I imagine the casting meeting for Hercules as being the quickest meeting of all time. One look at Dwayne Johnson, and it’s obvious that he was born to play the role of the legendary muscle man. As big as he already is, Johnson still had lots of preparation to commit to in order to play a convincing Hercules. For the most part, it all paid off. Johnson is known for being the biggest guy in the room. Even compared to Vin Diesel he is a bulldozer. Hercules may be the film that finally puts him on the map as one of this generation’s defining action heroes. If this role doesn’t do it, I’m not sure what will.
Brett Ratner’s Hercules (not to be confused with The Legend of Hercules which opened early this year) is based off of the graphic novel, Hercules: The Thracian Wars, written by Steve Moore. It follows the Greek demigod (Johnson) and his faithful companions as they aid King Cotys of Thrace (John Hurt) and his daughter (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) in defeating an evil warlord who wants to conquer their land for himself. It’s an average-sounding epic with predictable story beats, but what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in style and fun.
With the disappointment that was X-Men: The Last Stand, I’m surprised a studio would let Ratner touch nothing another comic adaptation with a ten-foot pole, but he seems to stand out of the way and lets his talented principles carry the show. In fact, the direction is the weakest part about the film. While exciting things are happening, it doesn’t seem to have a clear sense of where it’s going until the very last minute. Going in, I was relieved that the film only clocked in at 98 minutes, but I left wishing it could have been just a bit longer so that more time could have been spent filling in the holes punched in the half-cooked mythology and the villain’s master plan.
Though Johnson and Hurt help carry the film, the supporting cast is a bit of a let-down. I had hoped that talented actors like Rufus Sewell and Ian McShane would be given a chance to do a bit more. Instead, they crack one-liners and basically wear name tags that say, “Hello, my name is Sidekick #2.”
Luckily, the film excels where audience members buying a ticket will want it to. The battle scenes are chock full of fun and creativity, almost guaranteed to put a smile on any action lovers face’s. I personally had a blast watching Hercules clobber warrior after warrior as if they were made of paper and he was a rock. The fights with the mythical creatures as part of the tale, while brief, also provide the entertaining CGI moments that one has come to expect from summer blockbusters.
At the end of the day, I can’t imagine people willing to buying a ticket for this being disappointed. It may have plenty of flaws overall, but it delivers exactly what it promises. The result is a film of which I can’t exactly recommend one rush out and see right away, but when one does decide to give it a shot (be it at the theaters or via Netflix or Redbox), I think you’ll be surprised by how entertaining Hercules actually is.
Director: Brett Ratner
Writers: Ryan Condal, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Rufus Swell, Ingrid Bolso Berdal
Release Date: July 25, 2014