Dwayne Johnson as Hercules: The Rock stops here
It hasn’t been a good year at the movies for Hercules. The fabled hero of Greek mythology emerged earlier onscreen in the form of Kellan Lutz in Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules, which came and went without much notice, and is now personified by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in Brett Ratner’s allbrawn, no-brains Hercules.
This mindless miasma of big-screen machismo makes a mockery of the mythos (if such a thing were possible), and is ostensibly based on Steve Moore’s Radical Comics series. Producer/director Ratner, as experienced a purveyor of bombastic big-screen schlock as Michael Bay, brings his customarily lumbering, unsubtle touch to the proceedings. This is a summer bummer of the first – and worst – order.
The ever-affable and mucho-muscular Johnson dons a bushy beard and wig to portray the Greek beefcake who is part-man/part-god, having been sired by mortal woman and the god Zeus. “I never knew my father,” notes Hercules in one of the film’s more eyerolling exchanges.
Accompanied by his band of merry mercenaries (including Rufus Sewell and a comic-relief Ian McShane), our buff and tough hero is tapped to save the kingdom of Thrace from the supposedly diabolical minions of Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann). This they do amid the usual bursts of slow-motion swordplay and fisticuffs, summarily making a monkey out of Rhesus. (Get it?) Much to Hercules’ clenched-jaw consternation, he’s been hoodwinked by crafty Lord Cotys (John Hurt) but is, aptly, determined to set things right – essentially by demolishing Thrace with his bare hands. This he does, and the film (mercifully) comes to its end.
McShane, Hurt, Sewell, Peter Mullan and Joseph Fiennes manage to emerge with their respective dignity intact (if slightly dented), while Ingrid Balso Berdal and Rebecca Ferguson add some femininity to the mindless, testosterone-fueled storyline. Acting is not this film’s strong suit. Actually, the film has no strong suit – and that includes the cinematography by the usually reliable Dante Spinotti. The CGI special effects are appropriately grand-scale, but that’s hardly a distinction these days, given its overwhelming proliferation in most films.
Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopolous are credited (ho-ho!) with the jokey screenplay, which is summarily littered with bad puns and feeble one-liners … and who knew that four-letter words were commonly spoken in ancient Greece? It’s hardly a matter for historians to concern themselves with, nor is Hercules a matter for contemporary moviegoers to concern themselves with. This misfired myth is best forgotten – and quickly.