Twitter Plot Summary: Hercules, the man, the myth, the legend. But mostly the legend.
Five Point Summary:
1. Ahh, not your typical Hercules tale, then.
2. Ian McShane and Rufus Sewell – legends.
3. Centaurs? Hmm.
4. He. Is. HERCULES!
5. Let’s just destroy everything, why not?
The legend of Hercules has long been a favourite topic for filmmakers over the years, and in a perfect example of cinema’s Twin Films syndrome (where at least two films with a similar theme or concept are released in a particular year) there have been two such films released in 2014 featuring the half man/half god strongman, one firected by Renny Harlin and the other, this one, directed by Brett Ratner.
Ratner’s take on Hercules is notable for its revisions to the myth and the legend – that can be attributed to the original comic book writer rather than Ratner, to be fair. Hercules is at the end of his trials, however despite being incredibly strong he is just a man, a man who bleeds and has foibles just like the rest of us. His legend has been created by a small team of warriors who each have a particular set of skills (sorry, Liam Neeson is nowhere to be seen). Through some skilled storytelling on the part of Hercules’ nephew, his legend now makes him seemingly undefeatable, and yet he finds himself as a mercenary for hire and is primarily interested in the acquisition of gold. This is in part down to his tragic past and the fate of his wife and children, but that is covered in more detail within the film itself.
Rufus Sewell is on top form as Autolycus, perhaps Hercules’ closest friend and ally. He’s a skilled knife thrower and has an acerbic tongue to match his skills. Lovejoy himself, Ian McShane is a seer who has foreseen his own death, which is teased at multiple points throughout. In the category for Best Scenery Chewing are John Hurt as the king who hires Hercules, and Peter Mullen as his croaky voiced general. Suffice to say, each and every performance is laced with almost camp levels of humour, and the overall tone joyously embraces this slightly silly perspective. It’s clear from everyone’s performances that they’re enjoying themselves, and it bleeds out into the film and, vicariously, to a suitably attuned audience.
Hercules features the best use of an F-bomb in a 12A rated film, practically smashing through the fourth wall as it does so. For a film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson you’re not going to expect Shakespeare, and funnily enough your expectations are met completely. The CGI is barely competent and frequently gives the impression of being stolen from a video game. Unlike the majority of other cases, this actually does work in Hercules’ favour, and manages to enhance the dumb, cheesy action by being exactly on par with it in terms of quality.
It’s a big and bombastic swords and sandals movie, and one that benefits from being seen on the biggest available screen. The action is frequently entertaining but not as intense as it had the potential to be, and the story itself is about as comic book as it gets, but in the grand scheme of things these are minor complaints in what is a thoroughly enjoyable romp.