Everyone knows the legend of Hercules and his twelve labors. Our story begins after the labors, and after the legend…
Haunted by a sin from his past, Hercules has become a mercenary. Along with five faithful companions, he travels ancient Greece selling his services for gold and using his legendary reputation to intimidate enemies. But when the benevolent ruler of Thrace and his daughter seek Hercules' help to defeat a savage and terrifying warlord, Hercules finds that in order for good to triumph and justice to prevail... he must again become the hero he once was... he must embrace his own myth... he must be Hercules. (from MovieWeb)
Sometimes things come in pairs when Hollywood is approaching a topic. Believe it or not, Brett Ratner's Hercules is the second film about the Greek legend to come out this year. This has happened a lot over the years, with one of the most recent examples being two live action Snow White tales: Mirror Mirror and Snow White & The Huntsman. Earlier this year, director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, 12 Rounds) helmed The Legend of Hercules with Kellan Lutz (Twilight saga) as the title hero. However, its overly stylized approach (and lackluster cast) made the trailer look excessively unappealing. But Ratner's approach is a bigger-budget take, boasting Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Hercules, with supporting talent from the reliable Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell and John Hurt. The end result is a fun (albeit bloody) action romp that doesn't dare take itself too seriously.
The first moments of Hercules will have more than just a few moviegoers worried that they're in for an exceptionally campy and goofy take on Hercules. His "legend" is told via voiceover from Hercules' nephew, Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), who tells of Hercules' origin from a baby (as he strangles attacking snakes as a toddler) to when he slayed a 5-headed hydra beast. Once it's revealed to be Iolaus spinning exaggerated tales to scare a tribe that has taken him captive, we realize that Hercules may be something else. And Ratner proves to keep the audience on their toes from the film's start to finish.
It may be most fair to liken the tone and approach of Hercules to the two most recent Clash of the Titans films (starring Sam Worthington as Perseus). They were action-packed, a little campy, but aimed at being a sweeping epic. Hercules isn't quite as big in scale, but it keeps you guessing whether or not mythical beasts like the hydra, a lion with impenetrable skin, giant boars, centaurs and three-headed wolves really exist. It's a fun take on the tale and it gives the story a fresh spin. The Rock is good as Hercules, although Johnson still isn't the strongest of actors. He gets the job done as the heroic warrior, but he can't help but wink and nod to the audience from time to time in his performance (as evidenced by the line "F---ing centaurs" that he utters once). McShane and Sewell add colorful performances as part of Hercules' fighting team. Much like Perseus having a ragtag team of fighters to support him, Hercules does here as well, and they do add to the film and help boost Johnson's performance.
One thing I found a little distracting was the film's instrumental score. At times, it sounded a lot like Alan Silvestri's treatment for The Avengers, to the point where I was pretty convinced the composer was Silvestri just copying himself again. Instead, I was surprised to learn that the composer was Fernando Velázquez, a name I'm unfamiliar with, and I found myself unimpressed with his treatment. It never really felt like the right music for the movie, but it still wasn't quite off enough to fully ruin the viewing experience.
The content of the film did surprise me. While movies like Lord of the Rings pushed the PG-13 rating with uber-creepy orcs and the occasional orc impalements and dismemberments, Hercules does that here too - but with human characters. You can trade the scene where orc heads are impaled on stakes for decaying human heads in this film. And while they're shrouded in fog when we first see them, the camera comes back to them in close-up, even for Tydeus to approach one and wipe blood from it, only to stick it in his mouth. But all of the battle scenes are pretty rough and bloody, with slashing, stabbing, and hand-to-hand combat making up most of the action. We see lots of dead bodies on the ground with blood on them, flashbacks to Hercules' family being murdered with blood on their clothed dead bodies, and a brief scene with freshly severed heads being discovered in a bag (although it's not as gory as the staked heads). Furthermore, there's the lone and very out of place (and unnecessary) use of the "F" word from Hercules, a few other uses of the "S" word, and a couple lines of innuendo. There's a brief shot of Hercules' wife's bare butt as she drops a robe in a dream he has, but that's the extent of any visual nudity. Overall, the tone of the film seems to flip flop between a period film and a modern day one set in ancient Greece. It's not enough to ruin the film, but it's slightly annoying that Ratner couldn't settle on this just being a tongue-in-cheek spoof or a legit period movie.
