Hercules, like its hero, is a loud, clumsy beast that excels at the fight scenes but fails miserably when deep meaningful conversation is required. It is a movie dominated by visual effects, from the sweeping panoramas of Ancient Greece to the misinformed portrayal of oversized wolves as creatures of devastation and insatiable hunger. There are a number of skirmishes that hang themselves on the plot; they are expertly timed and choreographed. Dwayne Johnson can certainly swing a club. But when it comes down to actually getting to know these characters, Hercules is about as lost as that little kid looking for mommy in the Mall Of America.
And that’s just one of this movie’s many problems. Director Brett Ratner has been around Hollywood for a while now. He has never made a movie quite like this, on such a vast scale, but he certainly knows what he is doing. He knows instinctively what makes a Hollywood blockbuster work. Why he has never found overwhelming success might boil down to the inadequacies of the screenplays he’s been dealt. Hercules receives an appalling one, which is disgraceful considering that one of the writers is Greek. The screenplay, penned by Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos, is predictable from beginning to end. There is not a single moment of surprise or innovation. It is filled with stock characters, who perform stock deeds and utter stock words and catchphrases. It takes all the necessary twists and turns, all of which most moviegoers will already be seasoned with. You know the kind I’m talking about.
The hero has a nephew who spends his days telling tales. Now he wants to fight, but the hero won’t allow it. This makes way for the line: “I’ve spent all my time telling other people’s stories. It’s time for me to live my own”.
The hero has a group of comrades who are loyal to him. One is like a caged wolverine who doesn’t speak but can shriek and dice up flying arrows pretty good. You can be sure that by the end of the movie he will say something, and everyone in the audience will Awww. Another member joins the plot because he expects to be paid handsomely for his services. You can be sure that after he is paid he will abandon his friends to splurge his winnings, only to suffer a morality crisis and return at just the right moment to save them from certain death.
The group, led by Hercules (Johnson), comprises of a couple of veteran actors, including Ian McShane and Rufus Sewell. Both just seem happy to be a part of the project. The hot, sexy lady member, played by the Norwegian Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, has archery skills to match that of Legolas, and is no doubt trending the fashion of the future (it’s amusing that she never runs out of arrows to expend, even when she’s faced with a hoard of charging horsemen). King Cotys of Thrace, the man who hires Hercules’ mob to come help him fight off the advancements of invading nomads, is played quietly by John Hurt, except for the end when he spends more time screaming. And Johnson just looks odd in that wig. It is a ragtag cast, assembled to play ragtag characters.
Some of the good characters turn out to be not so good, and the ones who enter as villains may or may not be on the side of the righteous. Don’t think too hard about it though. The screenplay makes little effort to try and surprise us. I sat through much of Hercules knowing, almost telepathically, who will die and who will not, who’s good and who’s bad, and even some of the things the characters might say. I was correct every time.
Best Moment | Nope.
Worst Moment | Every time the plot takes an expected turn. I’m also very tired of seeing wolves portrayed as bloodthirsty monsters. In real life, they are anything but.