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Categories: Movie Reviews

Guest writer Cameron Johnson discusses latest release Hercules …

There’s so many of this kind of movie coming out today: big, dumb, overly gritty action movies sapping the life out of historical legends. Hercules can add its name to the long list also containing I, Frankenstein, Clash of the Titans, and the upcoming and abysmal-looking Dracula Untold.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson inhabits the role as best he can. He has always wanted to make a movie about the legendary demigod, and brings enough of the machismo and screen presence to make his character likable. The entourage surrounding him, too, is well-acted, employing Rufus Sewell as his friend Autolycus, Ian McShane as a funny seer, Ingrid Bolso Berdal as a talented bow-and-arrow markswoman, Aksel Hennie as a mute fighter and Reece Ritchie as his story-telling nephew. John Hurt plays the villain well.

But the actors and their humorous delivery of dialogue is about the extent of the appeal of Hercules.

What the movie fails to do, above all, is have an interesting plot to provide a vehicle for the titular character.

The basic premise of the film is that Hercules, a mercenary, has been hired by a king (Hurt’s character) to help train his awful army for a war with a neighboring kingdom. There’s also some actually interesting stuff about Hercules’ backstory that becomes more important near the end, but it’s interweaved with the war story haphazardly.

Though there is potential with the story the writers chose to tell about Hercules, and there are hints that they did try to tell a story about the man rather than the legend, the film fails to capitalize on the interesting bits, instead reverting to overlong action scenes and laughable visual effects.

herc 2

A big budget film like this, B-movie as you may want to call it, should at least finish its special effects. Hercules fights creatures that looked better 15 years ago in BBC’s “Walking with Beasts” and the obviously replicated armies in the battle scenes look like they were taken out of an old History Channel documentary.

Everything else looks fine, but is nothing special. It looks pretty much the same as every other film about Greek mythology, which is part of the reason historical action films are quickly becoming my least favorite of all.

There seems to be no life anymore in historical fiction, and it’s mostly down to generic cinematography, uninteresting action sequences, and less than legendary stories.

At the beginning of the film, when we learn of Hercules’ past, we are told of the Twelve Labors Hercules had to endure so that he may live free from the chains of his goddess stepmother, Hera. Now, I realize that the theme of this movie is to show that Hercules is a hero regardless of his status as a demigod, and doesn’t even tell us for sure if he is a god or not, but wouldn’t you rather see Hercules endure Twelve ridiculously difficult challenges in a fight for his freedom than train an army to fight a silly little war for a silly little king?

I definitely would. 

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson is a writer and filmmaker born in England, based in Michigan, USA, and currently living in Enniscrone, Ireland. He writes about all things entertainment with a speciality in film criticism. He has been working on films ever since middle school, when his shorts "Moving Stateside" and "The Random News" competed in the West Branch Children's Film Festival. Since then he's written and directed a number of his own films and worked in many different crew jobs. Follow him on Twitter @GambasUK and look at his daily film diary at letterboxd.com/gambasUK.

Posted on Aug 5, 2014

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