Movie Review: “Hercules” – Not Legendary

Written by Caitlin Cooper August 16, 2014

Hercules

Films which cover the legendary characters from Greek mythology are a popular genre. In the last four years, there’s been a high volume of such movies with 2010’s “Clash of the Titans”, its sequel “Wrath of the Titans” released in 2012, and 2011’s “Immortals”. In January of this year, there was even a movie about Hercules (“The Legend of Hercules”). So what can yet another film about Greek mythology, and Hercules in particular, offer that hasn’t already been done?

 

“Hercules” tells the tale of the legendary demigod (Dwayne Johnson) whose life has been spent completing twelve labors in order to prove himself worthy of his blood. After a tragic incident, he becomes a mercenary who is eventually hired by the King of Thrace to end the treachery of a warlord bent on wreaking havoc across Greece. But is Hercules the man from the legend or is he a mere mortal with great strength and a hood made out of a lion’s head? The film aims to have top action with the strong demigod battling foes.

“Let the people have their hero.”

The Hercules in this film is not one we’ve seen done in the recent plethora of Greek mythological films. He doesn’t appear to have any powers except for strength, and he never has any contact with the gods. His legend is further undermined by the script’s teasing. We’re told again and again that he completed twelve tasks which no ordinary man could have done, but it becomes increasingly obvious that these tales are just tales told by people like Hercules’ nephew, Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). Even the army which Hercules trains for battle is doubtful of his heritage. Indeed, twice when Hercules thinks he’ll be facing a mythological creature, it turns out that screenplay writers Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopolous are poking fun at the expectations that come with the legend of Hercules. The film is deliberately ambiguous as to whether or not Hercules is really Zeus’ son; their intention to subvert the tale of demigod Hercules actually just creates a bit of a lazy mythology.

Hercules

A movie that’s pitched as mainly being an action flick should obviously be pretty fight-scene heavy. “Hercules”, however, is not what the trailer depicts. There are actions scenes, but they are few. This decision was probably to allow the plot room to progress, but since the plot is rather lacking, there better be something to keep my attention. For the most part, the battles are a joke because Hercules is never really in mortal danger. Aside from these issues, the action is fairly well done. Female warrior Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) is a pretty fierce fighter (though she’s unfortunately been given a rather cliched small uniform). She never misses the mark, and saves the lives of her comrades more than once, Hercules included. I must say that the battle tactics by the enemy and by Hercules are smart, so that makes for interesting battles.

“You have it within yourselves to write your own legends.”

“Hercules” tries to add depth to the plot by introducing a dark history for our hero, and by pulling a few surprises here and there. Some minor characters bring a little heart to the story such as Iolaus, a storyteller who wishes to be more than a man of words, and Arius (Isaac Andrews), a young boy who looks up to Hercules and whose life is more entwined with the plot than we were originally led to believe. We’re also given some back story for each of Hercules’ comrades which explains their connection to him (he saved them all in various ways). Such aspects created interest in an otherwise underwhelming plot and gave us characters to root for.

Hercules

The saving grace of “Hercules” is the unexpected comedic touch. This film really plays with the expectations of the audience. When someone says they’ll be facing an army of mythological creatures, we’re shown the creatures…are actually men in convenient shadows. We’re also given two characters whose primary purpose is comic relief. Self-proclaimed prophet Amphiaraus (Ian McShane) is usually wrong, and often becomes disgruntled when what he foresees is thwarted which makes for some funny one-liners. Iolaus (Ritchie) is the more consistent comic relief because he likes to weave ridiculous tales of Hercules’ past triumphs. He’s quick on his feet when listeners doubt him, but each answer to their questions becomes more and more silly. Honestly, the comedy was probably the best part of “Hercules”.

Overall, “Hercules” tries to subvert the legendary tale, but ultimately presents a rather underwhelming plot with little to root for since our hero is apparently unbeatable. Aside from that, the action scenes can be pretty cool and the comedy adds just enough fun to make this an entertaining film.

My Rating: 6/10

Hercules

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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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