A number of our greatest modern stories have drawn much of their inspiration from the ancient Greek myths, and Hollywood has often adapted those classic tales into many impressive feature films. The tale of Hercules, in particular, is an unforgettable one that sees the son of Zeus embracing his godly lineage in an epic quest full of monsters, jealous deities, and grand adventure. Now that story has been brought to the big screen once more in Renny Harlin's The Legend of Hercules, only with 100% fewer monsters, jealous deities, and grand adventure.
The first train wreck of 2014 is a labor of incompetence not even Hercules' strength can overcome. Directed by Harlin, who has never quite gotten over that whole Cutthroat Island fiasco, the film bears practically no resemblance to the original myths, and is instead a hodge-podge of far superior swords 'n sandals flicks like 300 and Gladiator. The freakishly massive and untalented Kellan Lutz portrays the Greek demigod (although he dresses and acts Roman), who was conceived when the god Zeus ravished his mother Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) like Barbara Hershey being visited by The Entity. Her other son, Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), is a wormy little loser and disappointment to his brutal but immaculately-ripped father King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins). Jealous of his half-brother, Iphicles takes credit for capturing the randomly-appearing Nemean Lion, and gets off by spying on Hercules and the beautiful Princess Hebe. When she is pledged to wed Iphicles, Herc fights back and is banished for his insolence or something.
Much like the script cobbled together by an army of writers, Herc's banishment proves to be a minor inconvenience. He goes off to war against somebody or other, gets ambushed and defeated, but rather than being killed or held captive, he somehow manages to negotiate his own sale into slavery. Say what? He and squad commander Sotiris (Liam McIntyre) are forced to fight in gladiatorial games, or more accurately "game", and within the span of one battle Hercules is somehow christened the savior of the people. Savior from what? Are the people oppressed? And why would they trust just another gladiator who does nothing to inspire their loyalty?
Short cuts are taken all over the place here, and while it's somewhat understandable in the shoddy special effects (the lion is comically awful), there's no excuse for cutting corners in the narrative. The dialogue isn't just wooden; it's damn near ossified into something that's vaguely Shakespearean recited by people who only occasionally remember to use an accent. Lutz doesn't just make for an uncharismatic hero and romantic lead, but he's outclassed by co-star McIntyre, who has more experience in this arena after starring in TV's Spartacus. He seems to be the only one who gets how this dialogue is supposed to sound, and actually manages to add a little something to a role clearly designed to be forgettable. Lutz may be the "big name" here, but this would have been a better movie if it were McIntyre in the title role, so perhaps he'll get his shot one day.
Harlin, who has fallen so far off the grid he's on the WWE's shortlist of go-to directors, gives the film an ugly, blanched look like a poor man's 300, while nothing can hide how poorly-framed and staged everything is. The battle scenes are dull, punched up with speed ramps, slow motion, and a curious amount of 3D rose petals. By the time Herc starts whipping around his newfound lightning powers, and the final battle comes to a confusing end that comes out of absolutely nowhere, The Legend of Hercules already stinks worse than the Augean Stables.