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  Hercules The Man The Myth The Legend
Year: 2014
Director: Brett Ratner
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Reece Ritchie, Joseph Fiennes, Tobias Santelmann, Peter Mullan, Rebecca Ferguson, Isaac Andrews, Joe Anderson, Stephen Peacocke, Nicholas Moss, Robert Whitelock
Genre: Action, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: The legend of Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) has it that he was a product of the union between the God of Gods Zeus and a mortal woman who had taken his fancy, much to the chagrin of Zeus' wife Hera who sent a couple of snakes to kill the infant in his cradle. But Hercules was stronger than she anticipated, being more powerful than any of his fellow men even at that age, and thus his renown began to grow, leading to Hera declaring she would leave him be if he was able to succeed in twelve labours such as killing the many-headed Hydra, a massive boar or the huge Nemean Lion from which he took its hide to wear. Or at least, that's what the myths will tell you - was the real man any different?

Funny they should mention a massive boar, because this film was a bore of some size as well, although alarm bells rang for many when Alan Moore, the comics writer stuck up for his late friend Steve Moore who had penned the original graphic novel this was based on - supported him against the film studio, which he demanded should be boycotted for bastardising the source in a manner not unlike the way Alan Moore's work had been down the years by Hollywood. In the end, it barely mattered as this flopped, trampled underfoot by Scarlett Johansson in her Lucy guise, and those who did see this were not exactly fully sated by their night out at the pictures for what they got stated outright at the beginning was not the Hercules of legend.

Here they were trying to get to the heart of the man behind the myth, which was what the Steve Moore book had attempted, only here that purpose was merely given lip service as director Brett Ratner seemed to think he was making 300 for kids, as if that hadn't been for teens anyway. No matter that we were continually told Herc was a mere mortal, he still appeared to be in possession of remarkable reserves of muscle strength which saw him achieving incredible feats and generally acting like a superhero in the twenty-first century manner. It was a pity in a way, since Dwayne Johnson assuredly had the physique and charisma to pull off the role, but the script let him down at every turn, offering him generically wry dialogue, facile motivations and rote setpieces.

Once the CGI-packed introduction is over with, we find we are being told all this by one of Hercules' travelling companions, Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), who has been captured by pirates. Cue the gang of superfriends who show up and save him, despatching the bad guys in the process in a by now clichéd demonstration of their individual abilities and how they operated slickly as a team. Then we get to the main narrative where Hercules and company have been asked to help out the citizens of Thrace, led by their ruler Lord Cortys (John Hurt, one of many British thesps slumming it for a presumably sizeable cheque to enable them to take a role in something more artistically fulfilling). All Herc has to do is teach the soldiers how to stand up against some evildoer or other, and they're laughing.

This he duly does, and the Thracians meet the challenge of besting an entire village of warriors they were trying to save yet had turned against them inexplicably, an example of the parallels between the heroes here and the United States action in the Middle East that the script saw fit to court. You could take that with a pinch of salt, but when the only other matter of substance was undercutting Hercules' mythical status while building up his, er, mythical status, the results were a farce of a plot heading off in two directions at once and landing flat on its face, only that sounds vaguely entertaining in a slapstick fashion. Instead you got Herc fretting over his gradually surfacing memories of how he lost his family, suffering nightmares featuring classical monsters, and for all the film's claims he was a mere mortal carrying out the superhuman achievements anyway. When you could note Ray Harryhausen had this business carried off with style and imagination as a subplot of Jason and the Argonauts fifty years before, this was even more unnecessary. Music by Fernando Velázquez and Johannes Vogel.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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