Not worth the three hours of wig glue application.
Hercules (Dwayne Johnson, Doom) is a man whose reputation precedes him in a big way. Thanks to the tales spun on his behalf, he has gained the persona of a demigod, the son of Zeus, imbued with divine power and hydra-killing prowess. This narrative makes life significantly easier for Hercules who is, in fact, a run-of-the-mill mortal with huge biceps and a successful mercenary. He and his crack crew of bad-asses have made a fortune journeying from job to job, but their latest endeavor, which promises untold riches, may prove to be their undoing.
On paper, Hercules has a lot going for it. While it’s a significant risk to cleanse a Hercules movie of any fantasy elements (so to speak; there’s some CGI creativity in the context of the Hercules tall-tale-spinning), I appreciated why they went this way. I had, in fact, braced myself for another overcooked, visual-effects-heavy headache.
But going the grittier, more realistic route added a nice spin to the character. Now, I can see the counter-argument: why sap a tale that is sourced in mythology and fantasy of mythology and fantasy? “Does everything need to be gritty and realistic?”
Nah, of course not. But with such fantasy duds like Clash of the Titans and The Legend of Hercules in our rearview mirror I for one was happy to be spared another bout of awful-looking dragons breathing awful-looking fire at awful-looking skeletons. Go ahead, then, and bring on something different with Herc. Let Dwayne Johnson lay waste to fools without the benefit of wire-work and Industrial Light and Magic.
So I’m down with it. In execution, Hercules turns into a merely serviceable swords and sandals action movie. While great effort was obviously put into crafting a memorable group of mercenaries to surround Hercules with, including a knife-throwing thief (Rufus Sewell, Dark City), an Amazonian archer and an old fart that can tell the future (Ian McShane, Deadwood).
They join Herc in a standard-issue us-against-the-world crusade against an apparently evil sorcerer and his band of killers; a plot twist sort of works but makes the end fight awkward. As it stands, it’s hard to pinpoint many memorable fight scenes. Director Brett Ratner tries to concoct cool, massive battle scenes, but there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before.
Worse, Dwayne Johnson isn’t used to his full physical potential. Personally, I blame the club. That’s Herc’s go-to weapon and while it certainly sounds like it would be cool to watch a giant man beating down dudes with a club, in practice, it’s less than compelling on the screen.
Wrapping up: I was pulling for Hercules but a series of disposable action set-pieces, a waste of Dwayne Johnson’s triceps and a pedestrian effort from Ratner, places this production in the same recycle bin that contains its lamer, more boring, but, ultimately, just as forgettable sibling, The Legend of Hercules.
Rock solid Blu-ray, starting with a great 2.40:1, 1080p transfer that pops in a big way and renders the largely practical action work well. For sound, you get a rare 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, which is given a fair amount to do; lots of grunting, smacking and crashing, sure to shake your living room, despite the nondescript score. Extras include a three-minute extended cut, deleted/extended scenes, director’s commentary, and featurettes looking at the cast, the big battle scene, the weapons and the visual effects.
Guilty. Hand in your loincloth.