Tuesday, 14 October 2014

"Dracula untold" review: an average retake on the classic myth

Exactly as I thought it would be "Dracula untold" offers an interesting take on the titutal character but it is not fleshed out enough while disappointing with the lack of creativity.
Luke Evans is doing his best but...
The cast: Luke Evans makes a fine Dracula but he is not given enough material to work with. Even during the action scenes while convincing as a force of nature, he does not get the chance to truly shine. It is such a shame that "Dracula untold" is not the vehicle that it was supposed to be. Dominic Cooper hams it up completely as the Turk Soultan with eyeliner(!) lacking any characterization and dramatic moment to establish his persona. The rest of the cast are pretty forgettable with uber bodyguards againt Vlad the Impaler and friends that protect him with an onion being able to display more charisma than these roles. Saving grace is Charles Dance as an ancient vampire who is able to generate tension with that Tywin Lannister look (you know about what I am talking about), buried under lots of make up that makes the most of it in the limited screentime of 5 minutes.
Vlad's wife....zero characterization
Story: Biggest problem of the film so far. While the idea of exploring the character of Dracula from the beginning in a prequel form and suggest him as a rather heroic personality from one perspective (Transylvanian one) and a monster from another (The Turkish one) is intriguing, it is not fleshed out properly. In fact it just been barely recognized and acknolwedged through the main characters so we can get the plot going. Any supporting roles bare limited or no gravitas so any occuring death comes without the generation of the slightest emotion to the viewer. Although there is a quite fast pace for this sort of film, at the end everything is just empty and lacks depth as the filmmakers seem to be enthusiastic to finish the film. Any dramatic substance even in the most crucial moments is being ignored for the sake of the next scene and the application of the produced consequences is never seen or felt.

Action: For a trailer that heavenly showcased special effects and huge battles, "Dracula untold" disappoints a lot. Pretty much everything is in the trailer. Vlad's powers are not fully explained and his fight with the Othoman hordes is rather brief and frnakly not impressive. Since the film has its main fights taking place during the night, the dark cinematography and a crazy edit from the early 00's school, do not help to establish who is fighting who. When you get to see some, it is rather blunt and unimpressive and no different than other straightforward blockbuster movies that spent limited time to conceive impressive swordfights. "Solomon Kane", a film that passes in similar fields of "Dracula untold" contains some truly impressive swordplay with clear and brutal choreography.
Dominic Cooper continues the string of bad guy for no reason roles
Rating: The rating basically is a joke. While we are off from a rather upsetting and gothic start, soon "DU" descends into PG-13 level category with a bit of bite. It's like as the director decided to make a hybrid of horror action with emphasis at the latter. Suffering for not showcasing how brutal that era must have been and jeopardising the violence to secure a more friendly rating, "Dracula untold" is too dark for the young ages and too kid friendly for the older ones.

 Everything else: Pretty much the average standard things you expect. Special effects are ok but not groundbreaking. Cinematography ranges from good (daylight scenes) to terrible (nightime), costumes are sufficient and so on. It all just looks ok but nothing to be worthy of remembering or at least having fun with.

Overall, "Dracula untold" is not a terrible film but it is a terribly average one. It could have potential with a sharper script, strong focus on the horror aspect and the torment of this classic icon and the gothic setting. Instead a get a watered down version of one of the most famous monsters of all time. Is this really what we wanted?

+ Luke Evans doing his best
+ Charles Freaking Dance scene stealer
- Dominic Cooper - blunt performance
- not enough action...
-...and not thrilling enough...
- watered down version
- terrible edit
- no dramatic substance
- less than one dimensional characters

4+/10






Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Films that I hate: "Die hard : live free or die hard"

Well, that's it. The 3rd sequel of the much beloved franchise "Die hard" was upon me. I have to admit I was kinda ecstatic when they announced back in 2007. Bruce Willis looked good, the cast seemed solid (Olyphant, Long, Q, Winstead), the trailer displayed massive set pieces of destruction. And then this happened....

