Director: Brett Ratner
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Rebecca Ferguson
Release Date (US): 27th July, 2014
Company: Paramount Pictures
“I am Hercules!” –
The Rock Hercules
Directed by Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand), Hercules is the second of two movies this year to feature the heroic son of Zeus. Starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (Fast & Furious 6) in the titular role, this interpretation focuses on the man behind the myth. Aided by a small group of loyal companions, Hercules is a mercenary, fighting for gold after the loss of his family. Nearing retirement, he accepts one final commission: to help train the armies of Thrace and defend the region from a bloodthirsty warlord.
In a somewhat unique twist, Ratner’s interpretation never focuses on the demigod’s tales and labours – but rather attempts to humanise him as brave but most definitely mortal warrior. It’s an interesting idea, and may also help make the protagonist more relatable to mainstream audiences, but with the wealth of CGI at the director’s disposal, you can’t help but question whether making this film so ‘serious’ was an opportunity missed.
Had the narrative been more airtight, this rather metaphorical take on the myth of Hercules may have worked well, potentially even coming across as inventive. However, a bland and generic script, cobbled together by Ryan Condal & Evan Spiliotopoulos, plays out just the same as any other clichéd 300 rip-off. There’s a case that Hercules would have been far better off as a dumb, fun fantasy film – myths, labours, gods and all.
“If you’re lucky, you’ll go to Hades where all the fun people are.” – Autolycus
Whether you like it or not, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is undisputedly one of the biggest stars on the planet at the moment – and he delivers another energetic leading performance here. Physically imposing, he’s a perfect fit for Hercules, also able to add heart to his performance when needed. However, the character lacks the fun and tongue-in-cheek tone that made Johnson so fun to watch in the Fast & Furious franchise.
Sadly, the supporting cast fades away a little to the background. The jury’s still out on Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen), who is unconvincing at best, while veterans John Hurt (Snowpiercer) and Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare In Love) barely get any screen time at all. Ian McShane (Deadwood) is clearly having a blast, but the real highlight is Rufus Sewell (Tristan & Isolde)’s snarky Autolycus, who adds some much needed levity to a movie that is clearly taking itself far too seriously for its own good.
Direction & Tone
Brett Ratner is a director who tends to polarise his audience. Many people are still bemoaning what he did to the X-Men franchise. What his movies lack in quality they usually make up in fun – but that’s something that’s sorely lacking here. For the most part, Hercules is dull, dry and especially bland whenever Sewell’s not on screen. It takes itself too seriously, and, as a result, ends up sorely lacking in entertainment value.
- I guess Brett Ratner is just a watered down version of Michael Bay. Similarly untalented, yet also knows what blockbuster audiences want, with a penchant for screwing up a beloved geek franchise…
- A lot of criticism in the lead-up to this movie centred around the original comics’ writer Steve Moore, whose source material was drastically altered and never fully compensated. To add further insult, Moore died, prompting Paramount to begin using his raised profiled to promote the film. That’s pretty low.
- “You want forgiveness. Ask my family for forgiveness!” – As expected, the dialogue in this movie is criminally poor, and The Rock delivers it with distinction.
- Despite two new live-action ‘Hercules’ movies being released this year, neither one comes anywhere close to matching the truly excellent Disney animated 1997 version.
While disappointing, Brett Ratner’s uninspired and often dull interpretation of the Hercules myth is still a million times better than The Legend Of Hercules. The Rock adds energy, and Rufus Sewell consistently amuses, but there’s nothing new or exciting here.