Directed by: Brett Ratner
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson: Hercules
Rufus Sewell: Autolycus
Ian McShane: Amphiaraus
John Hurt: Lord Cotys
In Greek mythology there a number of heroes whose stories have been told in various ways throughout the centuries. But in the past 60 years, some of them have been made into movies. Perseus, a son of Zeus who slayed Medusa, was made popular by Clash of the Titans. Jason, who led the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece was played by Todd Armstrong in the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts. Armand Assante and Sean Bean both led the Greek armies against Troy as Odysseus in the films The Odyssey and Troy, respectively. Only one movie stood out that featured Theseus: Immortals, starring Henry Cavill. Achilles was played by Brad Pitt in Troy. But the one Greek hero that has received the most attention, is Hercules. Initially played by Steve Reeves in 1958, the character has been played by MANY throughout the years. Some of the actors that have played the character have been: Alan Steele, Lou Ferrigno Kevin Sorbo in the 90’s television series, Tate Donovan in the Disney animated picture Hercules, and most recently: Kellan Lutz in The Legend of Hercules and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in Hercules.
In Brett Ratner’s Hercules, the film opens as Hercules'(Dwayne Johnson) nephew, Iolaus(Reece Ritchie) is telling the tale of Hercule’s 12 Labors. Some of which included slaying the Hydra, the Nemean Lion, and Erymanthian Boar. The film then shows Iolaus being threatened by pirates who don’t believe the stories that he tells. Enter Hercules, who carries a massive club, and his mercenary team who lay waste to the pirates. His band of mercs includes knife-thrower Autolycus(Rufus Sewell), seer Amphiaraus(Ian McShane), the animalistic Tydeus(Aksel Hennie), and the Amazon warrior Atalanta(Ingrid Berdal). After eliminating the pirates, they are approached by Ergenia(Rebecca Ferguson), the daughter of Lord Cotys(John Hurt). She tells them that Thrace is being threatened by a ruthless army being led by a mysterious man named Rhesus(Tobias Santelmann). Accepting her offer, they go to Thrace to find that half of Cotys’ army has been killed by Rhesus. There are a couple of twists and turns throughout the film that may come across as predictable, but I’m not going to mention them.
There were two movies based on Hercules that were released this year. The first was The Legend of Hercules, and this one. I haven’t seen The Legend of Hercules yet. It’s on my to-do list. Director Brett Ratner takes an unexpected direcction with the character. Instead of having it be a full on fantasy movie, Ratner chose to take a more realistic approach. In the film, the 12 Labors actually happened, but the actual details of those events are more…..exaggerated to scare his enemies. So, certain aspects of those stories are tall tales. See, the film toys around with the idea of whether or not Hercules is the son of Zeus. He’s certainly one of the strongest men in all of Greece, but is he the son of a god? The film is leaning towards no, but never actually answers the question. I find that to be a very refreshing approach to someone who everybody thinks is a demigod. They picked the right guy to play Hercules, though: Dwayne Johnson. The man has the charisma and more importantly, the build to play the character. Johnson is big, and he’s intimidating. I was very curious to see how Johnson would play Hercules and I have to admit, he does a fantastic job. The supporting cast isn’t too bad either. Rufus Sewell plays the wise-cracking Autolycus. Rufus is one of those actors whose eyes are soul-piercing, and he really comes across as bad-ass. Ian McShane is amusing as the seer. Also a smart-ass, McShane gives the character a very unique personality of someone whose clearly not afraid, but expecting to die. He’s absolutely okay with it. Ingrid Berdal is the only woman of the group, Atalanta. She’s fierce, beautiful and fearless. Every ragtag group has to have some kind of psycho, and Aksel Hennie fits the role perfectly as Tydeus. He’s clearly a loyal hound, but when he’s unleashed on his foes, he goes bat-shit crazy with two axes. It’s a fun group to watch.
This is an action movie, so there has to be action. The stuff in this movie is actually pretty damn big. We have two major epic battle sequences featuring hundreds of warriors. The first is the battle with Bessi warriors and the second is with Rhesus’ army. These are brutal and bloody affairs. Dwayne Johnson goes to town on his enemies with his club and it hits hard as you would expect someone of his size to do. There’s arrows being shot, people getting sliced and diced with swords and axes, and people getting run over by some wildly designed chariots. My main issue with some of these sequences is that some of the editing is a little too quick. You can see what’s going on, but the editing reduces the impact a little bit. Some of the visual effects seem a bit chintzy, especially towards the end of the film.
I don’t think a lot of people are going to appreciate the fact that Brett Ratner chose to make Hercules more man than god, but I think that actually helps the character’s credibility in this film. I mean, yeah, I would’ve loved to really see him take on the gods of Olympus, but there are already movies that do that. Overall, I think Hercules is a stronger effort than most people give it credit for. Is it perfect? No. No movie is. Some of the chinks in the film’s armor are pretty obvious, but Dwayne Johnson’s presence and the characters that make up his ragtag team of misfits make up for it. It’s certainly not the definitive movie on Hercules, but then again, I haven’t seen one that is yet. Some people prefer the Disney flick, others prefer the original Steve Reeves pictures. I think this one’s a lot of fun and it has a lot going for it. My final verdict is an 8/10. Do yourself a favor and at least rent it. It’s worth that much at least.