Directed by: Brett Ratner.
Written by: Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos based on the comic by Steve Moore.
Starring: Dwayne Johnson (Hercules), Ian McShane (Amphiaraus), John Hurt (Lord Cotys), Rufus Sewell (Autolycus), Aksel Hennie (Tydeus), Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Atalanta), Reece Ritchie (Iolaus), Joseph Fiennes (King Eurystheus), Tobias Santelmann (Rhesus), Peter Mullan (Sitacles), Rebecca Ferguson (Ergenia), Isaac Andrews (Arius), Joe Anderson (Phineas), Stephen Peacocke (Stephanos), Nicholas Moss (Demetrius), Robert Whitelock (Nicolaus), Irina Shayk (Megara)..
Among directors, there are probably very few that are more hated by movie people than Brett Ratner. Do you remember that scene in Community, where Shirley goes on and on about how great Tower Heist was, and how Ratner is the new Spielberg, and Abed has to remove himself from the situation before he says something horrible (which he cannot quite control as he tells Shirley she is a bad person). That’s about the level of hatred Ratner inspires in online film forums. Even Michael Bay gets more respect – at the very least, Bay has his own distinct style, even if it’s a bad style. Ratner seems to have no personal style at all – aping Bryan Singer in X-Men: The Last Stand or Jonathan Demme in Red Dragon, and being basically bland in everything else. When I saw the previews for his latest film, Hercules, I have to admit I laughed out loud – and not in a good way. The film looked ridiculously stupid. It’s somewhat surprising then that Hercules is as entertaining as it is. It’s not a good movie in any real way – but it’s a lot more fun than it has any right to be. That probably has more to do with having such low expectations of the film, but Hercules, while dumb, is also kind of fun. It’s not a good film, but it’s far from the awful film I expected it to be.
The movie dispenses with the legend of Hercules within the first two minutes of the movie – as we hear a narrator who turns out to be Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), Hercules’ nephew telling the story we know so well – that Hercules is the son of the God Zeus, and a human woman and that Zeus’ wife Hera hated Hercules, and assigned him 12 impossible tasks to perform in order to be left alone. But it quickly becomes clear that in this version of Hercules, that’s all a myth. Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) is not half god, but a mercenary with a team, who hire themselves out for money. They use the myth of Hercules because it helps them – their opponents are scared of the legend of Hercules, which get them off their game. Hercules and his team have just been hired by Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) on behalf of her father Lord Cotys (John Hurt) to fight against an oncoming horde led by Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann). Lord Cotys army is mainly made up of farmers and other inexperienced men. So Hercules and his men set out to train them – but they don’t have much time.
The movie is silly, but knowingly so. It wants to be an old school fun blockbuster, instead of the modern, more self-serious blockbuster than seem to dominate these days. Johnson is well cast as Hercules – impossibly big and strong, even if he isn’t the son of Zeus, he’s still a great warrior. He’s surrounded by a good cast of supporting players – none more so than Ian McShane as someone who, with the use of herbs can see the future, and expects his own death soon. The battle scenes are large scale; swords and sandals type action, and are entertaining to a certain extent – until perhaps they go a little too far in the final one. The film, at only 96 minutes, doesn’t overstay its welcome and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s silly and goofy – not deep in any way, and not really that good. But it’s not an unpleasant way to spend a summer night. If you think that some of this year’s blockbusters are too dour and ridiculously serious, than Hercules is the movie for you.