Hercules Screen 7 articles

Hercules

2014

Hercules Poster
  • Save for a committed, if ultimately wasted, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and an admirably game John Hurt, the cast's apathy is palpable, with characters reciting musty platitudes that make even the stiffest creations of Andy and Lana Wachowski seem deeply textured by comparison.

  • A nimble, insouciant comic actor (“Be Cool,” “Pain & Gain”), Mr. Johnson gets away with wearing the Nemean lion’s head as a battle helmet. But the film mostly fails to make good use of him. As the plot clogs up with foreseeable reversals, wisecrack duties go to Mr. McShane, whose oracular character keeps wrongly predicting his own death. Like Hercules, the movie is plagued by a split identity: It’s half-slog, half-Mel Brooks.

  • How cynical is Hercules? This cynical: you’re allowed one (and only one) use of the F-word in a film rated PG-13 in the US – so it throws in a random expletive (“F***ing centaurs!”), just because it can. Or perhaps this cynical: the blockbuster formula requires that our hero must deliver an Inspiring Speech pre-battle – so Herc gives a brief generic speech (“You have it within yourselves to write your own legends!”) even though it comes out of nowhere, and is blatantly a case of hitting a mark.

  • In terms of sheer scale and craftsmanship, “Hercules” represents something of a quantum leap for Ratner, who up to now has seemed most comfortable at the helm of lightly diverting, ‘80s-style buddy comedies... “Hercules” consists primarily of three elaborate battle scenes held together by some quickly dispatched exposition, and the first — and grandest — of them is a genuine stunner.

  • Hercules has no right to be as entertaining as it is. It’s dumb, choppy, cheap-looking, and it even somehow manages to waste the Rock … but this big-budget jettisoning of the Greek myth, based on Steve Moore’s Radical comic, is also a million miles from the self-important grandiosity of the 300 films, or the over-CGI'd garishness of Clash of the Titans. It has a playful heart and spirited cast, and little else.

  • It’s half-hearted, but largely admirable... Unsurprisingly, Johnson makes for a perfect movie-star Hercules, and the film gets a lot of mileage by playing his charismatic-but-modest take on the character off of the strong, predominantly British cast. (Peter Mullan and Joseph Fiennes pop up in smaller roles.) Equally unsurprising is that fact that Brett Ratner’s direction of the action scenes—though more spatially coherent than the Hollywood norm—rarely rises above the merely serviceable.

  • Maybe it's just that I'm predisposed to enjoy a movie that delights in puncturing myths, but this surprised the hell out of me...not least in that I wound up watching the entire thing. For all that Ratner's a critical punching bag, he seems to have learned a great deal since Rush Hour (the only other film of his I've seen); these are among the least spastic and most spatially coherent big-budget action sequences in recent memory.