Hercules Review

5 Overall Score
Story : 4/10
Performances : 5/10
Direction : 6/10

The Rock, Some Action, A Few Story Elements

Generic, Non-Descript Characters, Forgettable

If somebody had told me 10 years ago that the next major action star in waiting would come from the WWE franchise, I would have scoffed at them. But now that the Dwayne Johnson phenomenon is a reality, the crossover makes perfect sense. From the estimated 16 minutes I’ve spent watching wrestling in my lifetime, it has become clear to me that the sport is as much performance art than it is punches and chairs to the head. Therefore, someone who possesses the charisma and showmanship to command the attention of thousands in an arena should  theoretically be able to transfer those powers to the big screen. Some have been less than successful (less we forget the floundering film careers of John Cena and Hulk Hogan), but Johnson is not one of those failures.

“The Rock” has established a solid foundation in the mainstream consciousness with his recent filmography, with his supporting roles in the last two “Fast and Furious” franchise and “GI Joe: Retaliation” turning many heads. Honestly, is there a better person alive to play the Son of Zeus? The character needs an actor with a muscular build and a towering presence; Johnson’s arms are bigger than my lower half, and his heartwarming smile is whiter than my skin. It’s an obvious choice that should have made for a fun blockbuster. However, this version of Hercules is anything but all-mighty; it shows flashes of fun and wit but frustratingly settles into a generic rhythm, making for an amusing but forgettable mid-summer actioner.

Johnson plays Hercules (of course), but not the Hercules we’ve grown to know. In this version of the story, the legends are merely legends, as Hercules is a mortal mercenary who uses the myths to strengthen his reputation. Hercules travels with his companions Autolycus (Rufus Spewell), Tycleus (Aksell Hennie), Atlanta (Ingrid Berdal), Amphirarus (Ian McShane), and his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). They travel across the lands, slaying villains and collecting bounties as they go. Hercules is recruited by Lord Cotys (Ian McShane) as his nation is being threatened by a group of hostile rebels. The mercenaries must train a ragtag group of farmers and merchants to rally around Hercules and fight as one.

hercules 3

The small wrinkle to Hercules’ legend is a creative and unexpected concept, one that allows the film to explore the power of a symbol over an entire population. Hercules plays with this idea at several points, making their own contribution to the Hercules mythology a prominent part of the film. It’s a bit jarring at first, but I accepted the change because of the film’s commitment to it and Johnson’s ability to sell himself as a man who could inspire millions. The moments where Hercules dwells on this dramatic fine-point are among the strongest moments.

Unfortunately, Hercules screenwriter Ryan Condal rarely engage in anything original, as their script is comprise of plot points and characters we’ve seen in dozens of other films. Who won’t roll their eyes at the recounting of Hercules’ tragic backstory, or the required training montages sequences that chronicle improvement, or even the stock relationship between Hercules and a small boy? It’s easy to swallow storytelling, familiar to a fault. Hercules never pushed me to invest in the story, which makes it another face in the crown upon the pantheon of “sword and sandal” epics.

As expected, Johnson is terrific as our protagonist. Any shortcomings of the character’s depth and dimensions are more than compensated for by Johnson’s natural charisma. He is the main reason to watch Hercules. The supporting cast offers little, falling as casualties to the script’s nondescript nature. McShane, who serves as the film’s narrator and primary source of comedy relief, is the only one in Hercules’ ragtag group whose personality requires more than a sentence of explaining. The villain roles are over-the-top and hammy, while in contrast the romantic roles are downplayed and fairly blank.

Hercules is directed by Brett Ratner, who has a less than stellar reputation for the Rush Hour films and the much-maligned X-Men: The Last Stand. The particular issue I have with him is that none of his films have a feel or style to them. His direction is workmanlike and competent, but rarely feels inspired or even passionate. Hercules feels right at home with the rest of his filmography. Despite an action sequence or two hat pop with enthusiasm, Ratner’s film leaves a very small impression.

I don’t know if I’m being too harsh on Hercules or not. The film never offends, it does plenty of things right, it moves quickly, and it’s always entertaining. It was after my viewing experience when many of my problems with the film arose. Also, this summer has done much to raise my expectations for what to expect from big-budget blockbusters. Films such as X-Men: Days of Future Past, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes have stimulated my intellect as much as my senses. Hercules does a bit of the latter, but none of the former, leaving you with an epically hollow experience. A herculean effort this film is not.

hercules 1


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
Author: Andrew Auger View all posts by
Andrew Auger is a student at Marist College and is majoring in Journalism. He is a huge fan of movies, and considers the late film critic Roger Ebert his idol. He hopes to one day be a prestigious film critic just like Mr. Ebert.

Leave A Response

Login with one of the buttons below to Comment

Connect with Facebook

Or click here for manual input.

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *