|Review by Elizabeth Robbins|
How do you do something new with a story that is over 3000 years old?
For Brett Ratner, director of Hercules, the answer seems to be you don’t.
You just go with what you know works.
Hercules is a check-your-brain-at-the-door, go buy some popcorn, and enjoy the air conditioning summer movie.
If you’re someone who has seen a lot of “sword and sandals” films, Hercules will feel like a rehash. With its PG-13 rating, Hercules’s fighting is violent, without being gory. Paramount is counting on those familes with tweens dollars, and the film is geared toward it.
While watching the film I felt as if Ratner had a checklist for what the film needed to be successful.
- Likeable American action star to pay Hercules. Enter Dwayne Johnson (Fast & Furious). ✓
- Get an international cast of well established, but not Hollywood-hot actors to give Hercules substance:
- Grizzly older warrior to guide Hercules. Englishman Ian McShane (Deadwood). ✓
- Smart-ass, childhood friend. Englishman Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist). ✓
- The Crazy Guy. Norwegian actor Aksel Hennie (24). ✓
- Scholar that wants to be a warrior. Englishman Reece Ritichie (White Heat). ✓
- Hot Chick that can kick every male character’s butt. Norwegian actress Ingrid Bolso Berdal (Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters). ✓
- All heroes get their own cool weapon. ✓
- Weak old Lord who needs defending. John Hurt (Alien, V for Vendetta). ✓
- Mom and kid to tug on Hercules heart strings. ✓
- Slimy King that no one likes or trusts. Joseph Fines (Shakespeare in Love). ✓
- Second in command that you hate from the start. Scotsman Peter Mullan. (War Horse). ✓
- Fight scenes with digital monsters. ✓
- Rousing, get the troupes riled-up speech before battle. ✓
- Battles scenes with lots of impossible feats. ✓
Ratner fulfilled all the parts of the recipe.
What we are left with is a predictable but entertaining piece of fluff. Johnson stands and poses well in all his hero shots. I’m not entirely sure if his battle speeches are unremarkable because of his delivery or because it a trope we have seen time and time again. The fighting choreography and Spartan-like battle tactics are fun to watch. It’s a credit to Ian McShane that even though you know what he is going to say before he says it, the deliver of his lines is such that you kind of chuckle instead of groan. The plot twists are telegraphed miles away, but in a tale that has been told and retold, it is hard to expect surprises.
Its lean running time of 93 minutes keeps the story at a quick pace, so you don’t have to devote much time or brain power to what you are watching.
If you are looking for quick summer filler on a rainy afternoon, Hercules will fit the bill.