The Rock Lays Some Ancient Smackdown in ‘Hercules’
Enough is enough with this sudden gung-ho Hercules kick. Between the abysmal The Legend of Hercules and direct-to-DVD Hercules Reborn, the strongman demigod has taken a terrible beating this year.
How about just one more this year? Director Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand, Tower Heist) joins this overcrowded party with Hercules. Just Hercules, as simple as the 1997 Disney cartoon. And with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson taking on the title role (which should come as no surprise), there might be some hope after all.
Within the first few minutes of Hercules, Johnson goes head-to-head with hydra and Nemean lions to complete his 12 fabled labors. The part-time WWE superstar proves he has all the makings of a ripped Greek superman, calling back to his first lead role in 2002’s The Scorpion King. It’s here where the fantasy drops off for good.
Johnson’s muscle-bound hero turns to mercenary work alongside his merry band of warriors. Doing so, Hercules transforms from demigod legend to turning Greek farmers into soldiers. That’s not exactly conventional Hercules. But neither is Ratner’s source material, Steve Moore graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars.
It’s a risky move stripping Hercules of his mythical standing. Think Troy for a moment and its notable absence of the gods. His tales are told throughout Greece, but it boils down to a mask of showmanship. Luckily, Johnson carries that trait over from his WWE days, able to convince the masses with his physical storytelling.
SEE ALSO: Hercules (2014) – Video Review Roundup
Ratner’s Hercules is self-aware enough it doesn’t need to apologize for its silly plot either. Johnson’s clearly having a field day as Hercules with his lion skin getup. Shoulder tossing a horse in battle and dropping a single f-bomb are par for the course. His million-dollar smile is out of place as well, but none of this is to be taken seriously.
But it’s a relief see his action career stay afloat even he begins to echo the campy choices of Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Hercules, Fast Five, Fast and Furious 6 and G.I. Joe: Retaliation are all films tailored to Johnson’s physical appeal and charisma. This resurgence in his career after sludging through a few years of forgettable family films was well worth the wait.
John Hurt (Immortals) and Ian McShane (Jack the Giant Slayer) are no strangers to the genre either. It’s easy to see why these two actors joined the film. John Hurt plays, well John Hurt as a Greek king who recruits Hercules to defends the lands. McShane’s, however, is a one-joke prophet with a knack for guessing his death wrong.
For all its jokes and light-heartedness, Ratner has tendency to tread into a mature film at times. He wavers back and forth between directing a brisk PG-13 film and delving headfirst into R-rated territory. In the film, Hercules is weighed down with the death of wife and child. The recurring scene is jarring and even startling for this film. That aside, the rest of Hercules is packed with enough entertaining energy to sustain a brief 90 minute run time.
Hercules is heavy on brawn and light on brains, but it holds to true to being a fun B-movie Saturday afternoon romp. The Rock has finally come full-circle in Hollywood.