When speaking to my grandparents, they mentioned that only once in their married life of over 50 years did they ever walk out of the cinema. The film which had the honour of this was the 1959 Steve Reeves vehicle, Hercules Unchained. In 2014 we had the privilege of two Hercules films coming out, this time The Legend of Hercules and a later film entitled Hercules which is set to star JohDwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson. I have now seen both of these films and with The Legend of Hercules now available on Netflix it is something I had the time to watch. Much like my grandparents I felt like leaving this film, which meant leaving my house. I persisted, however, and was disappointed with the result.
This latest Hercules film stars Kellan Lutz, who, after searching for him on Imdb, seems to have made his name in the Twilight series. The unfortunate aspects of this film are not all Lutz’s fault, as the script is non-existent, the CGI is terrible and the film is so poorly paced that years jump around as quickly as days and no explanation is given. Although Lutz couldn’t help any of this, he doesn’t really do anything in terms of acting in the film. Starring as his sidekick and ally throughout the film is Liam McIntyre, of Spartacus fame, who I believe was simply hired because he was in the latter and a lot of the costumes look similar. However, the film seems to strip any of the emotional bond that you would expect between characters in favour of a mad dash from the start to the end of the film, with as little talking as possible.
Hercules is actually the Roman name for the Greek hero Heracles, born of the God of gods Zeus with the mortal woman and Queen Alcemene. The myth continues as Heracles suffers a traumatic childhood because of the jealousy which Hera, Zeus’ wife, has for the child. This mythical figure has an interesting story of murder, rage and hatred towards various different groups in his life. Unlike our current crop of heroes, Greek heroes did not necessarily posses the kind of virtues attributed to ‘good.’ To be a hero one simply had to be great or strong or the best at something. Heracles was strong and powerful. His most famous myth was the 12 labours, which chronicle his rise to god-like status and make him a hero of the Mythical Greek period. Some Christian literal writings claim that he existed around 1200 BC and was the ruler of the city of Tiryns. The Heracles myth spans 3 millennia of human existence and has been adapted to various religions and cultures with many leading figures in the world of antiquity equating them with the great hero god of Ancient Greek myth.
This entire story seems to be omitted from the film, which chooses to use McIntyre’s presence in the film as an excuse to throw Gladiatorial fights into Ancient Greek Mythology. Gladiatorial fights first appear in Rome some 900 years after the film is set as Funeral Rights after the first Punic wars. The idea to rehash a gladiator-type scenario would have been absolutely fine had there not been other stories to tell. As it is there are at least 20 heroic and terrifying stories which Hercules undertook, including joining Jason and his Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece, and Jason and The Argonauts is a much better film. The film serves to push this stereotype of ancient Rome onto Greece and never really looks back.
Historical aspects and failings aside, the film suffers so much from its poorly paced story and skipped dialogue that you almost forget to care about any of the main characters. The love story seems farcical and redundant, as does the rivalry between Hercules and his brother, whom from what I can tell simply doesn’t like his brother because he has better abs than he does. A film which could have easily fitted another 20 minutes into its run time to explain certain plot points simply skips them in favour of another fight scene and the push to get to the end of the movie.
The film is in a similar vein to Clash of the Titans or Immortals, both of which closely follow the original stories of Perseus and Theseus respectfully. However, where these films had the advantage of having some actors which made them entertaining to watch, The Legend of Hercules does not. The main villain acts like it’s a pantomime, as does his son. Lutz seems to be there simply to do everything topless to show off his upper body, and the love story seems to be completely missed because they have no time to develop characters before Hercules is off on another tenuously-linked adventure.
The special effects in the film also bring it down. After watching the film I decided I would look at the budget, which was a whopping $70m; obviously not as massive as some blockbuster films but still a respectable size. I have no idea what this money was spent on because the film seems to reuse the same slow motion effect over and over again, without any regard for the story.