Brett Ratner’s “Hercules” – Review and Trailer

g2lgi4suozw8dmtakrnofour-stars4I can’t believe two Hercules movies were released in 2014 in the span of seven months. I can’t believe that I paid money to watch both of them.

Two things before we begin: again, Hercules movies are never remembered for the plot, and while he may be Hollywood’s current franchise Viagra, Dwayne Johnson hasn’t made many quality standalone films. Therefore, who would’ve guessed in a million years that another freakin’ Hercules story— this one directed by Brett Ratner and adapted from the 2008 graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore (who died only four months prior to the film‘s release)— would give us life? Among the obligatory close-ups of The Rock’s rock-hard bod is a picture that succeeds in finally lending some big-screen dignity to the character. Hey, it only took 57 years.

The writing is on the wall right from the start when things kick off with a captivating— and, gasp, accurate!— recap of Hercules’ origins and the completion of his famous Twelve Labors, which include battling the multitheaded Hydra, the Erymanthian boar, and finally an actually-imposing Nemean Lion (whose skin Herc wears as his armor). Then again, having a bigger budget than the previous film definitely helps.

The demigod son of Zeus, Hercules (Johnson) became legend after completing the aforementioned Labors but a tragic incident followed in which he slaughtered his wife and children after being driven mad by his nemesis, the goddess Hera, while he additionally suffers persistent, nightmarish visions of the three-headed dog Cerberus. Herc opts to screw his godly status as a result and live as a mortal, working as the leader of a group of mercenaries that includes his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), the thief Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Amazon warrior Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), and several others whose names you won’t be able to remember unless you have nothing short of acute hearing. Hercules is soon approached by Thracian king Lord Cotys (John Hurt), who wants him to train his armies in defending his kingdom from the ruthless warlord Rheseus (Tobias Santelmann). It’s not as black and white as it sounds.

Hercules’ charm lies in its weird casting, starring a mix of Norwegians and the familiar glut of Brit character actors (including, naturally, the ever-ubiquitous Ian McShane). Then there’s Johnson himself, the most stacked Herc this side of Steve Reeves and certainly the first nonwhite one. It‘s never a distraction, but seeing him in a borderline-Jheri curl hairpiece does take time to get used to. Hercules is not one of those movies where the protagonist’s hangers-on get picked off one by one. The script (by Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos) respects the characters in that they‘re not shoved aside like yesterday‘s news, but they still have their obligatory quirks: one is a knife thrower, another a feral beast of a man who never speaks, another a storyteller who longs to fight like the big boys. Then there’s my personal favorite, Atalanta, an archer possessing one hell of a hair trigger. She is certainly attractive, yet not once is she sexualized in any way nor treated as a constant reminder that she’s the designated Strong Female Character. Nope, she’s just one of the guys. It’s a breath of fresh air but disappointment also lingers that such a feat continues to be a rare occurrence that it warrants such an acknowledgment.

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Categories: Reviews

One Comment on “Brett Ratner’s “Hercules” – Review and Trailer”

  1. August 16, 2014 at 5:16 am #

    Reblogged this on The Cineaste's Lament. and commented:
    Who knew that a 4,000-year-old man had such staying power.

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