Word of Hercules’ twelve labours has spread through the land of Greece and turned him into a living legend, little do the people know that behind those stories is a simple (if incredibly strong) mercenary with a skilled team at his side, who use the reputation to drive up thier prices and put fear into their enemies, with the intention of doing some good. But things don’t always go that way.
There is quite a lot of distain in the fanboy community for director Brett Ratner (some of it deserved, some not) owing to the fact that he is sometimes offered projects of higher consequence than his universally agreed upon ‘director for hire’ status deserves.
Originally making his name on the enjoyable Rush Hour franchise (barring the final instalment… which he did direct but wasn’t that enjoyable), Ratner has made plenty of money for the studios on such middling-good to middling-bad fare as Family Man, After the Sunset and Tower Heist, with the occasional interjection of those larger, highly derided projects, such as X-Men: The Last Stand and Red Dragon, though in the case of the X-Men film he was brought on late as a replacement, so the blame can’t all be laid at his feet.
It would be fair to say that a noticeable lack of personal passion for the subject matters should be the target for most people’s vitriol, though that’s not to say that he isn’t interested in doing a good job as a director; much like a good TV director, it seems he wants to get the job done to a professional level and move on to the next thing, so maybe his only crime is being too well known for his own good? Maybe he should be considered the quintessential throwaway, popcorn movie guy and appreciated in THAT capacity?
It is certainly with that throwaway, popcorn movie watcher’s eye that you should go in to see his latest outing, Hercules, as, like last year’s The Wolverine, it’s probably the least spectacular and most forgettable of the summer blockbusters, but easy to watch and none-offensive with it.
Controversially based on the Radical Entertainment comic, Hercules: The Threcian Wars (controversial because the writer of that project, Steve Moore, has received no payment from any party in regards to this film’s release), this interpretation of the Greek demi-god, has been interestingly re-imagined as a great warrior who’s divinity is somewhat questionable but is making his legend as he goes. It’s a pretty cool concept even if the film was entirely mis-sold in it’s trailer to represent a film that this one is vehemently not, in fact all the scenes of Hercules fighting fantastical monsters that you may have seen are from the prologue, leaving the door wide open for potential disappointment.
Shame really, because these creatures have been brought to life wonderfully for the very brief time that they’re on screen. Indeed, all the visual effects are admirable, but, as with many aspects of this production, are less grand than they want to be.
Not something that can be said about the titular star, Dwayne Johnson, who is bigger than he’s ever been, which is fitting being that he seems adamant on becoming a franchise barbarian-type before the end of his career. The Scorpion King didn’t work out, hopefully this one will. Physicality aside, Johnson comes off as likeable but not terribly forceful in temperament.
Fortunately veteran actors such as John Hurt, Ian McShane and Peter Mullan add enough gravitas, and Hercules’ team of warriors supply enough varying personality to keep the thing fun. The only person who stinks the place up is Joseph Fiennes, who takes a character that has been woefully underwritten or left on the cutting room floor (an understandable move), and hams it up to local amateur dramatics levels.
The pace is brisk and the narrative streamlined enough, but the climax is somewhat abrupt, and as mentioned there’s a distinct lack of scale. Not that every film has to build to a huge crescendo, it just seems like this film thinks it actually IS but doesn’t have enough ammo to deliver.
Perhaps a more classical interpretation of the legendary Hercules would have been a better idea, today’s FX would have serviced the twelve labours well; but this is at least an unexpected take on the subject, a little undercooked and underwhelming but not a car crash by any means and a fun enough way to spend a few hours in the cinema if there’s nothing else on that you fancy watching.