The Legend of Hercules Review
HARDLY THE STUFF OF LEGENDS
Hercules: the man, the myth, the legend. Deriving from the bountiful tales of Greek Mythology, the character of Hercules, a son of Zeus (King of the Olympian Gods) and his tales of exploits and adventure have become literally the stuff of legends. This mighty Greek hero has even weaved his way into the many facets of the media including starring in books, children cartoons, television series, and even motion pictures, made for the big and small screen. As the year of 2014 begins, the first of the two Hollywood Hercules movies makes its debut with Summit Entertainment and director Renny Harlin’s Legend of Hercules (formally known as Hercules: The Legend Begins). Does this film shed new light on the mythical hero from Greek mythology or is it just another run-of-the-mill “Sword and Sandals” epic?
Told as a somewhat origin story, Hercules (Kellan Lutz), born from the loins of Zeus and a stepson to the ruthless King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), gets sent into exile due to a forbidden love he shares with Princess of Crete, Hebe (Gaia Weiss), who’s already been betrothed to Hercules’s conniving half-brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) in name of unity between two kingdoms. While in exile, Hercules gets placed into slavery and is made to fight gladiatorial combat for the pleasure of others. With the help of Sotiris (Liam McIntyre), a former captain to King Amphitryon’s army, Hercules rises in the arena and hatches a plan to lead a rebellion against his mad-stepfather and win back his one true love. Yet, to do such things, Hercules must first embrace his godly heritage and become the legend he was meant to be.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
In truth, as is on paper, the film’s story is not half-bad (A tyrannical ruler, forbidden love, a hero’s rise to power, etc). The film also looks expensive, with big sets (palaces, landscapes, and arenas) and believable costume that are appropriate for the fix point of time in ancient Greece. In a sense, the movie had the potential for some form of greatness as a feature film. Sadly, however, this is not doesn’t happen. The movie follows a very similar path that many fantasy / Swords and Sandals have treaded down before. Unfortunately, rather than revinventing itself or offering up something new for viewers to enjoy, The Legend of Hercules plays to the elements, style, and narration formulas that very much commonplace to similar features. It’s just a poorly executed as a film that’s riddled with countless problems, most notably in its lead actor.
True, Kellan Lutz has the muscular physique to pull off the role of Hercules and, he does with great ease, that is until he opens his mouth and looses that same credibility. Stiff, wooden, or not classically trained, Lutz’s performance is mildly mediocre at best; proving that the young twenty eight year old actor is not quite ready to step into the role of a lead character just yet. This can also be seeing the scenes with him and Gaia Weiss as the two star-crossed lovers seem very awkward together, sharing no on-screen chemistry, and saying expressions of love towards one another that just come out as flat and dull dialogue. Speaking of flat and dull, Scott Adkins’s Amphitryon and Liam Garrigan’s Iphicles are woefully terrible as the film’s central villains, spouting cheesy and /or grating dialogue lines that’s suppose to be threating, but just comes across as cartoonish villainy. Liam McIntyre, who was previously the lead role in the hit TV Show Starz’s Spartacus, shows the most promise in acting amongst the rest of the cast (save for Kenneth Graham’s small stint) as the character of Sotiris, who has a more compelling back-story more so than Hercules himself.
Despite the fact of the Olympian gods (Zeus and Hera) and a brief appearance of the Nemean Lion, the film seems almost devoid of using Greek myths, which is a shame as the story could’ve far better with using such fantastical beings and creatures from a rich lore of mythology. The pacing for the movie is also its downfall, moving briskly from one scene to the next; offering at times a limited sense of what’s going on and accompanied with shoddy transitions that could’ve been done more elaborately. Even the film’s ending feels haphardazly rushed and ends rather abruptly, similar to TV movies found on the Scifi channel. I found myself saying “What? That’s it!” as the ending credits began roll.
Much like Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, The Legend of Hercules takes itself very serious with little to none wiggle room for any type of humor or comic relief to appear in its narrative. As for the film’s action, though choreograph to a satisfying effect, it’s just not something to be “Wowed” over and the sporadic slowing down and speeding up the camera for dramatic effect seems overused. Finally, its special effects are dated and not really convincing.
If you want mythological flights of fancy; watch Clash of the Titans (Both the new and old version) or Disney’s animated musical Hercules, if you want drama and revenge; watch Riddley Scott’s Gladiator, and if you want stylish gladiatorial action; watch Zack Snyder’s 300 or Starz’s Spartacus Saga. The Legend of Hercules tries to be all these things, but never fully materializes such ideals; failing to produce something memorable for its genre. Fans of Kellan Lutz and/or “Sword and Sandals” flicks might give the film a glance, but a meager glance, if that at all. In truth, The Legend of Hercules will most likely be eclipsed (and forgotten by many) by this summer as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson steps into the sandals of the mighty Hercules in Brett Ratner’s Hercules.