PG-13: First of all, a great screw you to all the fans of the original trilogy. Pretty much every single fight in all die hard films was felt. McClane was pretty much destroyed when he was encountering the villains and many times pure luck  and the surroundings of his environment assisted him to survive. Who can forget the ice stalactite in the guy's eye socket in "Die hard 2"? Or "now I have a machine gun...hohohoho". The kills were almost reaching splatter territory and even represented in quite some graphic imaginery (through the use of blood squibs of course). But the pussyfication of the "Die hard" franchise did not stop here (even worse with "A good day to die hard"). Adding even more levels of insult in the whole thing, we get a unrated cut with CGI blood. Piss off movie. If you want to try to get a wider audience with toned down violence, do not do it. It is still violence but because we do not see blood, the little kiddies in the States are going to think that it is ok? Best. Logic. Ever.

0 chances of survival rate in the real world: John McClane captured the imagination of the worldwide audience because he really seemed the wrong guy at the wrong time at the wrong place (portrayed with finesse by Willis). He was not an ultimate badass with special forces background. Just a regular NYC detective with average training. Here though, we get a McClane who survives falls from buildings, bridges, cars, and ventilation shafts (!), military airplanes shooting rockets and bullets, parkour experts, explosions, traffic jams, car accidents, martial artists who totally would have killed him and in the most obvious fashion, bullets in his body. McClane has become a parody, a guy who is truly indestructible for our entertainment and can take pretty much any type of henchmen. Next time he will be able to defeat superheroes as well.
He should have died a billion times in the film at this point
The villain: Despite conceptualizing Gabriel as a kinda morally grey villain, the more the film progresses, the worst it becomes. He has a totally convoluted plan to kill the hackers that performed the work for him, instead of trying the old-fashioned technique to assassinate them with ...let's say a sniper rifle. Efficient. Fast. Effective. But no...the whole thing of exploding your computer through a virus is so totally ridiculous that actually puts into motion the terrible plot. Some interesting aspects of his character (America has flaws on its security system), Gabriel does not even come across as a two dimensional villain. He remains in one note territory and he overcomes really fast his grief over his dead now girlfriend. Add on that the fact that he has multiple times to put John underground but no, he really likes rambling. If I was him, I would tear him apart so I can make my plan to work.
Bigger set pieces do not mean better movie. When are you going to learn that?
Bigger action: Larger set pieces that the ones I witnessed before do not mean necessarily a better movie (see "The matrix reloaded", "Total Recall(remake)"). Len Wiseman employs trucks, helicopters, planes, apartments, cars, shoot-outs and explosions, lots of explosions but they never make a proper impression. We have seen all these things before. What set "Die Hard" was the claustrophobic setting of the first, the brilliantly put idea of an airport at the centre of the action in the second, and the chaotic streets of NY in the third with an interesting twist regarding a bomb crazed villain. And this is exactly why Die Hard 4 never registered to my brain.

Cyril Rafaelli: What's the point of introducing one of the biggest stars in parkour if you are not going to use properly? In a similar fate with Chow-Yun Fat and pretty much any non American action star in a major Hollywood film, Rafaelli is barely 5 minutes in and DIES LIKE A BITCH. He should have killed McClane in one go. Younger, faster and more powerful that McClane he absolutely poses no problem.

Each of these points reflect how bad I feel about DH. The first three are classics in my opinion and even now, they look incredibly well made, with great characters, set pieces and pieces of dialogue. Here we do not even get to listen to the profanity (Yippie kay Hey mothe$%^&*!). Really? Good call Hollywood executives. What a piece of garbage.

- no swearing
- no adult violence
- PG-13 rating
- CGI blood
- one dimensional villain
- convoluted plan so laughable to take it seriously
- Kevin Smith cameo- WTF?
- Superhero McClane
- Misuse of Cyril Rafaelli

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

"As above so below" review: a promising but ultimately disappointing horror movie

