I AM HERCULES! That’s right fanboys screw Transformers: Age of Extinction and sod Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Hercules starring Dwayne Johnson is the must see film of the summer. At least this is the attitude I had going into the film. Now don’t see this sidestep as a negative sign as the film was overall quite good but given how long it’s taken for this Greek demigod to get a modern big blockbuster film I was hoping for a little more.
Having completed his twelve grueling labours (including slaying the Nemean Lion and capturing the Erymanthian Boar) Hercules turns his hand at being a mercenary sword for hire working alongside a band of warriors who have helped him build his legend. With this legend quickly spreading the mighty Hercules is sought out by King Cotys of Thrace’s daughter Ergenia to help them defeat a warlord.
Brett Ratner‘s directing credentials may be varied having helmed the likes of X-Men: Last Stand (shudders whilst thinking about this film), Red Dragon, Rush Hour and Horrible Bosses but never before has he worked on a character the likes of Hercules. In the film Ratner and the writing team take a much more human approach to Hercules posing the question: were his feats really as elaborate as legend dictates? I personally was in two minds over this direction as though it was an intriguing concept I’ve always loved Hercules the legend over the man. Opposed to this however I found the direction of the build-up to war to be rather lifeless with there being little passion outside of the battles themselves.
The obvious stand out performance from this film was Dwayne Johnson as Hercules himself as bar having the look spot on he also gives a deep performance that isn’t overly serious. Barring this the film also sees other recognisable faces with the legendary John Hurt as King Cotys as well as the wonderful Ian McShane as Amphiaraus an oracle from Argos who knows how he’s going to die. Completing Hercules’ band of mercenaries we have the knife wielding Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), sharp shooting Amazon Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), the savage Tydeus (Aksel Hennie) and Hercules’ nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). The performances and sheer chemistry between these actors made it so easy to believe these characters have fought together for a long time adding more energy to the action scenes.
The first two thirds of this film can be summed up in one word average, being good but far from great. The film is however saved with the twist an hour in allowing Hercules to become a force to be reckoned with. There was however one aspect to this film that I really disliked and that was the score. Having a very lively tone Fernando Velázquez composes something that you’d expect in a superhero flick with it feeling out of place next to the mythological background. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though as he did build great suspense and drama during the action sequences, giving more intensity to these epic scenes.
Hercules is the kind of modern blockbuster that the character has crucially needed but the lack of energy and passion throughout the majority of the first two thirds really lets it down. Despite this it ends with a epic finale with the twist being well worth the wait. When all is said and done I find it hard to recommend this with great gusto so do so half heartedly.