Hercules: Rated “PG-13” (1 hour, 38 minutes)
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, Peter Mullan
Directed by: Brett Ratner
And here we have, in this new film, yet another telling of the legend of the mythic character of Hercules, the legendary son of the Greek god Zeus and a mortal woman. We already suffered through another film about Hercules earlier this year, and yes, we do mean “suffered’ so this one is something of a breath of fresh air. This film has actual exciting moments, as well as honest-to-goodness acting. To be sure, it takes a slightly different tact than probably virtually every other film about Hercules ever made, as it “humanizes” him, playing down his “godlike” origins and presenting him more akin to a man buffeted about by the vagaries of fate, mystics, and kings.
As an aside, we recently read another reviewer’s column where he railed against the fact that — in this film — Herc was portrayed (as stated) as more of a really strong guy than the actual son of an actual mythological god. Okay, I get it, we too have railed against writers who have screwed with legendary and/or mythological characters >coughTwilightcough< but, you know seriously, you’re upset because this fictional film, based on a comicbook (produced by Radical Publishing) re-interprets the “myth” of Hercules as not so much the actual son of an actual god, but as just a really, really strong guy with great PR. (slowly backs out of the room).
At any rate, most of us already know the broad strokes of the legend of Hercules and his twelve labors; this story begins after the completion of most of the labors, and after the legend of his prowess has grown. Haunted by a sin from his past, Hercules has become a mercenary. Along with five faithful companions, he travels ancient Greece selling his services for gold and using his legendary reputation to intimidate enemies. However when the “benevolent” ruler of Thrace and his daughter seek Hercules’ help to defeat a “savage and terrifying” warlord, Hercules finds that in order for good to triumph and justice to prevail he must again become the hero he once was. Now he must embrace his own myth, and actually become Hercules in truth.
Again, we didn’t so much have any trouble with this interpretation of the legend of Hercules, as we feel that simply re-resenting what we already know, in a way we’ve already seen it, this time with anew cast is, well, dull. That is not what Ratner has done here, he has given us a fresh spin, and truthfully we really can’t find anything wrong with what wound up on the screen.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.