The legend of Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) is spreading across the land, but what is myth and what is truth? To some he is a fallen hero and to others he is a freedom fighter. The ultimate test comes for Hercules when he and his friends Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and Iolaus (Reece Rithcie) are hired by Lord Cotys (John Hurt) to rid the Land of Thrace of a warlord who aims to enslave his people.
So many of the big blockbusters of this year have exceeded just how good they were expected to be. Think about films like Captain America: Winter Soldier and Edge Of Tomorrow, now add Hercules to that list because director Brett Ratner (who has had a hit and miss career to date) has certainly delivered the goods.
Obviously spurred on by what has worked in recent comic book movies like The Dark Knight and The Avengers Ratner takes the Marvel Comics’ version of Hercules and serves up a decent action film that for once seems to remember just how important things such as characterisation and a decent screenplay go in making a film watchable for its audience. Here Hercules and co are well rounded characters, and while Ratner doesn’t go into full novella style back stories he does do enough so that most of the characters aren’t simply just walking clichés that has as much life as the cardboard cut-outs in the cinema lobby.
Ratner also decides to take Hercules back into some of the old school styles of filmmaking. Instead of relying on CGI to do absolutely everything here Ratner learns from the masters of old and actually has some grand sets in the background of some of his scenes and even decides to throw some stuntmen into the furore during the battle sequences rather than allowing a computer to do the work. Even better is the fact that for once a director seems to embrace the 3D technology correctly and sometimes the audience will find themselves duckng as a sword is smashed out of The Rock’s hand towards them or when they suddenly find a spear menacingly thrust towards their faces.
Of course some of the credit for Hercules working so well has to be given to the screenwriters who have served up Ratner an absolute gem of an action script. Yes there are some heavy battle sequences that will keep the action junkies happy but they have also developed some good storylines for those of the audience who want a little more than blood and guts served up to them. The question of how much of Hercules’ past is myth or truth throws up some interesting questions for viewers, as does questions over actually what happened to his children and wife… is he a cold blooded hero? Even the screenplay’s big twist works a treat and won’t be seen by those who are expecting this to be a simple action film.
Then of course there are the actors. The inclusion of veterans such as John Hurt and Ian McShane bring a sense of credibility to the cast and both are standouts in their roles. The big surprise here though is Dwayne ‘please don’t call me The Rock’ Johnson, who really steps up in the acting stakes. Yes he has the body of a Greek God, handy when you are playing Hercules, but he doesn’t allow that to do all the talking and instead there are times in this film when he is called upon to deliver some dramatic lines and show emotion… both of which he surprisingly pulls off pretty well.
While many won’t be expecting much from Hercules it does certainly serve up the goods if you are seeking a good action film rather than a work of art. Ratner delivers some brilliant battle sequences while the storyline in the background puts waste to some of the weaker action films that we have seen on the big screen in recent years. And last but not least it’s time to admit defeat Kellan Lutz because Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules just handed you your ass on a plate.
Director: Brett Ratner
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, John Hurt
Running Time: 98 minutes
Release Date: 25th July, 2014