The movie was enough of a mixed bag to keep me unsure if I was enjoying it or not for roughly the first half or so, but by the time the finale began to rev up, I was on board. Repeat viewings might give the movie a better result, especially after we know what to expect, but the first time is a bit tricky to figure out. The violence is intense enough that I actually worried at one point that I misread the rating before seeing it and it was actually R, but I realized after a while it would have been even worse if it was. Still, you have to wonder how this squeaked by with the PG-13 rating. Definitely consider yourself warned if you consider seeing the latest theatrical treatment of Hercules.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 7/25/14)
Hercules: Extended Cut (1:41:35) - If you're like me, the number one question on your mind here is: "What was added?" 3 minutes, that's all. In these 3 minutes, it's almost entirely additional scenes from the deleted scenes/extended scenes list. I noticed a sequence where Atalanta is harassed by Sitacles and another where Hercules remembers being banished in a dream, but those were just a couple of the deleted scenes moments added back into the movie that I noticed. The other thing that surprised me were a couple bloodier moments during the Bessi battle. We see, from behind, Hercules club a man's head into a tree trunk, which splatters blood, but isn't gory otherwise because of the camera angle. Immediately after that, when a soldier is using a whip made out of a spinal column, we see some extra bloody, blood-spraying wounds on victims. Finally, when a character is overcome on the battlefield, we see blood spurt from the victim's mouth, which isn't in the theatrical version. All in all, it's stuff that isn't all that much harsher than the PG-13 cut, but it is a little bloodier. As it is, the theatrical cut was really pushing the rating, so this just edges it a little more. Overall, I can't say this cut's all that much different enough to be worse or better, so if you want to see a little less CGI blood spraying, I'd just pass on the extended cut and watch the deleted scenes separately.
Brett Ratner and Dwayne Johnson: An Introduction (5:32) is actually a bit of a behind-the-scenes of how the movie came to be, and is more than just Brett and Dwayne introducing the movie. They talk about making it, including how Dwayne's been wanting to the play the role for years. He even reveals that he ripped 2 tendons off of his pelvis while training and almost couldn't do this movie. He didn't want it delayed so badly that he trained to live with the injury before it totally healed and still did the movie!
Hercules and His Mercenaries (11:07) - This featurette takes a close, little look at each of Hercules' team members. It talks about each cast member, including Johnson, and how he spent hours in the makeup chair for 95 days to be made up to look like his character -- including a fake beard and wig. This also talks about their training, weapons, and riding chariots.
Weapons! (5:24) focuses on each weapon the actors used and we see examples shown by the prop master himself. We also learn that a couple of actors insisted on carrying real blades instead of the safe squishy ones for stuntwork.
The Bessi Battle (11:54) is a look inside making the huge first battle in the film, where Hercules and the king's crew get beaten by the Bessi. We see how they applied the Bessi tattoos and makeup, how they built a real village in Hungary to serve as the village that the Bessi destroyed (and how they used all real materials to make it), the extras, the stunts, etc. It's a pretty interesting segment.
The Effects of Hercules (12:28) - This shows a lot of the practical footage with digital effects used to add in the troops, big monsters, etc. We also learn that all of the arrows shot in the movie are done with CG, and how a lot of the blood was too. It's fascinating to see the before and after shots of the effects and scenery as well.
Deleted Scenes / Extended Scenes (14:38) - There are fifteen deleted or extended scenes. Some were put into the Extended Cut, while others are included here exclusively. There's a little more footage of Hercules' birth/origin story, a shot of Gryza left hanging above the spike, extended training footage, Sitacles coming onto Atalanta (who hits him), a short scene involving Hercules talking to Arius, the Bessi aftermath, Phineas getting saved, Hercules dreaming about being banished, some more talk about Hercules' "blood rage," an extended version of Phineas being revealed on the battlefield, a longer version of Hercules' speech to the troops, Atalanta shooting Phineas in the back with an arrow, an alternate take of this where Phineas runs away and is speared in the back (we hear Hercules' use of the "F" word again at the beginning of this), Tydeus' funereal, and an alternate ending that shows Hercules visiting Ergenia's son and giving him words of encouragement (I liked the theatrical ending better).- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 11/1/14)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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