You! Yes, you there! Come closer.
Ay, hello young traveller, I have but a small question to ask you?
Have you ever heard the story of Superman? I mean, the real story?
Yes, I am sure you know of the legend, a man who had descended from a distant planet, the last of his kind, living among humans and becoming their greatest hero. But those are all just fables. That’s correct, Superman was merely another human. A mortal who had incredible strength, laser vision, x-ray vision, frost breath, flight, super-hearing, a super horse, a super chimp, a crystal fortress and could zip around the earth so quickly it reversed its rotation. But still, a human, like you or I.
Now you know the REAL story.
Hercules, a low-risk summer blockbuster brought to us by (not so) lovable scamp Brett Ratner begins with a new, if totally killjoy, premise on the mighty son of Zeus. Mostly that he was not the son of Zeus. Instead, his lore is an intricately designed ruse to ante his reputation for mercenary work. A proposal that places all his legendary labours in ironic quotation marks: thwarting the “hydra,” besting a “giant boar,” shovelling “a lot of horse shit.” He completes them all with a sly team of cohorts, including an amazon, a feral mute and an old pothead.
Then, about twenty minutes later after establishing this illusion as Hercules dupes a rowdy pirate gang, Dwayne “The Hercules” Johnson stomps a carriage into the air with one leg and blasts it ten meters ahead of him into three oncoming assailants, and the movie’s premise, with the other leg. So, he’s still Hercules anyways, plus an a-team, minus godhood. What’s left is essentially a Dungeons and Dragons campaign in all of its most cherished clichés with an underdeveloped 11th hour plot twist.
If Hercules has one major accomplishment, it’s how it’s somehow managing to be both incredibly cheesy and starved of fun at the same time. Overwrought inspirational speeches just feel like word vomited dramatic ramblings that doesn’t mean anything at all. There’s no signature of style, shots of ancient yards of soldiers and suffering people coated in dirt all just blend together. Johnson more or less gives up on any accent by the end, and he seems unable to take any of his power shouts seriously despite the film proposing them as very serious. He looks really goofy, even his breastplate seems a little too snug.
There are freckles of nice things, particularly the supporting cast. Rufus Sewell plays Herc’s oldest friend, who is passionate about his gang but straddles cynicism just enough to drop witty gems of truth all over. Ian McShane’s druggy Merlin figure battles with a flexible toybox of tricks, and Ingrid Bolsø Berdal’s amazon is also entertaining in the fight. But even that gets drowned in battle scenes that quickly devolve into an episode of Dynasty Warriors, complete with overpowered horsies.
Ratner’s Hercules doesn’t really bring anything to the table. Well, it does, the mortal Hercules angle, but then it says fuck it and Hercules flips a horse with one hand. As easy as it would be to just have The Rock play Hercules, in fact I’m almost certain we’ll see another attempt in coming years, this film joins a mass grave of incredibly forgettable ancient war films.
And now you know the REAL story.