Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hercules Review

Hollywood often goes on these random mini-fetishes that almost makes no sense. For example, back in 2012 we had two Snow White movies come out within a few months of each other. It's awfully strange that two separate parties both came up with the idea of a live-action Snow White movie at practically the same time. This year the subject is Hercules. I don't know why we randomly got two Hercules movies in one year, but it happened. Miss the first go around of Hercules back in January? Good. Count yourself extremely lucky that you missed the outright disaster that was The Legend of Hercules. Despite all that has come our way, that movie still remains one of the worst of the year. I had hope that Dwayne Johnson's version would do Hercules justice. While the movie does have its fair share of issues, I am happy to report that Hercules is an entertaining movie that is in fact worth your time.

Hercules is advertised as the untold story of Hercules. Or the story you've never heard. Something like that. Point is they wanted to tell a story about Hercules that hasn't been done yet. I give them props for that. And if that was their goal, they succeeded. They created a Hercules world that we've never seen. The premise of this movie is that Hercules' past is pretty much unknown, outside the fact that he is the son of Zeus and a mortal woman, making him a demigod. Eventually the movie teases a past that is potentially a bit shady, but all we really know is that it haunts Hercules, which gives him a bit of depth. Outside this, Hercules is essentially an outcast, but he's formed a group of outcast friends and together they form a sort of family. The bulk of this movie centers around this group being hired by the King of Thrace to train his men to be a great army that can defeat a strong enemy. Hercules' group never really cares about the why, the who, or the where of what they do, just as long as they get paid, so of course they take this job without thinking twice.

Being perfectly honest, this movie isn't very deep in plot. It's a somewhat shallow movie that is simply meant to entertain and that's exactly what it does. What really makes this work is the cast. First and foremost is Dwayne Johnson. You'll notice recently that I don't refer to him as "The Rock." Just Dwayne Johnson. This is because as of late, he has transformed himself from this crazy wrestler dude that doesn't know how to act, but is cast because of his size, into a legit actor who in fact DOES know how to act. And once again he proves this in this movie. He does a fantastic job as Hercules. Even though the movie itself doesn't have a whole lot of depth, Dwayne Johnson gives the character of Hercules a lot of depth. That and he looks and acts like you would think Hercules would. He's especially huge in this movie and because of that strength he is able to stand there in battle and just beat the living daylights out of anyone who tries to step in his way. Despite Dwayne Johnson being good in this, his small group of outcasts/mercenaries are all great in supporting Johnson. We have Ian McShane as the prophet Amphiaraus; Rufus Sewell as the thief Autolycus; Askel Hennie as the crazy, borderline morbid warrior; Ingrid Bolso Berdan as the awesome archer girl Atalanta; and the storyteller Iolaus. Together they make a very likable group that is very fun to watch.

In discussing a movie about Hercules, the Greek mythology of the character needs to be discussed. First, before we get any further, yes I know that Hercules is in fact Roman, the son of Jupiter and not Zeus. But do you know what, this is one of those instances where I ask who cares. Not me. And not this movie. Yes, Heracles is the son of Zeus, but do you know what, Disney is the one that botched all that up and because of that when we dive into Hercules, most people will know Hercules as the son of Zeus. And we all love that Disney movie, so it only makes sense that if we do a modern live-action version that we stick with what Disney gave us. If we made a movie called Heracles, not as many would know what the heck we were doing. And hey, perhaps Disney wasn't the first one to botch that up. I don't know. I actually don't know much about the mythology of Hercules, I just know that when I watched this movie it didn't seem like it was following any sort of accurate theology, but instead were making most if it up as they go. This is of course unverified. I was actually thinking to myself during the movie that maybe I should go look up the theology before I do my review. I like doing this. It makes me feel informed about the history of the character I just watched. But as the movie continued, I did something unique to me. I decided to heck with the theology. I'm just going to enjoy the movie and the characters they give me. And I did. I was entertained.

However, the biggest issue I did have was that I felt the movie could've done a lot more. No, I didn't care if they followed the theology of Hercules. Disney didn't. But I did feel that, despite me not knowing the theology, it does exist and if they are going to do a movie about Hercules it would be fun if they were to dive into the world of Hercules, even if it was their own interpretation. But all we did was follow Hercules and his band of outcasts as they performed this certain mission for this certain king. Yes, it's a bit more than that, but I don't want to give any plot away. What they did was entertaining. But it felt empty. This movie had a lot of potential to something big and amazing, but I felt that they didn't care to dive into that. But hey, it's Brett Ratner. The man isn't known for doing deep, profound movies. He just likes to entertain and that's what he does here. I suppose if you are one of the hardcore X-Men fans that have a personal vendetta against Ratner for what he did with X3 and are bound and determined to hate everything he makes, then I suppose there was nothing I could say to convince you anyways. But if you go in objectively and just try to be entertained by the well-acted, visual spectacle that is Dwayne Johnson's Hercules, you might find yourself being entertained by the movie, despite it being shallow in story. My grade for Hercules is a 7/10.

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