"As above so below" is yet another disappointing found footage movie with an interesting premise. While the film does being with some intriguing thoughts, towards the end it escalates into predictable and unexplaining territory without knowing how to close the thrill ride.
One of the most annoying characters in recent memory. The main heroine that makes the audience to wish her a nice slow agonising death
The plot: Well, here we have a good thing and a bad thing. The good one is that we get an Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider/The mummy vibe as a bunch of archaeologists and urban explorers descend upon the catacombs of Paris to find the philosopher's stone. Interesting idea for a creepy setting that has not seen the cinematic light that it deserves (besides the horror film "Catacombs" with Pink! in 2007). The bad thing is that the story goes nowhere remotely fascinating. There are glimpses of what could lurk in the catacombs (serial killers, ghosts, hell, other supernatural stuff) but nothing really gets explained fully or at least partially. Even with the power of (minor) suggestion the films fails to impress and the film resolves everything in the final act that lacks believability :P

The characters: ... are doing one stupid mistake after another since the plot requires it and when they meet their demise it is actually rewarding. They are pretty much stock characters with zero development or emphasis in their psychosynthesis so it is very difficult to give a damn. In particular, our heroine - a blunt copycat of Lara Croft in ANY WAY - is such an annoying spoilt brat that practically begs annihilation so we can proceed with our lives. Everyone else gets pretty much limited screentime with basic yelling and confusion summarizing the acting in a gloomy and dark environment.

The cast: Most of them have beautiful faces enough with the acting ability of a cuccumber. Add on that hilarious dialogue - "what we will find down there?"-"do I look like a tourist?" and you have a recipe for laughter.
One of the interesting ideas of the film here (abandon hope all ye who enter here) but never gets explored or mentioned ever again.
Catacombs: One of the few positive values of the movie is undeniably the setting. The catacombs of Paris (that contain the bones of 6 million people) are a terrific place to shoot a horror film. Ideal to create such thick tension in the hands of a competent director that you could cut it with a knife; there are bones everywhere and the darkness that covers miles and miles of underground passages with Christian rites assigned in the walls can scare the living shit out of you. If you take into consideration that the filmmakers were allowed to shoot in the off limits of this bony labyrinth...come on this is screaming for horror! Such a shame then to discover that not much of the real catacombs can be seen in the final product as when we descend more at the core of the place, we get to see (although well made) sets rather than the actual terrifying corridors.

Direction: As with any found footage horror movies, this relies on the typical cliches when the camera turns out and something jumps in front of you. Basically if you have seen one, you pretty much expect the scares here besides one well placed in the beginning. As I mentioned above at the hands of a competent director, this could have been one of the scariest films of all time. I personally would have loved to see if these are pieces of imagination or actual supernatural stuff or some elaborate prank and would utilize in maximum effect any sounds - like a distinct laughter or a hissing or the wind etc to put well placed terror in the hearts of cinema goers.

Set pieces: Does this contain any quality set pieces? Not really, just the actors and actresses going from one rocky place to another. The jump scares are scarce and between idiotic scenes of dialogue and anytime that something does occur, it is (obviously) so dark that you can barely see it which makes you wonder why go the found footage approach? Certain elements have been lifted straight up from the superior and far terrifying "The descent" so minus points for originality.

Summary: "As above so below" comes with a fantastic idea - combination of real time horror with archaeology but has no clue what to do with it. The characters are flat out unexisting, the story does not progress as much as you want to and given the terrific setting, this should have left me breathless and crying for my mommy. Instead I was looking forward to go home.

+ one well placed jump scare
+ fantastic and authentic setting
+ interesting idea
- awful characters
-  ... if they happen to have one
- story goes nowhere
- ideas are being thrown all the time with no effect
- lifting up scenes from "The descent"
- catacombs are severely underused

3/10




Friday, 5 September 2014

"Lucy" review: an over the top actioner/thinker?

"Lucy" the latest cinematic idea of Luc Besson includes all the director's trademarks - tough female leading character, action, violence, gun fights, doses of black humour, interesting ideas, style - and flaws - no substance, overblown third act, graphic villains.
A better than the usual performances of SJ.
The ideas: "Humans are more concerned with having that being". My new favourite quote and one of the themes that Lucy tries (and kinda succeeds) to explore. Rather than just being a typical action movie, it has surprisingly despite the rather generic and idiotic trailer, more thought that you might expected. The film deals with the complex scientific issues of evolution, brain development and the way technology affects our lives, the responsibility of vast knowledge and more. Certainly there are some clever flashback scenes regarding the human evolution - the discovery of fire - that aim to highlight the contrast in our every day technology infused life. Besson - always trying to have a meaning in his films, like it or hate it - at least attempts to make a comment regarding the mental evolution of humanity. The bad thing here is that it feels underdeveloped in certain parts as if he had reached a 2 hour movie, the audience might have been bored. 

