Genre: Action, Adventure
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Starring: Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins, Roxanne McKee
It’s not rocket science. If you combine a director determined to plumb new depths with a cast that couldn’t act their way out of community theatre, mix in a screenplay that would fail to gain a passing grade in GSCE Film Studies and sprinkle special effects straight out of a blocky 90s video game, the film that emerges at the end is hardly likely to be an edifying experience. What’s truly astonishing about The Legend of Hercules is not how bad it is nor even that it received a cinema release (although both points are fairly astonishing). No, the epic achievement underscoring Renny Harlin’s latest dire effort is that the whole endeavour somehow managed to cost $70m.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where this money went. If it went on the screen, someone really ought to be asking for a refund. Right from the start, as King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins) storms Argos, the CGI jars horribly. It wouldn’t have looked any worse if they had used cardboard cut-outs to fake a giant army. The propensity for random jolts of slow-motion in fight scenes also shows no sign of abating; appearing regularly to break up action sequences.
It can’t have gone on the acting either. Kellan Lutz is on title character duty as the demi-God who defies his step-father by trying to run away with his older brother’s wife to be, Hebe (Gaia Weiss). Dispatched to Egypt with Sotiris’ (Liam McIntyre) reduced company, the two of them narrowly escape an ambush with their lives ending up sold into slavery where they manage to fight their way back to Greece to save the day and overthrow the tyrant king.
At least Lutz looks the part, a sturdy figure built of bronzed granite. He also brings all the personality of a block of stone as well. It’s unfair to single him out over anyone else. Weiss cuts an attractive damsel in distress but her eyes swivel whenever she’s expected to summon up an emotion. McIntyre might have seemed like a good choice given his experience in this field from his stint as Spartacus. Sadly, Spartacus wasn’t very good so it’s hardly experience anyone really needs. It’s fair to say this is a cast picked for brawn and beauty over actual ability.
Oddly enough, there is a fair amount of fun to be had, although just how much is actually intentional is another matter. It’s hard not to enjoy Hercules’ scrap with a lion, one of the few times the original stories pop their head over the parapet. Somehow, the film employs CGI that actually manages to make the lion look like a stuffed toy. This could be a nice homage back to the golden days of sword and sandal epics, a witty line in tune with Monty Python’s Scott of the Sahara sketch, but in reality it’s just bad CGI.
If the lion looked bad, just you wait until Hercules unlocks his demi-God powers. Whirling around two blocks of stone on the end of chains or channelling Zeus to create a sword of lightening has never looked so bad. It would shame a Saturday morning serial. It would also shame Kevin Sorbo’s 90s TV Hercules, which is a remarkable achievement given the hammy extremes that show went to.
Still, that’s nothing compared to watching Hercules and Hebe falling in love. It’s quite possible that they succeed at some point, but Lutz’s complete inability to look like anything other than a poster of himself, and Weiss’ obvious panic at being forced to act make it difficult to tell if they are in love, or if they even like each other at all. For all the acting range on display, it may well turn out that the two characters actually passionately hate each other.
The Legend of Hercules is a special kind of bad. It sinks so low that it ends up somehow managing to draw attention, creating a strange kind of cinematic rubbernecking as you find yourself unable to look away from the horror that is unfolding. Just what they managed to do with that $70m will remain one of the great mysteries of our time. What they certainly did not do was spend it wisely.