Directed by: Renny Harlin
Here we have a new re-telling of the legend of Hercules, the legendary demi-god and son of Zeus, told in a way that makes us long for 300 and look forward to its sequel 300 Rise of an Empire. Not that this is a bad film (we did enjoy it), but it is clearly riffing on the imagery created by Zack Snyder and his CGI team. Still, we know the legend of Hercules (or rather, thought we did), as this film doesn’t so much tell us The 12 Labors of Hercules from Greek mythology, but of his birth and rise to power as a king.
The film starts in Ancient Greece with King Amphitryion (Adkins) invading a neighboring kingdom. As the two massive armies face off against each other Amphitryion strikes a bargain with the rival King Galenus (Dimiter Doichinov) where the two Kings will fight to the death, with the victor winning the war and acquiring the other’s land. As can be expected, the two Kings engage in combat with Amphitryion easily defeating Galenus. That night, Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) expresses her disgust at her husband’s thirst for power and constant warmongering, and prays to Hera for guidance. Hera appears to her and tells the Queen that Zeus himself will give her a son, and he will be the savior of her people (and yes, please note the Christian iconography in all of this).
Twenty years later Hercules (called Alcides), has a running rivalry with his older brother, Iphicles (Garrigan) who, through the right of having been born first, claims the right to wed Hercules/Alcides love, the princess Hebes (Weiss). Angered, but unable to do anything, Alcides is sent away to quell an uprising, but his army is betrayed and defeated by their foes, and Alcides who is now calling himself Hercules (in order to hide his royal linage) is sold as a slave and becomes a gladiator fighting in the ring. He manages to convince his owner to return him to Greece to fight in the big tournament, where he plans to re-assert his rights and reclaim his throne.
Truthfully, while we did enjoy the film, for the most part the actors all seemed wooden, and the story was done by rote and mostly phoned in. Part of this might simply be that (if you were to look at the credits), it seems pretty clear that is film was made in eastern Europe, or perhaps even Russia as to the last names of what seems like 90% of the crew. Anyways we suggest that if you are looking for a Hercules film you wait until June to watch the film starring Dwayne Johnson who already has sword and sandal hours logged in as The Scorpion King.Ultimately, given director Renny Harlin’s track record, perhaps he would be better off sticking to TV shows (Graceland, Covert Affairs, White Collar, and Burn Notice) all of which hold up much better than his films (Die Hard 2, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Cutthroat Island).
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.