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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hercules

HERCULES

** SPOILERS **

Brett Ratner's Hercules takes the monsters and the gods out of the classic Greek mythology of gods and monsters. In this revisionist take on the legend of Hercules (where everyone has a Greek name except Hercules himself, because if he had his actual Greek name he'd be called Heracles), the legend that Hercules is the son of Zeus and performed Twelve Labors against the most fearsome monsters of Ancient Greece is just that. In actuality, Hercules, as embodied (and what a jacked body it is) by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, is merely an incredibly strong mortal man and who is surrounded by a gang of warriors (including Rufus Sewell, Ian McShane and a fearsome Amazonian warrior played by Ingrid Bolso Berdal) who are loyal to the end. Nor did Hercules face monsters, for there are no monsters; each of the Twelve Labors was against either an otherwise normal animal (the Nemean Lion) or people pretending to be monsters (the Hydra) that Hercules and his buddies tag teamed and defeated. The legend of Hercules is just smoke and mirrors. It's all just a story, a myth built around Hercules mostly spread by his carnival barker of a nephew as a means for them all to make money. Hercules and his posse gots ta get paid, preferably in Hercules' weight in gold.

Traveling across Ancient Greece and eking out a living as mercenaries, Hercules and friends - exiles from Athens and their king played effetely by Joseph Fiennes - are brought to Thrace by the Thracian king John Hurt to train his army and lead them in a war against centaurs. (Hint: there are no real centaurs.) Little does the soft-spoken, lion's mane-as-a-hoodie-wearing Hercules realize that he's a pawn in a diabolical scheme by Hurt to make himself an emperor over all of Greece. Despite his legend preceding him, there's a lot of doubt cast as to whether Hercules is the demi-god he claims he is, but once the Thracians see Hercules beat the crap out of five guys at once with one blow of his club and powerslam a horse, doubt erases as to whether Hercules is the real deal. If only Hercules believed his own hype; Johnson's Hercules is haunted by the murder of his wife and children - blamed on him by Fiennes - and of the Twelfth Labor left uncompleted: battling Cerberus, the three headed dog of Hades (note: there is no three headed dog from Hades.) 

As a sword and sandals spectacle, Hercules is sufficiently entertaining, even surprisingly so. While the long yak hair wig and odd anatomy of his armor never quite suit him, The Rock brings a godly physicality to the role that makes him totally convincing when he lays the smack down on Ancient Greek candy asses. (Repeat: Hercules powerslams a horse.) Johnson is especially mighty in the final act when Hercules finally unleashes all of his incredible Hercules-ness and flattens whole armies by toppling giant marble statues onto them. Sewell, McShane, and his compatriots handle most of the exposition and the comedy, while Hurt makes for a dastardly old villain. In a weird way, by having a gang of buddies around him as a makeshift family who ride or die with him, Hercules kind of has his own Guardians of the Galaxy. The studio should use that in the marketing of Hercules; it might lift up its ungodly box office.

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