MOVIE REVIEW: Hercules

By Patricia Hului
@pattbpseeds

WITH A CAPE MADE of a lion’s head, the recently released Hercules is not likely to start a new trend in the fashion industry.

Yes, Hercules is back again on the cinema screen, this time played by former WWE professional wrestler, The Rock.

I bet some of you might be going, “Not another Hercules movie!”, because how many times has Hollywood attempted to resurrect this demigod in the physique of an overly muscular bulky actor?

 

Hercules wearing the cape of the Nemean lion as he leads Lord Cotys' as yet untried army against Rhesus. Screencapture from Hercules Official Trailer (MGM, Paramount Pictures)

Hercules wearing the cape of the Nemean lion as he leads Lord Cotys’ as yet untried army against Rhesus. Screencapture from Hercules Official Trailer (MGM, Paramount Pictures)

 

Under the direction of Brent Ratner who also directed the Rush Hour film series and X-Men: The Last Stand, Paramount Pictures, this time MGM’s Hercules is based on the graphic novel ‘Hercules: The Thracian Wars’.

In this version of Hercules, the film starts by telling the legend of Hercules (Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock) which most of us are familiar with. Hercules, a half-God half mortal hero as a baby gleefully catches two snakes with his bare-hands just as he does according to Roman legend and repeated in Disney’s 1997 animation movie version.

While the trailer gave us a glimpse of Hercules battling the Lernaean hydra, Erymanthian boar and the Nemean lion, some might have expected the movie to show more of Hercules finishing the 12 labours depicted in The Bibliotheca, a compilation of myths and legends dating back to the first or second centuries.

 

Hercules fighting the Nemean lion as one of his 12 labours depicted in The Bibliotheca. Screencapture from Hercules Official Trailer (MGM, Paramount Pictures)

Hercules fighting the Nemean lion as one of his 12 labours depicted in The Bibliotheca. Screencapture from Hercules Official Trailer (MGM, Paramount Pictures)

 

If you were looking forward to watching Hercules complete his 12 labours, you’re going to be let down because what you see in the trailer only makes up a small part of the movie.

The plot picks up from how Hercules becomes the leader of a band of mercenaries.

His fellow mercenaries are fortune teller Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), the Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Tydeus (Aksel Hennie) and at times annoying storyteller Iolaus (Reece Ritchie) who is also Hercules’ nephew.

Then we have Ingrid Bolsø Berdal who plays archer Atalanta because a swords-and-sandals movie is better with a woman warrior. (Incidentally, Berdal, a Norwegian actress, makes you think whether she’s Nicole Kidman’s younger sister. The resemblance is a bit uncanny.)

 

Norwegian actress Ingrid Bolsø Berdal who plays Amazonian archer Atalanta. Screencapture from Hercules Official Trailer (MGM, Paramount Pictures)

Norwegian actress Ingrid Bolsø Berdal who plays Amazonian archer Atalanta. Screencapture from Hercules Official Trailer (MGM, Paramount Pictures)

 

Hercules and his gang are hired by Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguon) to help her father, Lord Cotys (John Hurt) to defend his kingdom of Thrace from Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann).

 

Rebecca Ferguson plays Lord Cotys' daughter Ergenia. Screencapture from Hercules Official Trailer (MGM, Paramount Pictures)

Rebecca Ferguson plays Lord Cotys’ daughter Ergenia. Screencapture from Hercules Official Trailer (MGM, Paramount Pictures)

 

After the war, only farmers and traders are left to make up Lord Cotys’ army. They are untrained and weak but with the help of Hercules, the army gets trained and ready for their war against Rhesus, who is fabled to have an army of centaurs fighting for him and has mysterious powers on his side.

It is described as an action/adventure movie, but the best action and adventure scenes only dominate the first half of the movie.

The action is mainly during the battle scenes with unexpected war strategies. Still, it is no 300 because the movie is not a bloodbath at all. A fair amount of blood is shed but there are hardly any moments that make you cringe so it is a pretty safe movie for those with haemophobia.

 

Lord Cotys played by John Hurt. Screencapture from Hercules Official Trailer (MGM, Paramount Pictures)

Lord Cotys played by John Hurt. Screencapture from Hercules Official Trailer (MGM, Paramount Pictures)

 

But with swinging clubs and spears piercing here and there, the PG13 rating should have some parents raising their eyebrows.

The last battle is a bit disappointing because the audience is already riled up for more after watching the first two battles which were more entertaining and heart-racing.

Plus, personally I was expecting more swords swinging and arrows shooting in the end but mainly what I got was a heavy-lifting event worthy of the Olympics.

What is an epic battle in a movie without a testosterone-filled battle cry? While most battle cries invoke your inner patriotism or killer instinct, Hercules’ battle cry sounds more like a motivational speech to boost self-esteem of those who are insecure. What on earth is that?

Speaking of the script, a few lines in the movie made the audience burst into laughter which is quite impressive since I find Malaysian audiences do not get certain jokes sometimes – based on my experience of laughing by myself in the cinema.

For comedic lines that transcend culture, the script gets a big thumbs up.

With the sounds of swords clanging and arrows landing on metal shields, the sound effects also deserve a thumb up.

For those who are anticipating perhaps some juicy scenes between Hercules with his wife, Megara played by Cristiano Ronaldo’s model girlfriend, Irina Shayk? Unfortunately, they did not make it to our home screen and but it did not effect the movie’s plot either way – so much for Shayk’s first acting debut.

 

Irina Shayk (left) plays Hercules wife, Megara. Screencapture from Hercules Official Trailer (MGM, Paramount Pictures)

Irina Shayk (left) plays Hercules wife, Megara. Screencapture from Hercules Official Trailer (MGM, Paramount Pictures)

 

Remember The Scorpion King? I don’t quite remember it either. From unmemorable acting to now, more polished facial expressions, Johnson has certainly come a long way since his first few movies back in the early 2000s in Hercules.

Plus, Johnson’s bigger and bulkier body in the movie which is a result of 8 months of training does help him in portraying the mythical hero legend better.

In just 98 minutes, surprisingly a short time for USD100 million budgeted movie, I was not mind blown, but was still entertained watching it.

With an interesting plot twist, Hercules is a movie worth watching this Raya holiday especially after the big disappointment of The Legend of Hercules, starring Kellan Lutz from Twilight.

Hercules (2014)
Director: Brett Ratner
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Reece Ritchie, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Joseph Fiennes, Reece Ritchie and John Hurt.
Rating: PG-13
Running time: 98 minutes

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