The plot: Nothing new here besides the above mentioned concepts - action heroine has to evade police and baddies. And that's it really. The film starts feelings the ground falling apart in the third act where Lucy reaches 100% and it delivers some truly bizarre screensho

The cast: Scarlett Johansson gives an above than average performance in that film, with in particular, two stand out scenes (her fear for the gangsters was quite real as well her phonecall to her mother) showcasing more acting ability than usual. On the other hand, Choi Min Sik is wasted as the Korean gangster. An actor of this magnitude should have been used more and he does not have any particularly moment to shine in an one dimensional role. Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman and that is not a bad thing.
Choi Sin Mik is an excellent choice as a gangster but tremedously underused. 
The action: There is not enough action here as the trailer suggests. The final act does get a bit action heavy but nothing is particularly memorable. It reminded a bit of Leon but there was a proper mayhem and a screaming Gary Oldman.

Visuals: The great surprise here are the visuals. "Lucy" is quite a visual movie the moment the whole transformation occurs and how different the world is being seen through Lucy's eyes. Besson have not displayed such a memorable visual style since the 90's. From connecting living dots, to de-molecularization and colourful voice threads in a vast city and x-ray vision, Luc here delivers the gods.

So what is "Lucy"? While it does have interesting ideas and themes, a further 20 minutes of a film would have definitely made it better. While by no means horrible or average, it feels it could have been more! With better written characters (we almost know nothing about Lucy so we hardly care) and a combination of the nice touchy visuals, it could have been a superb intellectual actioner. Instead it is simply sufficient with good performances and some floating ideas.

+ good visuals
+ interesting themes and ideas
+ not too much action
+ good cast
- underused actors
- not enough exploration of themes
- last act feels overblown

6/10

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

"The expendables 3" review : more than disappointing, a mess

"Expendables 3" is by far the worst movie of 2014. Considering the talent gathered for the third installment, it should have been the most awesome guilty-free action pleasure of the 21st century. However, how much I was deceived by Stallone's effort. While the first two had still terrible flaws (effects and cgi bullet holes), they still packed some stuff that midly intrigued me - Jean Claude Van Damme as the baddie (despite his limited screentime) or the fight (almost wrestling) sequences in the first movie. Part 3 is just balls. Allow me to elaborate below as I summarize the main points of displeasure.

Mel Gibson steals the show. A great performance is a terrible film
The plot: Of course I am not expecting a ShakeSpearean proportions drama or the character level of Tarantino. I am aware of that. But when you actually do not even have a plot to a supposed action oriented movie, then your film is clearly a mess. We start as usual in an off the main plot mission while we get to see glimpses of Gibson's big bad buying a painting (?) and walking into a house (?) - segments that add nothing to the plot or to his character. They are so much filler that makes you wonder the level of professionalism behind the camera. In addition, the old team is saying goodbye because the plot requires it so we can pave the way for new recruits. Instant mistake! I paid to see Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas not to witness their sidetracking for new losers that nobody knows or cares about! Finally, everyone shows for the final act and you know that you have missed the air of siliness and self satire that the original "expendables" bring. The new guys are too cool for school, all covered in nice tattoos, with absolutely model looking baby faces that are supposed to know the ugly side of the world  - good one. Remember that ACTING bit of Mickey Rourke in the first film? While it came out of nowhere, it was a welcome touch that offered a bit of insight in the hearts of mercenaries like them (the horror of this lifestyle and sublte nod of choice). There is at one point some spark when the old recruits are makng fun of the newbies but that does not last for more than a minute. I would have gladly paid to see an entire movie of the youngsters being made fun off and repeatedly getting humiliated by their older counterparts (just like in RED). But no they go all way too serious! Awful choice!

