Sunday 27 July 2014


(Brett Ratner, 2014)

Surprisingly short and decently-paced, Ratner's adaptation of Steve Moore's revisionist comic book take on the myth of Hercules is also a tad generic. It's gimmick is that Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) is not the demi-god son of Zeus of legend, but in fact an extremely skilled and fearsomely strong warrior supported by a tight, experienced team of comrades who understand the power of the legend and do their best to further its dissemination.
Hercules' Labours (which feature prominently in the trailer) are all dispensed with within the first five minutes of the film, and then we are introduced to reality - a jolly crew of mercenaries of differing skills and temperaments including the likes of Rufus Sewell as a quick, cynical knife-fighter, Ian McShane as a staff-wielding seer and Ingrid Bolsø Berdal as an amazon archer. Hercules leads the group, and his legend is known throughout Greece, though we see glimpses of his real-life tragedy (a bloodily-killed family, Hercules with gore on his hands) in Athens, from where he has been banished by King Eurystheus (Joseph Fiennes).
In yet another run-through of one of the oldest stories, they are hired to protect Thrace and the kingdom of Cotys (John Hurt) from a murderous, brutal army, and Hercules and his crew have to train an army in a couple of montages before the battle scenes - all flaming arrows, chariots, shield-walls, etc - begin, followed by some predictable plot revelations, more battle scenes, a bit of character development, then a big climax. Johnson could carry a continent, and a film this thin is no problem to him, especially when supported by a cast of slumming British thespians like this one.
The action scenes are competent - even refreshingly coherent - but it is all over-familiar and a tad too generically swords-and-sandals, despite classy Dante Spinotti cinematography. It all feels strangely small-scale even though there are humungous battles and teeming cgi cities.
That helps in that it ensures the human story at the centre of the film is intimate, but since the story is so hoary and undistinguished, it doesn't help as much as it might.
The temptation to blame Ratner - whose dwindling career won't be helped by this - is overwhelming. So I'm going to blame him too. It's Ratner's fault.

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