Hercules Review

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Posted July 28, 2014 by Kierra Prince in Movies

Now I’ll admit that I was one of the most skeptical people when I first heard about this film. Mostly because Hollywood seems keen on changing every single thing about movies regarding myths (which is weird considering mythology is awesome and full of stuff Hollywood can’t even dream of)  and because Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. The Rock, is not necessarily a good actor. Surprisingly, I walked out of the theater having had quite a lot of fun with the film and perhaps even gaining a new-found appreciation for The Rock.

The biggest thing that you should know before walking into the theater is that this movie is NOT going to be the fun filled Disney adventure of a man gaining the grace of his mother Hera and that it’s also an adaptation of the comic book Hercules: The Thracian Wars. Instead the story is about Hercules, who’s now essentially a mercenary for hire, being hired by the Thracian King Lord Cotys (John Hurt) to train up his army and fight the evil warlord Rheseus (Tobias Santelmann). Hercules is not alone though. Among his many travels he has come to collect and enjoy the company of the Amazonian archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), the warrior Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), the thief Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), the prophet Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), and Hercules’ nephew the storyteller Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). While it would’ve been so easy to make this into a movie focusing solely on Hercules there is instead a pretty great amount of screentime for his companions which ultimately makes this feel like the Hercules version of The Avengers. Which is great.

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The thing about this movie is that it wants to be a lot of fun and it succeeds wholly in that aspect. The battles are great and his various companions provide a wide range of skills and weaponry that compliment each other to the point that each battle turns into a great display of calculated teamwork. The chemistry between all of the actors is also fantastic and their banter, although there are a few cheesy lines, continually draws laughs. The characters make a point during the film to discuss some of their history and to hammer in the point that they all fight with another due to the fact that various tragedies have turned each other into the only family they have. One big family that really enjoys fighting and getting gold that is.

Now I know that almost everyone is dying to know how Johnson does. He notoriously undertook a rigorous training process to bulk himself up for the movie and boy does it show. Johnson is the biggest he’s ever been and his bulky biceps are almost constantly on screen as a reminder that he’s the man who’s a demigod. Rather than be somewhat distracting, its definitely a nice play on his part as his size does a lot to add to the overall recurring theme of people wondering if he’s truly a god or if he’s merely a strong man who’s stories have been blown out of proportion. Johnson does a pretty great part of playing into this and his Hercules seems more of a tragic hero than a god. His Hercules isn’t the strong, heroic, son of Zeus. His Hercules is a man who spent his entire life trying to seek approval and keep love and never really being able to do both. The much hyped scene in which Johnson shouts “I am Hercules” is going to be the standout of his film career as well. There’s much build up regarding things that come to light during this scene and his complete conviction of displaying his array of emotions and committing to his concept of Hercules was done so well (albeit over-the-top in the best way possible) that I actually think a few people in the theater started crying. Johnson has gone on record saying everything used in that scene was real, from the cement to the chains to the shackles, and its easy to see what he was talking about when he mentioned that that scene was the defining point of the film for him. I doubt we’ll be seeing Oscar worthy performances anytime soon but I think that this scene will convince quite a few people that Johnson is truly ready and passionate about acting.

The unfortunate side to the film is that the story really struggles with itself and in making you care about the overall plot. Its not a problem of anyone within the film. Every single actor is great with the role they were handed, especially everyone within Hercules’ crew. And just for the record, I absolutely need to see Berdal in more roles like this as she made an exceptional Amazonian. The problem with the plot is that a large majority of it is essentially nothing other than Hercules’ being tasked with training some poor farmers. There’s a somewhat major plot twist after about an hour in which makes the finale the best part but until then we’re basically just sitting through an hour of Hercules and his friends earning their paycheck. Thankfully, the fights and humor make this enjoyable rather than drawn out and the first major battle of the film may actually be my favorite of the entire movie. And really, most action movies tend to have rather poor plots so saying that Hercules wasn’t amazingly written isn’t much of a complaint when you get to spend the majority of the movie watching really cool giant battles. And the movie leaves the viewer with a lot to think about regarding things like perceived fate and the status of Hercules who may be a god, may not be a god, but always serves the people.

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The only other problem is that there’s a small rushed backstory that serves as the intro to explain Hercules’ story. While many of us are familiar with him slaying the hydra and killing the Nemean lion, his 12 Labours are essentially where most knowledge of Hercules ends for a lot of people. Which means that a lot of people will probably be wondering why the son of Zeus is sitting in pubs as people try to hire him for gold and also why Disney lied to us and made us assume Hercules and Megara would go on to live happily ever after. For those who do know their Greek and Roman mythology, there’s some pretty neat references, such as a joke about Dionysus and a reference to the Oracle at Delphi. In fact, I’d say the movie is more enjoyable if you read up on the respective characters of Hercules’ crew as certain actions and briefly mentioned histories are a lot more clear with some knowledge of who everyone is (such as Atalanta’s prayer right before battle).

Altogether I’d say that this is definitely a movie worth watching if you want something light and fun and full of action. It won’t win any awards any time soon but the fight scenes are some of the coolest to happen this year and there are definitely worse ways to spend an hour and a half. This is a great popcorn flick for laughs and cheering on the heroes and I think that’s all that anyone really wanted out of this adaptation.


About the Author

Kierra Prince

Was born with a controller in her hand. Fan of all things nerdy and has a tremendous amount of love for RPG's, anime, and anything horror. She secretly wishes to be a mash-up of Catwoman and Sailor Moon.