* (out of 5)
July 25, 2014
Dwayne Johnson as HERCULES
Ian McShane as AMPHIARAUS
John Hurt as LORD COTYS
Rufus Sewell as AUTOLYCUS
Aksel Hennie as TYDEUS
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal as ATALANTA
Reece Ritchie as IOLAUS
Joseph Fiennes as KING EURYSTHEUS
Tobias Santelmann as RHESUS
Peter Mullen as SITACLES
Rebecca Ferguson as ERGNIA
Directed by: Brett Ratner
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
One of my biggest pet peeves about the marketing of motion pictures is when the trailers promise something that the movie simply does not deliver. I understand the thought process behind this, especially when you have a movie that isn’t terribly marketable in a truthful way. However, I expect this kind of trick when a studio snatches up an indie darling that doesn’t quite connect to the mainstream. It’s unforgivable when this happens to a major studio release over which they’ve exerted control the whole time.
Brett Ratner’s “Hercules” commits this cardinal sin of marketing, and it results in not just a bad movie, but a movie that could have been so much better.
If you were to believe studio marketing for “Hercules,” you’d expect a classic hero’s tale with Dwayne Johnson in the title role. You’d expect an epic movie about the Greek demigod in which he would face some of the greatest monsters of mythology – from the seven-headed hydra to an indestructible Nemean lion. That’s the kind of movie I wanted to see.
Unfortunately, that’s not the movie I got, and after finally seeing how little the final film resembles these trailers, it is no surprise that Paramount hid this film from press and only screened it in selected markets literally after the public showings of the film began.
“Hercules” is not about a demigod. It’s about a shyster. Johnson plays the title character in name only. Sure, he’s big and burley, and he has a legend behind him that tells us he has done great things. In reality, Hercules and his friends flop around Greece as mercenaries, making money off of his tall tales. Eventually, they are roped into a very dangerous mission to save a city from a monstrous army, and they soon discover there are darker (but totally mortal) forces at work.
It’s not that this kind of story couldn’t work. In this sense, the story simply doesn’t. It’s boring. It’s vacuous. The dialogue is duller than a leather sword, and the characters’ motivations are all over the map. Once I got over my disappointment that we were seeing a movie like “Clash of the Titans” without titans or much clashing going on, I tried to get into the story. However, it’s so profoundly weak that I cared little about anyone.
I suppose from the screenwriting rubric, the film hits all the points. You have a likeable hero (and yes, though he comes across as cheesy through much of the movie, Johnson’s Hercules is ultimately likeable). You have a tale of revenge (that is, unfortunately tossed in about half-way through the movie to make things sort of work). You have a love interest… scratch that… there is no love interest. There’s also no logic, featuring an army trained over the weekend to fight supposedly immortal foes, and there’s no discernable conflict or actual villain until the third act of the film.
Oh, and there’s also a whining child that is supposed to evoke sympathy but only succeeds in me wanting him and his mother on the front lines of battle.
I’m not saying that a real Hercules movie with real monsters and real mythical labors would have been better, considering the awful writing and boring story. However, it might have been cooler to watch from time to time.