Devoid of hydras, minotaurs, and other fantastical beasts commonplace to previous incarnations of the son of Zeus, “The Legend of Hercules” mimics the adventures of “Gladiator” and “300” in the hopes of capturing the ferocity and style (respectively) that made those films a success. It’s a unique take on a story told countless times, but with such minimal adherence to both the origins and famed labors recounted in Greek mythology, there’s very little that relates it to the eponymous hero. And there’s even less to set it apart from the droves of imitators.
Upon witnessing her husband’s power-hungry descent into tyranny, Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) prays to the goddess Hera to give the people a way to stop King Amphitryon‘s (Scott Adkins) bloodthirsty reign. Hearing her pleas, Hera informs Alcmene that she will give birth to the son of Zeus, who will one day overthrow the corrupted ruler of Tyrins. Twenty years pass and her son Hercules (Kellan Lutz), now a great warrior, has fallen in love with Hebe (Gaia Weiss), the princess betrothed to Amphitryon’s sniveling older son Iphicles (Liam Garrigan). Iphicles, envious of Hebe’s love for his brother, conspires with the king to send Hercules off to Egypt to be killed during a mission to quell fabricated uprisings. But when Hercules survives the ambush, he must embark on a treacherous journey back to Greece to face his betrayers, rescue his true love, and reclaim his stolen kingdom.
The film is a perfectly acceptable action extravaganza, replete with a heroic underdog, dictatorial villains, and thousands of miles of barbarism, betrayal, and jealousy to impede an epic quest to reunite lovers. It hardly matters that Lutz, Weiss, McKee and essentially the entire ensemble (save for Rade Serbedzija, who just might be impeccably cast and Liam McIntyre who plays Spartacus on Starz’ “Spartacus: War of the Damned” TV show) feel wrong in their roles – it’s a mindless, brisk, electric little picture. The filmmakers don’t seem to be sure of their project, however, and have forcedly implanted asinine overuse of slow motion, wildly circling cameras, and objects unaffected by gravity in an agonizingly intrusive stylization. Clearly, they feel all the extra computer graphics and imagery manipulation are necessary to make the movie work – in reality, this tired pseudo-superhero story can’t be set apart from the other films from which it heavily borrows. But that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining.
It figures that since Hercules’ travels are bizarrely bereft of mythological monstrosities, the focus instead turns to some impressive fight sequences and the utilization of 3D. The opening scene features countless arrows arching straight into viewers’ eyes, while most of the trekking and battling involves admirable depth of field use – whether it’s realized in cinematographic framing of environments or acrobatic dueling in an arena. Many of these moments are perhaps too crisp and clean, paralleling the glowing white teeth, hairless bodies, and flawless makeup of glamorized ancient Greece. Although combat frequently resembles mixed martial arts instead of the traditional skirmishes of “Ben-Hur” or “Spartacus” (this film wants to be “300” more than “Gladiator”), Hercules momentarily takes on the role of Robin Hood, and the politically correct world of filmmaking demands that one of the six undefeated gladiatorial champions of Greece is a woman, “The Legend of Hercules” is a production that can be thoroughly enjoyed until the very end – even if it’s forgotten mere minutes after that.
- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)