The cast: Fake advertising! Wesley Snipes, Harison Ford and Antonio Banderas are there for mere minutes. Particularly, Antonio Banderas is wasted in a terribly written - disgraced is a probably better description - role that does not showcase his classic Desperado style. Who was the puppet master behind these stylistic choices? Jet Li - ha, he is more of a cameo without an action scene to shine and Arnie has become a caricature that is not even funny anymore. The old team are all solid but the newbies deliver such bad performances that makes you wonder what Stallone was thinking. All awful with no exception and they seem to take the proceedings way too seriously for a film of this magnitude.

The villain: The saving grace of this flop is Mel Gibson. Clearly having a blast as the big bad, Gibson actually brings some gravitas to his rather one dimensional role. You actually believe this guy's word but of course at the hands of Stallone, he never moves into a solid character territory since we never spent time with him despite some interesting touches e.g., feeling betrayed by Barney, left for dead, etc.
A gang of psychos - Snipes and Banderas underused tremendously
The action: You think this type of film could have some decent action? Well you guessed wrong. The action is not particularly memorable and the stunts are laughable. It feels even worse than straight to dvd productions with poor pacing, staged action sequences and obvious stunt doubles that are parkouring themselves whereas any fight choreography displayed lacks real punch since everyone does not even struggle to defeat any bad guys. They can kill millions with one hand scratching their ass and with the other kung fuing and firing a bazooka AT THE SAME TIME. True story.

Special effects: The most atrocious bit of a 90 million movie with fake CGI helicopters and other vehicles. The badly designed CGI explosions are a sight for laughter whereas people are spraying bullets that apparently are not killing the characters in front of their aim and also fail to hit the walls too! They are passing these things for action these days.

Direction: A souless piece of direction belongs to Patrick Hughes. I am not sure if this turd is his fault but he definitely has to take some blame for the generic framing, staging and directing pretty much this vast cast. Clearly not confident to shoot action, he poorly tries to showcase gunfights, parkour display, stunts, explosions, crashes. How much of a hack you can be to make all the above boring? When the final fight between Sly and Mel last 45 seconds what do you expect??????? HACK! And he is directing the remake of "The raid". Fuck off.

Violence: The most controversial element of E3. You took out the gore to attract a wider audience and who laughing now bitch? Not only the youngsters do not know who Wesley Snipes is, the old losers like myself said no to kid friendly gun totting mayhem. There is such a high body count (more than 300 bodies) and it is evident that every single expendable is a psychopath. The lack of blood makes the entire thing a glorification of violence as a videogame with heroes that show no remorse for their actions. Remember the first bit where Jet Li fought Lungdren because he wanted to kill one Somali pirate and the rest of the team made a case against him as well? These were the days where the Expendables felt like a decent throwback to the action pieces of the 80's. Here everyone is killing a private army and they are happy with it because SPOILERS Mel Gibson injured one of their friends. Talking about lethal consequences. Imagine what they would do if we tell that Santa Claus is not real - they will probably use nuclear weapons or something. 

Conclusion: Expendables 3 is one of the worst films of 2014. Bloodless, horribly written, unthrilling and anti-climactic. Gibson is fantastic and at the hands of a more competent action director and with an actual script, this could have been a blast - excluding any young cast members of course. Stay away. This is the type of film that masterpieces such as "The raid" and "The raid: berandal" destroy with only one scene. And Hollywood dares to remake them. What a bunch of a-holes.

+ Mel Gibson as the villain
+ Great (old) cast
- no violence
- lacks any punch
- terrible action
- terrible characters
- the young cast - awful actors and actresses
- souless direction
- zero thrills
- poor stunts
- no final fight between Mel and Sly
- Wasted Banderas and Snipes
- Jet Li who now?

2/10


Saturday, 2 August 2014

"Guardians of the galaxy" review: enjoyable but formulaic Marvel film

Good cast and great representation of Rocket Raccoon and Groot
Apparently, everyone is raving about the "guardians of the galaxy". Strange thing, this comic book and film geek will not. For some reason, I felt that GOTG was an effort to recapture what made the "Avengers" such a huge hit with pretty much the same jokes, spectacular special effects and a decent cast. There are many problems with GOTG that although some of them do appear in other Marvel films, here are more evident and literally do not immerse you the way previous installments did. 

