Hercules is a fun, totally immersive and highly enjoyable action-adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Based on the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore and directed by Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand and the Rush Hour films), Hercules is an exciting battle-filled film and has a surprising amount of entertainment to bite off and chew for it’s take on the mythological hero’s life.
Son of Zeus and the mortal Alcmene, Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) is the Greek Demigod who after enduring his 12 Labours that created his legendary reputation, is now trading his brawn for gold along with his team of mercenaries. His latest offer is by Lord Cotys (John Hurt) and his daughter Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) to restore hope in Thrace by taking down the rebel army led by Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann). The lead up to the battle and beyond will force Hercules to ponder “Are you only the legend or are you the truth behind the legend?”
Ex-wrestler Dwayne Johnson has a body-of-work (and a body that works), that fits like a tight t-shirt for the title role. Recently named as Hollywood’s second highest paid actor (due to the Fast And The Furious franchise) he’s almost cartoon like in appearance, a big charismatic giant with big eyes and bigger biceps. I couldn’t help but stare at every full length shot of his massiveness, covered in oil and sweat and questioning if the body deserved a film credit of it’s own.
Hercules is our hero not out for revenge but peace. Chased by demons, he escapes them by happily going along with the hero name he has built for himself. As famous as Hercules is, when we meet him we find it’s all smoke and mirrors helped by his story-telling nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie) and his team of fighters. They are all utterly charming and skilled in their own right and help carry the film as a ensemble, despite the title telling us otherwise. Amphiaraus (Ian McShane) wins for the most witty remarks; there’s the tough and irresistible Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), the silent and thuggish Tydeus (Aksel Hennie) and Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) who’s a bit of a scene stealer, especially as the only woman in battle.
The action sequences are definitely worth the price of admission. Epic, crisp and brutal, they play out like a well rehearsed dance sequence full of weapons and an element of ridiculousness. When Hercules demonstrates his God-like abilities, it’s delicious. There’s a scene where Hercules picks up a man and his horse and throws them both upside down. Whether it’s realistic or not – it’s so much fun.
Action aside, the film didn’t spare a cent when it came to building the world of Hercules. Costumes, made to scale sets, sweeping air shots of gorgeous landscapes and the impressive special effects were done very well. The film is definitely worth seeing in 3D – it’s thoughtfully placed and adds value (rather than being there for the sake of being there) whether it’s a spear being thrown or a fire flame, or a beast roaring close enough for you to taste it’s breath.
The dialogue and language is at times cheesy, but the right amount. It’s happily appreciated and well placed. The one liners alone are wonderful if you allow yourself to embrace them. I appreciated the quality of the film and that it didn’t have to overcompensate for a lack of story (as the action genre can be quite guilty of). The plot is interesting enough to be invested in and it’s not as predictable as I thought it would be.
The great thing about Hercules as a whole is that it’s not trying to be something it’s not. If the goal was to make a thrilling action film that’s easy to enjoy – they have done it perfectly and unpretentiously. Get your popcorn and go see it.
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