Review: HERCULES (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Review: HERCULES (2014)

2.5 stars
2.5 stars
Dwayne Johnson is perfect for the role in Brett Ratner's cheesy but fairly entertaining sword-and-sandal spectacle of HERCULES.


When I first saw Brett Ratner's name attached to direct HERCULES, I figured this US$100 million production is bound to fail, at least in the creative point-of-view. After all, this is the director who caused mass outrage from fanboys for ruining the X-MEN franchise in 2007's X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (even though the movie managed to do big business at the box office). Moreover, this year isn't a good year for releasing a Hercules movie especially after Renny Harlin's THE LEGEND OF HERCULES tanked at the box office earlier on January. Naturally, I went in with low expectation but to my surprise, Brett Ratner's revisionist take of HERCULES doesn't ends up as bad as I thought. It's not a good movie either, but passable enough as a fairly entertaining summer blockbuster.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Loosely adapted from Steve Moore's comic book series, Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) is portrayed here as a mercenary warrior who relies on his PR-like storyteller nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie) to spread his "legendary" background about him being a demigod, all in the name of making good fortune. Apart from Iolaus, Hercules has a band of trusted comrades including childhood friend Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Amazonian warrior Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), mute Tydeus (Aksel Hennie) and seer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), working together as a team. When Princess Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) offers him a weight of gold to help save her kingdom from the upcoming war, he and his comrades agree to take the lucrative job. After they arrive in Thrace where they meet Ergenia's father, King Cotys (John Hurt) and subsequently lead the battle against the enemies, they soon uncover a sinister plot that nothing is what it seems.
  
THE GOOD STUFF
 
Usually, a big budget sword-and-sandal production like HERCULES would have typically clocked at least 2 hours and above, but this movie surprisingly runs only at 90 minutes, which in turn, a blessing in disguise. After all, Brett Ratner isn't interested to do GLADIATOR-like epic scope but something rather schlocky that just wants to have fun. In the name of mindless entertainment, Ratner's economical direction proves to be worthwhile. It also helps that the movie is fast paced, while the action is thankfully edited and shot (credits goes to editors Mark Helfrich and Julia Wong, as well as Ratner's regular cinematographer Dante Spinotti) in a coherent manner that enable you to see what is going on during the battle sequences.

The script, written by Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos, has its fair share of moments, particularly the way they turn the familiar fantastical legend of Hercules' background inside out and have fun with the material. Case in point is the unexpected prologue that uses Hercules and his well-known 12 labours (e.g. the Nemean Lion and the Lernaean Hydra) as a storytelling gimmick that blurred between myth and reality.

Dwayne Johnson is perfectly cast as the the titular Hercules, the kind of role he's born to play. While he might look a little silly with that wig of a lion's head, Johnson's muscular performance is thankfully entertaining enough that blends well with his winning charisma and impressive physique. His co-stars, such as Rufus Sewell and Aksel Hennie, are equally engaging while Norwegian star Ingrid Bolso Berdal (COLD PREY, COLD PREY 2) almost steals the show with a breakthrough performance as Atalanta that should put her in the Hollywood's list as one of the promising female action stars to look for. Adding further depth to the appealing cast is Ian McShane, who brings great comic relief as a seer who often predicted his own impending death wrongly.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)
 
The first massive sequence involving Hercules and his troops battling against an army of soldiers covered in body paint.

THE BAD STUFF
  
For a movie that embraces its B-movie energy, HERCULES still comes up short. The CGI is surprisingly average, especially with all the blessing of a huge budget. Despite the cheeky values within the script, the story remains hackneyed and paper thin while the sudden twist towards the climactic finale is hardly compelling at all. The studio's decision for releasing the movie in a saturated PG-13 does rob the necessary brutality, blood and gore of a R-rating that otherwise suits a sword-and-sandal epic like HERCULES better.

Then there's the ending, which neither epic nor engaging enough to see the way Hercules finally defeat his true enemies. It's like as if Ratner has run out of idea and decides to wrap things up as quickly as possible.

While majority of the casts here are worthwhile, it's pity that Ratner underutilized the exceptional talents of Joseph Fiennes (who plays King Eurystheus) and Peter Mullan (who plays Cotys' main right-hand man, Sitacles) and neglected them into thankless performances.

FINAL WORDS

While Brett Ratner's HERCULES is hardly the definitive version that could have achieved admirably, at least it's way better than Renny Harlin's big-budget misfire shown earlier this year.

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