Hercules  (2014)    68/100

Rating :   68/100                                                                       98 Min        12A

Dwayne Johnson stars as the titular hero of Greek mythology (it should be entitled Heracles though, Hercules being the romanised version of the demigod) and he was pretty much the perfect choice for the role. He’s come a long way since the days of ‘The Scorpion King’ (02), delivering a slew of entertaining performances to become a dependable leading man and command one of the highest fees in Hollywood (Forbes currently places him in second place overall) and here his onscreen presence serves the character perfectly, as he stands on two tree trunk legs, each wider than the nearest warrior behind him, wielding his giant olive-wood club and adorned with the skin of the Nemean lion.

Rather than following in the footsteps of the likes of ‘Clash of the Titans’ (10) and ‘Immortals’ (11), this is more concerned with Hercules the man and how the myth is wrapped around him, and it is essentially a battle film with pretty decent set pieces and costumes – there’s nothing outstanding or brilliant about the movie but it is pretty good overall, notwithstanding the cheesy dialogue and historical inaccuracies (Athens is shown to have a king, for example, when at this time, circa 350 BC {which is actually way too late for Heracles’ era anyway}, her democracy was flourishing and kings had been done away with, and indeed they are using the misplaced king, Eurystheus, of variously Argos or Tiryns depending on which source you read) that we expect to find anyway. It’s based on a graphic novel and it has that kind of feel to it – similar as well to ‘King Arthur’ (04) in that we follow Hercules and his friends as they are hired to help defend the kingdom of Thrace from an usurper (Hercules is a mercenary, one tormented by a brutal personal event in his recent past), and we don’t get to know them in any great depth – but well enough to like them and care if they get cut to pieces or not.

There’s a host of good supporting actors – some of them regulars of the genre such as Rufus Sewell, John Hurt and Ian McShane, but also Peter Mullan, Aksel Hennie, Reece Ritchie, Joseph Fiennes and Ingrid Bolsø Berdal – playing the Amazonian Atalanta and looking very much like a young and super fit Nicole Kidman. It’s good fun with some nice locations and sets and it’s a lot better than the likes of the Conan reboot and the aforementioned ‘Immortals’ (truly, an episode of ‘Total Spies’ is more worthwhile than that film), and although it is lacking any kind of spark to really ignite it, enough has been done to merit a sequel and it probably won’t disappoint if you’re in the mood for a weekend action film.

Oddly, Johnson’s real life buddy Arnold Schwarzenegger had his first movie role playing the same part in ‘Hercules in New York’ back in 1969 (one of Schwarzenegger’s inspirations, Steve Reeves, also played the Grecian hero on two occasions). The two friends managed to share a brief onscreen moment together in ‘The Rundown‘ 03, which is also worth a watch incidentally.

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