Firstly, there is a tremendous amount of weak characterization. Starlord has some emotional development but his introduction scene on Earth is ludicrous as we do not get to see why he does the (rather miserable) thing that he does. Then all of a sudden an out of the blue romance blossoms it is getting now pretty annoying in each Marvel chapter to have characters fall in love through peculiar circumstances (see Thor). 

In the antagonist department (my favourite), Ronan the accuser is a joke. While Lee Pace tries desperately to make Ronan creepy and badass (the make up is spot on), he does not have enough material to work with. The same thing occured for Red Skull and Malekith, both amazing visually villains with lack of dramatic depth (see Loki) and motivations. So Ronan is the typical "I want to destroy my enemies and perform genocide" for whatever the hell he wants to do that for. And to my biggest disappointment, we do not know what he can do and what he can't. Is he a god? Is a superpowered dude? Why people fear him? We never get to see him shining in an action sequence and it is really embarassing the way he goes out of the picture. 
Pleasantly surprised by Chris Pratt's performance. He has enough charisma to make Starlord role his own.
James Gunn has tried to inject humour in the vibe of Firefly/Serenity and although it is a welcome addition, some of the jokes fall flat - as there is a joke every 3 minutes adding a childish layer in the proceedings. The script is moving at a fast pace with lots of satellite characters (Benicio Del Toro, John C. Reily, Glenn Close totally wasted) that have minimal or zero effect to the plot and although it is admirable that the guardians decide to save the galaxy as a group of misfits, the plan still lacks conviction. There is not even a dramatic moment - this is a movie where a guy wants to wipe out an entire planet. The heroes are invicible, there are no real stakes with everyone surviving explosions, spaceship crashes, fights and even bazooka blasts! And the biggest disappointment though was the reveal of Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin). This is a CGI monstrocity that looked so fake and felt it was inserted last minute to perform fun boy service. 

The action is servicable but there is nothing that is totally memorable or outstanding. One of the biggest problems I have so far with Marvel is that they are terribly weak in the fight department. So far, only "The winter soldier" has revealed proper (outstanding) choreography. I feel like that Kevin Feige and Co are mostly interested to showcase brilliant special effects and technicalities rather than a breathtaking fighting sequence (still waiting for my Thor vs Loki epic clash). Ronan as I mentioned above pretty much is wasted in the entire film and does not have a single action scene!!!

Having said everything that I was annoyed with the GOTG, do not lose hope despite my whining. Technically - with the aforementioned Thanos - the film is superb. The production design values are beyond exceptional as they bring a Star Wars vibe and the make up is truly outstanding - particularly on Drax and Ronan. The effects are spectacular and everything else from the designs to the cinematography serve the film really well. It is always good to see a film set in space as these days, let's be honest sci-fi is kinda a dull field to attract investements.

The cast is surprisingly good with Groot and Rocket Racoon - brilliant vocal performance by Bradley Cooper - stealing the show. Chris Pratt makes the role of Starlord his own and is charismatic enough to generate likability and Zoe Zaldana establishes herself as a proper badass. Certain laughs are guaranteed and some of the action is well staged, particularly a humourous prison escape that involves a prosthetic leg. 

But the Marvel formula starts here to wear thin. If you liked the previous films, you will like this one. There is nothing tremedously bad here (except that stupid CGI Thanos) but nothing memorable either besides...Rocket Raccoon and Groot. This is point A to point B Marvel flick - laughs, effects, weak villain, big cast, wasted acting opportunities, happy ending.

+ good cast
+ Rocket Raccoon and Groot
+ production design
+ make up values - truly outstanding
+ spectacular special effects
- ... and then you have Thanos
- most of the humour falls flat
- wasted talented cast in the supporting roles
- one dimensional villain
- ... who has not a single shining scene
- formulaic film

6/10


Saturday, 26 July 2014

"Hercules" review: passable blockbuster entertainment

Reasons to see this: The rock! and the cast
Brett Ratner is just an average director. He does not have a particular style, he does not rely on special effects or overuse of music, he simply directs the actors and actresses sufficiently enough but does not go any further. In other words, his films will go down as passable entertainment that can never reach the masterpiece status or the so bad it is so good cult legacy. In fact, his whole filmography cannot even quantify as very good movies, merely forgettable and servicable entertainment. Some of them had potential that led to disappointment - the family man, x-men the last stand - others were simply ok - rush hour, rush hour 2, tower heist. 

