Everyone does realize that Hercules is not Greek, right? His Greek name is Heracles. The name was changed when the Romans took over. Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way…
Hercules tells the untold stories of the heroic demigod’s adventures after completing his twelve labors. Does it give a strong performance, or does it topple like the Grecian Empire? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out. (To follow along, click here.)
So who stars in this movie? The title character is played by former wrestler and current action hero Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson of The Scorpion King, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and Fast & Furious 6. Supermodel Irina Shayk makes her acting debut as his wife, Megara. Other stars include John Hurt and Ian McShane. I’ve seen them both in great roles (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary and Kung Fu Panda) and really mediocre rolls (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), so they could go either way in this movie.
The director is Brett Ratner, the man who directed the Rush Hour movies, Tower Heist, and X-Men 3: The Last Stand. In short, he makes action films that are just … okay. Not particularly horrible, but not fantastic, either. Plenty of people still haven’t forgiven him for ruining the X-Men franchise, so that should tell you what to expect. It doesn’t help that one of the writers of this screenplay has worked on more than a few Disney sequels.
The trailer begins with Hercules walking through a forest of corpses, running through a snowy wood, wading through a bog, and sneaking around a cave, making me think that we’re watching the levels of a fantasy video game. Meanwhile, a voice assures him that no matter where he runs, “the beast will follow.” It’s a Beast! He’s got fangs, razor sharp ones. We see Hercules in chains, Ian McShane playing with fire, Cerberus charging, and Megara smiling. Then Hercules wakes up and realizes it was all a dream. Is it just me or does this happen a lot in trailers. First Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and now this. This is getting cliché, people. Time to move on.
“Your name is a rallying cry,” says Lord Cotys (John Hurt) as Hercules enters his city surrounded by soldiers chanting his name. A giant lion charges Herc, and then we see Hercules wearing his skin. I hope they weren’t expecting that scene to be suspenseful in the movie or anything. “We all know your legend,” Cotys continues. “You are the son of Zeus!” I know a few of the legends too. Half the population of Greece is Zeus’s offspring. “I only want to be a husband and a father,” says Hercules. Considering your wife is a Russian model, I’m not surprised. And … wow, that’s a lot of her bare back we’re seeing. I guess they really didn’t want to waste a good swimsuit model.
But someone wants to waste Megara, because the gods sic Cerberus on her in order to punish Hercules for settling down. Good grief, I know stay-at-home dads are rare, but that’s no reason to kill off their families. Snakes crawl out of a statue’s eyes, which I guess is supposed to be symbolic or something, and Cotys tells Hercules that his family’s killers “have unleashed hell on earth.” It’s called the Transformers franchise. Buildings crumble and some kind of zombie-demons crawl out of the ground. These, according to Cotys, are Hades’ kids. And I thought I had some weird relatives. These zombie-demons can’t be killed by an ordinary mortal, but Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is no ordinary mortal. Unfortunately, as he says, he is no hero. He may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that he is one of them.
Still, as the fires of war rage and children get caught in the crossfire, old Herc jumps in to save the day. It might help if you put on some armor first, though. Or at least a shirt. “A man with a cause can be stronger than a god,” says Cotys. Figuratively speaking, of course. A real god could crush that man with his pinkie. An army lets loose a hail of burning arrows, but the guy they’re aiming at is too busy listening to his tunes to get out of the way. Fortunately for him, they all have Stormtrooper aim. Hercules goes back to sleep and dreams about his family. Two dreams in one trailer? What’s next, a dream within a dream?
Ian McShane tells Hercules to take revenge for his family, save everyone, and restore order to the world. What he’s actually saying is “Go kill some zombie-demons.” We do see Herc punch one zombie-demon, sending him flying through the air. Then he takes a break to go hunt a giant boar. Just the movie everyone wanted to see: Hercules v. Pumbaa! Back at the battle, Herc asks McShane whether they’re about to die. McShane, armed with some awesome-looking extendable weapon, says, “My time’s not come yet. I’m not sure about yours.” He’s the title character in a generic action film. I think he’ll be fine. Herc suits up in his cape and lion cowl, and if you listen closely, you can almost here him say, “I’m Catman.”
“We will fight for you and we will die for you,” says female warrior Atalanta (played by Ingrid Berdal). Turns out you didn’t need to, as Hercules kicks a cart into three zombie-demons, knocking them into oblivion. Now if he could only do something about the guy with the fiery chain whip from Ghost Rider. We get glimpses of several pretty women and plenty of action, and Ian McShane asks, “Who are you?” “I am Hercules!” Herc roars as he literally brings the house down. Not bad, but it’s still no “I’m Batman.” And the trailer ends with Hercules back in the swamp facing off against the Hydra. Captain America would be proud.
So based on the trailer, do I recommend this movie? Not really, no. The actors are serviceable, although some of them are capable of good acting under the right direction and with the right script (but we’ve already covered that: Brett Ratner and Disney sequel guy). The CG is obviously fake, although not bad if they were going for a stylized look. In the end, though, it would seem the movie relies on lots of action scenes and lots of good-looking people, with a few older British actors thrown in for credibility. If all you want from a movie is mindless action, this film is for you. Personally, I’ll save this one for a day when I’m bored and just want to watch a mediocre movie.
Unless the movie turns out to actually be Hercules fighting other Disney characters. That I would pay to see.
Hercules is owned by Paramount.