Who was Hercules? Was he a demi-god, son of Zeus and a mortal woman, or just a strongman built up by tales told through the years? “Hercules” is based on the graphic novel “Hercules the Thracian War” by Steve Moore, and stars Dwayne Johnson in the title role. In this story he is not a lone demi-god who must tackle the twelve labors, but the leader of a band of merrie men (and one woman) hired as mercenaries for gold.
The film begins with Hercules young nephew Iolas, Reece Ritchie, who rather than fight acts as a sort of MC for the big guy, telling the tale of Hercules and acting as bait for their enemies. This is an interesting take on the myth and allows for some nice humor and mayhem amidst warfare and carnage.
Rounding up his gang are Amphiarus, Ian McShane, Tydeus, Askel Hennie, Atalanta, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, and Rufus Sewell as Autoclyus. This is a period piece, yet Atalanta’s fighting skills are similar to Legolas in “Lord of the Rings”. In truth, much of the fighting looks more like martial arts rather than Grecian combat. Tydeus is mute due to the horrors of war, which is a nod to modern day PTSD. This may seem out of place however it is not unreasonable to believe that some variant of PTSD did not exist even back then.
So after the preamble in which we meet everyone and get a summary of Hercules life, we come to the main story. Hercules enters the city of Thrace, and meets Lord Cotyus, John Hurt, who tells him that his people are being attacked by another army who even have Centaurs. Coytus promises to pay Hercules double what they asked in gold if he will help them. Hercules realizes that the men need to be trained as they are sadly lacking in military skill.
However all is not as it seems. Hercules is constantly having nightmares in which he sees his family being attacked and killed. This story comes from actual mythology in which he was drugged and in a rage kills his wife and children. The movie, very cleverly weaves this part of the Hercules tale into its story as a driving reason for what motivates him. Hercules is constantly performing great feats for monetary gain, however within the confines of the film, he is a man haunted by his past, and what he may or may not have done.
The past seems to follow him, as even his enemies know this tale and are not above using it to their advantage. What will the outcome be for Hercules and his friends? Who can they trust?
It should be noted “Hercules” while a fast paced action movie, with lots of fighting, has one scene with brief nudity and one F bomb (which is why it has a PG-13 rating). That being said, this is not Shakespeare, but it is fun. There are many points of predictability, and the characters themselves are not intricately drawn, however, for pure entertainment it is worth the price of admission.