To be honest, I wasn’t immediately enthralled by the concept of this film. When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was cast as Hercules, I was just expecting an action-fest fuelled by the The Rock’s muscles. And ultimately due to my uninterestedness, I decided not to chase up the reviews of the film as I would’ve left this film to the DVD release, if that.
However, things happen, plans change and I ended up watching Hercules in a rigid-yet-oddly-comfortable cinema chair. Brett Ratner has worked on a varied amount of feature length films before Hercules, including X-Men 3, Red Dragon, Horrible Bosses and Rush Hour 2. One thing that can be deduced from this is that Brett Ratner enjoys a bit of comedy in films, however, as I said I wasn’t enthralled chasing up this film and alas didn’t know whether to expect comedy or not. The Rock’s Instagram take over during the filming of this picture was the first I initially heard of this film, however his exposure to the film wasn’t first rate. (Most of the pictures included The Rock’s make up process rather than stills from the film).
Either way, the film standing at just over an hour and a half only doubled my thoughts of being a complete action-fest with The Rock kicking ass with the incredible feats of strength that Hercules is famous for. What was interesting throughout the film though, rather than focusing on the godliness of Hercules, they eluded to the legend of Hercules focusing on him being more mortal than God. And focusing on his legend being spread via his nephew Iolaus, (Reece Ritchie) the great storyteller, rather than people witnessing the action firsthand. Even Hercules himself says “so they say”.
What I did enjoy about this whole perception of Hercules was the labours that are constantly referred to throughout the film, and how Hercules, rather than slaying the Nemean lion, the gigantic boar and the hydra by himself, he was aided by his brothers (and sister) in arms. This perception continues throughout the film, including the Hydra, rather than having nine heads, was men wearing snake masks. (which I thought was a cool take on the legend of Hercules)
Of course the film plays with the original legend of Hercules, with the storytelling introduction to Hercules, including the baby being born to the God Zeus. And not forgetting Zeus’ wife Hera becoming insanely jealous and trying to kill Hercules throughout his life, including sending snakes into his crib and Hercules strangling said assassins, accompanied by terrible CGI for the snakes. And the only way he can get Hera off his back is to complete the twelve labours, although Hercules still hasn’t captured Cerberus, meaning he is continually haunted by Hera.
To be honest, the film as a complete picture was actually enjoyable and the story not just inane violence to best show (let’s be honest here) The Rock’s ‘talents’ he is accompanied by the cast of Ian McShane, John Hurt, Peter Mullan and dribs and drabs of Joseph Fiennes. With regards to what I consider to be a decent cast, the acting is subpar, John Hurt playing Lord Cotys a mad man hinged on trying to build an empire and Fiennes playing the same, but appearing less so in the film. The most exciting acting would be the on-screen chemistry between McShane and Rufus Sewell creating the comedic spark.
As I mentioned, this film is rather enjoyable. The storyline is not overly compelling, but not a massive slap-in-the-face twist. With the story questioning the legend of Hercules, living as a mortal and surviving as a mortal, rather than believing the legend, I found was really enjoyable and different stance on the demigod. All in all though, Hercules does eventually become the demigod we all know and love. However, this film could’ve been a whole lot more in all honesty, as unfortunately coming away from the film, all I remember is the action-fest which I initially thought it would be, and of course the animalistic nature of Tydeus (Askal Hennie) adding to the comedic chemistry that is few and far between in this film.
What would be a cool sequel mind, would be the adventures of Hercules as he completes the twelve labours with his gang of merry men. Especially considering the difference stance in the labours that Brett Ratner represented. Although, this sequel, or prequel as it would be, ends up being shown in the credits but in storyboard style rather than being acted out.