"Hercules" falls into the second category. It is not bad, it has some good moments in it but it could have been so much more. But let's talk about it with more detail. The story has taken a few liberties regarding the myth of Hercules and I am not against that (despite being Greek). When someone is referring to the legendary deeds of Hercules, the reply is "what a load of crap". So here the filmmakers from the first minute have established the reality that the movie takes place. Sometimes the script does tease a bit of mysticism and the existence of gods but follows a similar route that "Troy" displayed 10 years ago. While this is not a wise decision - as the legend of Hercules is enough to create mesmerising set pieces and has lots of blockbuster potential, it does not have as catastrophic consequences as one might think. In fact, there is some clever humour regarding the whole thing implicating that the filmmakers are not taking seriously the occuring events.

The script while it remains for the majority of the movie predictable with every cliche being ticked along the way, does offer a bit of a surprise flavour towards the end and enriches with more pathos the (later) proceedings. I would wonder why it took so long to perform this since if more of these stuff were in the beginning, "Hercules" might have been a pretty damn good movie.

For a sword and sandal epic, Hercules does contain a handful of decent action scenes with some elaborate fight choreography from the heros' companions but they are all so awesome that the film lacks any real danger of them getting hurt or killed. In addition, despite being well made and edited and avoiding the trap of insane edit, there is nothing here that we have not seen before. Take for example the fight scenes in "Troy". Love it or hate it, the choreography was simply outstanding and the use of sound brilliant. Here pretty much everyone is like a god - either with a spear or with a knife - that can take dozens of soldiers within minutes. The rock does have some moments to show off his physique but I think he did it better in ... wait for it... "The scorpion king" bouncing like a crazy ninja turtle. As if Ratner was not ready enough to show off his charisma on camera. 

The battles on the other hand (only two), disappoint as again they contain nothing refreshing or exciting. They are dull, with not as many as you think soldiers just marching and forming Roman! shield walls to protect themselves. Taken into account that lots of mere mortals are meeting their makers, having a PG-13 rating does not help either as we definitely do not realise the horror of war. There are certain moments that push the rating to 15 but not much has been shown.

Dwayne Johnson is still a likable force (and person) and does everything he can to bring some gravitas and emotion to the role of Hercules. Certainly he looks the part and he does carry the film on his (broad) shoulders. I just wish he can be directed by a more sophisticated director - imagine Quentin Tarantino guiding him through an action scene - and with a script that dares to be a bit edgy. The rest of the cast are clearly having a ball with their one dimensional roles - particularly Rufus Sewell as Autolycos, a tremendously underrated actor and Ian McShane as Amphiaraus. What annoys me here is the non existence of a threatening villain - and I will not name him/her. Simply there is no visible threat for Hercules in this film or a clear objective that he has to complete or overcome. If we get a bit more related to a absolute douche who wants to kill him or another fictional demi-god that wants to take over the world so we can understand the stakes that our meythological hero has to face, it instantly elevates his character in the audience eyes  and makes us believe in him (see for example when Neo stood equally against Agent Smith).

So that was Hercules. There is not much to hate here but not much to love either. The film is recommended during the long winter evenings but once you have seen it, you probably won't see it again as there is nothing really that stands out besides the Rock destroying minions and the thoughtful art direction. Other Greek adaptations had more memorable set pieces - battle scenes in "Troy", Cronos in "Wrath of the Titans", style in "300" and insane art palette of "Immortals". Unfortunately nothing like that is around but who knows perhaps on a sequel and with a more capable director, we might get something worthy of the Hercules legacy.

+ Dwayne Johnson
+ some (minor) script surprises
+ the cast
+ well made...
- but nothing memorable
- or super exciting
- PG-13 / Greek epics need to be bloody. Period
- boring villain
_ 80% predictable script for characters and situations

5/10