You’re either thinking, “Another Hercules movie, in the space of one year?!” or “Yay! One more myth-based story that feels like a feature-length episode of Spartacus, the TV show.”
‘Yes’ to the first, and ‘kind of yes’ to the second. The last film that Hollywood made based on the legend of the Greek hero was in January 2014. Titled The Legend Of Hercules, and starring Kellan Lutz, it dealt with the origin story of Hercules. This one, starring Dwayne Johnson (or The Rock, if you still prefer to call him that), takes place later in his life. Hercules has survived The Twelve Labours and great personal loss, and is now the stuff of legend. Him, and his band of merry men and one woman, traverse the lands fighting battles for those who will pay them to fight. One such ‘client’ I suppose, comes in the form of a beautiful young woman Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) representing Lord Cotys (John Hurt), who I think is also a King. Her father, the King, wishes to recruit Hercules and his team to train his army to fight a warlord and save his people. Seems simple enough on the surface but (spoiler alert!) all is not as it seems.
What follows are fight sequences, witty banter, mystery and assorted cloak & dagger type stuff. Sometimes with real daggers. Plus, there was a training montage sequence! A swords & sandals setting for a training montage sequence is pretty irresistible don’t you think? Thankfully they stayed true to the period-ness of the movie and didn’t play, you know, Eye Of The Tiger, or something.
Johnson does a really good job as the wounded (emotionally), powerful (physically) warrior Hercules. His strong, steady presence has made him enjoyable to watch in much fluffier fare (Pain & Gain anyone?) and in this scenario he does not fail to deliver. His team consists of some big names and some new faces that hold their own. Rufus Sewell is all dry wit as Hercules’ childhood friend Autolycus, Ian McShane is commendably cheery for being the one who can foretell the death of everyone including himself, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal does a fine job of being the athletic, quick-as-lightning archer Atalanta and Reece Ritchie balances theatricality and comedy well as Iolaus, Hercules’ nephew and the person tasked with spreading his legend in an effort to put fear in the hearts of his enemies. Aksel Hennie is a strong presence as the scarred Tydeus, ferocious in battle but rendered mute from the horrors he witnessed in his past.
Final Analysis: The film moves along without really slacking and the action is energetic enough to keep you entertained. Problem is – if you consider it a problem – we’ve kind of seen this all before. I hate to say that because I am aware of the enormous effort it takes to make this kind of story come to life. Also, we’re a little spoiled by the no-holds-barred violence and sexuality of something like Spartacus which makes for a more impactful viewing experience.
My advice: It’s a good evening at the movies, so if you’re a fan of this genre of film, you should go check it out.