Hercules (2014)

Posted by Joel Copling on July 24, 2014

"Hercules" is not the first movie, even this year, to impart the tale of the demigod son of Zeus and his earthly mistress, but it is probably the first one to hypothesize that it's all a bunch of crap--and then to build on that idea. I realize I just made this film sound clever. It is not. This is a highly aggravating piece of work for the very reasons that screenwriters Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos (working from a Radical comic series created by Steve Moore) think it is just the bee's knees. It plays charades with the audience, going through the motions of something much cleverer than what it really is: a bunch of flailing histrionics.

The plot is surprisingly insular for a film whose MPAA rating of PG-13 cites "epic battle sequences" (competently but drearily shot in 3-D by director Brett Ratner and slumming-it cinematographer Dante Spinotti): Hercules, as played by the film's bright spot, Dwayne Johnson, is actually not the son of Zeus and an earthly mistress, but an extremely buff poseur with a team of cronies that play-act his "singular" defeats to make him look more macho than he already does. A princess (Rebecca Ferguson) offers him his weight in gold to save her kingdom from war, and soon, Hercules must train Lord Cotys's (John Hurt) men for battle with a sorcerer named Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann), for whom mythical Centaurs seem to be working.

"Hercules" is all the disparate elements in the fantasy genre one can think of thrown together into a lazy, excitement-deprived whole. There are the actors clad in warrior gear and caked in the half-convincing makeup meant to send them back into the 300s B.C. There is the predictable third-act "twist" meant to screw with one's perception of events that are so desperately uninvolving we don't care about them a single iota. There is the hammy acting, which only Johnson seems to have mastered (Joseph Fiennes, as a rival king, is particularly awful, while Aksel Hennie, as one of Hercules' protective lot, has almost literally nothing to do). Ratner and Co. would like us to believe that "Hercules" is a clever callback to the days of Arnold Schwarzenegger, rather than what it is: a hodgepodge with the personality of a blender.

Film Information

Dwayne Johnson (Hercules), Ian McShane (Amphiaraus), Rufus Sewell (Autolycus), Reece Ritchie (Iolaus), Ingrid Bolso Berdal (Atalanta), Aksel Hennie (Tideus), Rebecca Ferguson (Ergenia), John Hurt (Lord Cotys), Peter Mullan (Sitacles), Joseph Fiennes (King Eurystheus), Tobias Santelmann (Rhesus).

Directed by Brett Ratner and written by Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos, based on the Radical comics by Steve Moore.

Rated PG-13 (epic battle sequences, violence, suggestive comments, brief language, partial nudity).

98 minutes.

Released on July 25, 2014.