|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