdal, and a couple of Thracian officers for whom English is not the first language, but even so it’s nothing dire. 7 Plot and execution –Hercules tells a coherent, consistent story, with stakes and consequences and everything. A couple of scenes are kind of cookie cutter (Hero gets mad at the boss; check. Heroes get captured and taunted; check) but it holds together nicely. 5 Randomness – For a film that is basically as mad as a bowl of cuckoo’s nest soup, Hercules keeps its crazy in check well. One bonus point for mentioning steel in the Bronze Age. 4 Waste of potential – By all indicators, this should have been complete shite. 2
Well… this is embarrassing. Apparently this film isn’t bad enough to go on the Bad Movie Marathon. I guess I should take it down in case the boss… Oh, wait! I am the boss! I guess it stays!