The Myth, the Legend… (Hercules, 2014)
The film begins by detailing the great legends of Hercules. As a child he defeats snakes sent by a jealous Hera. He fought the Hydra. He defeated the Erymanthian Boar. The Nemean Lion. We discover this is a tale being told to some pirates about to kill a young man. Hercules walks into the camp, and before the lead pirate’s eyes, dispatches his crew. We the audience realize he is not doing it alone. Hiding among the camp are a skilled team. It turns out that Hercules has a bunch of super friends that help feed the legend of an unbeatable warrior. And they are really just mercenaries.
While celebrating their latest victory, they are approached by Ergenia, daughter of Lord Cotys. She is asking for help to protect their home from a local warlord and promises the team their weight in gold. After agreeing, Hercules and his Amazing Friends help Cotys defeat the Warlord. But they soon find they may have aligned themselves with the wrong people.
Hard to believe there were two Hercules films in 2014, but here we are. This film is all about playing with the myth. The film never confirms whether Hercules is truly a demigod or if the gods are even real. At the same time, it never truly denies it either. In fact, the film pretty much ends on a “Who knows???” kind of note.
There is also a mystery, as rumors of Hercules having killed his own wife and children dog him. He was cast out of the kingdom of King Eurystheus for this and it is what led to his life as a mercenary. All of this plays around with the idea of myths and legends versus “the Truth”. This is another “all new tale”, though it tries to supplant those old tales of Hercules as the true story we never new.
Based on a graphic novel, I am somewhat relieved it did not go the route of 300 or Sin City. Or even it’s competition, the Legend of Hercules. The action scenes are not heavily stylized.
The film seems to be relying entirely on Johnson’s charisma to sell the film. The actions sequences are competent, but not especially memorable. The element of the fantastic is blunted by the attempt to be coy about it’s place in reality versus fantasy. Even the best characters rely on great actors giving stock performances. This is especially true of Ian McShane’s Amphiaraus, the wise drunk.
This is certainly one of Ratner’s better films…but frankly, that is not saying much. Nothing really saves this from being disappointing at best.