Genre: Action, Adventure
Directed by: Brett Ratner
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Joseph Fiennes
At the end of this glossy dramatization of graphic Herculean novel The Thracian Wars, Ian McShane’s prophet with a gift for scene-setting narration says that he prefers this story to “the legend”. Whether or not this is a subtle dig at Renny Harlin’s laboredand& lifeless Legend of Hercules, the sentiment holds firm. No amateur dramatic pining to be found here, Hercules is a film with its tongue placed firmly in its cheek. It’s an inarguably silly, but undeniably satisfying swords-and-sandals story.
Having completed his Twelve Labours, Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) now wanders the Greek lands as a sword-for-hire and the leader of his own team of mercenaries (essentially a mythological ‘Avengers’). Soon their services are required by the King of Thrace (John Hurt) and his daughter Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson), who need help training their army in order to defeat the tyrannical warlord Rheseus (Tobias Santelmann).
Johnson certainly looks like the son of Zeus. His body is a temple, built with rock hard abs and well-oiled pecs. Donning a headdress made from the skull of the conquered Nemean Lion, the former wrestler commands the screen from the moment he appears. He’s an effortlessly magnetic presence, fusing the film with a consistently energetic buzz.
His charisma even manages to breath air into the generally lifeless direction of Brett Ratner. Aided by Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos’ spirited script, Ratner delivers a blistering battle-heavy yarn, replete with sweeping vistas and bloody action. As an exercise in excitement and spectacle it completely delivers. The thrilling fight scenes are set to a thunderous score by Johannes Vogel and peppered with an assortment of witty one-liners, many of them delivered with great zeal by Rufus Sewell.
Of course, the codswallop plot soon falls apart under the weight of the predictable double-crosses and various other clichés, all of which are revealed through dialogue that’s hammier than hog roast. But it’s hard to not be swept along by the film’s fun and forceful nature. Anyone who doesn’t have a huge grin on their face as Hercules turns to the camera and gruffly utters “fucking centaurs” having slayed another foe, would do well to remember Renny Harlin’s atrocious alternative.