I love Greek mythology – even though studying it for a semester at Uni nearly killed my interest in the subject whatsoever. The Illiad, the Odyssey, if there’s a far-too-long Greek poem about someone’s journey against adversity, the Gods and giant beasts I’ve probably read it and enjoyed it.
When I’m in the movies and I see a trailer that features Hercules facing off against the Nemean Lion and the Erymanthian Boar, I assume that the movie is going to focus on the legend we all know and love – the 12 Labors of Hercules. I could even look past the fact that they’d selected the Rock to do it, provided they stayed remotely true to the story and it wasn’t clichéd nonsense.
You might think that putting a modern day ‘wrestler’ into the role of Ancient Greece’s most notorious hero in a 2014 Hollywood film is a recipe for disaster – but it turns out director Brett Ratner didn’t even open the fucking cookbook!
I’m used to production companies showing the best scenes in the trailer in their desperate hopes to get people to attend these slowly thinning-out cinemas. When you’re dealing with $20+ tickets and $20+ food and drinks you have to try everything you can, right?
The labours? The adventures that the myth is actually based on? THEY’RE ALL OVER IN THE FIRST 2 FUCKING MINUTES. THE PRIMARY SELLING POINT OF THE FUCKING FILM WAS LITTLE MORE THAN A ‘PREVIOUSLY ON’ FOR A TV SHOW.
So after 2 minutes, I was already disappointed. Did this change throughout the other 90-odd minutes, though?
Hercules isn’t alone on his que… well, whatever the fuck he’s doing in this movie. He has a nice entourage including a guy who likes to take acid and make predictions, an Amazon woman who’s as good with a bow as she is at wearing nothing (or as good as she is at navigating half the globe to get from South America to Greece, or Thrace, or wherever the fuck this thing takes place), his PR-infatuated nephew (even though Hercules is supposed to be an orphan), a psycho soldier guy who never speaks and another one who throws a lot of knives with a sassy attitude. I’d tell you more, BUT THAT’S ALL WE’RE LEFT WITH! The background on these characters is so shallow you couldn’t even drown someone in it.
Then there’s Herc’s tortured past – his wife and kids, murdered – although you barely see them enough to know why. Even though they only take up a good 45 seconds of screen time themselves you DO get to see his ‘wife’s’ bare ass before she dies. The backstory, like his supporting cast, is so fucking underdeveloped that by the time his biggest enemy comes back at the end you’re forgetting who he is in the first place.
Then there’s his ‘love interest’, a woman who knows things are about to go horribly wrong but doesn’t tell Hercules, or take her son out of town and get somewhere safe.
The story is appalling. Who makes the conscious decision along the lines of “Wow, we’ve got an amazing, much loved story which we could use these graphics to convey like never before” and instead goes “let’s make a feature film using a recognisable name but instead of basing it on the ancient fable lets base it on the graphic novel that no-ones fucking read, and then rip off the author of said novel?”
The answer is Brett Ratner.
It’s amazing, given everything I’ve said, that there was still something about this film that annoyed me more than everything I’ve previously mentioned.
What the film tries to do, while telling an absolutely horrible story, is completely dispel the ideas behind legends. First, people are surprised that Hercules has companions when he’s supposed to be so great that he doesn’t need them. It turns out that the hydra was just, in fact, a bunch of guys in hydra suits instead of a mythical water demon who had two heads grow back for each one chopped off. The three-headed hell hound Cerberus is in fact just three wolves that the villain(s) have. It turns out Centaurs are just guys on horses (because people must have had really shit vision back then, what, with staring into their iPhones all the time). Basically the whole idea is to tell you that there is no such thing as a superhero, and that any man (and I say that specifically – the women in this film are idiots) is capable of heroic acts.
All well and good, nice enough idea.
Then, at the same time, while we’re supposed to believe that Hercules is in fact little more than a mercenary who may have killed his own family (but didn’t, it’s alright – why they even insinuate it is questionable given the shallow background), we see him ripping open the mouth of the giant lion, carrying a club that most people struggle with, PUSHING A 100-FOOT STATUE OFF A FUCKING PEDESTAL and whacking guys so hard they fly back an incredible distance. But no – he’s just an ordinary man with a good PR agent, allegedly.
And this is what pissed me off the most. Make up your freaking mind. If Hercules wasn’t the son of a God and was just an ordinary bloke capable of violence, at least leave some mystery around his greatness if you’re not going to explain it. Don’t show him achieving these ridiculous feats of strength AT THE SAME TIME as you’re trying to tell us that he’s just an ordinary bloke and legends are bullshit. There could have been a compelling case made, but there was not.
At the end of all of this I have to, in a confusing way, admit that I felt sorry for Johnson. His performance is not appalling, and reading about the regime he undertook to get in shape for this film it’s a pity they left him with nothing. He has a commanding presence on the screen that is wasted behind bad writing, inadequate characters and 90 minutes of nonsense.
Apparently the REAL Hercules, KEVIN FUCKING SORBO, was a bit pissed at the fact that he wasn’t offered a role in some shape or form. I’m assuming he downloaded it, because FUCK PAYING FOR THAT! As he sat in his massive chair in his massive den that he paid for with Hercules money, I’m sure it slowly dawned on him that it might have been a blessing in disguise. After this movie, there’s still only one freaking Hercules, and he is it.
You could say “Hey! Arnie did a really shit Hercules too you know!” I would respond with “It was called Hercules in New York and he could barely speak english, and it was still more enjoyable!”
The only thing that makes this film better than Transformers is the fact it only wasted 90 minutes of my life instead of three hours. Thank God the tickets were free 3.3/10
Soon good blockbuster movies are going to be little more than the stuff of legend.