Director: Renny Harlin
Production Company: Millennium Films
Don’t confuse this film with 2014’s Hercules, starring Dwayne Johnson (or The Rock, if you prefer). I haven’t seen that movie, and after watching this one, I’m not sure I’d want to. This one wasn’t half bad!
The Legend of Hercules really gets some awful reviews, but I have to cut it some slack: it’s a B movie, and doesn’t pretend to be anything but. It has B-list actors, B-grade special effects, and a B- plot. Summary in a nutshell? Tyrannical king gets deposed by the son of Zeus, who goes on to find true love. You get what you pay for, and I paid nothing since it was on TV (well, I guess we pay cable).
The point is, it was a rather enjoyable 90 minutes of action, with just a dash of romance. The best acting actually came from Hercules’ right-hand man, Sotiris, ably portrayed by Aussie Liam McIntyre. Kellen Lutz’s Hercules was a bit ham-fisted—kind of Shatner-esque, in a way—and it’s hard to imagine that he played a lead(ish) character in the Twilight films. Scott Adkins was passable as the villainous king, and Gaia Weiss was frankly a bit forgettable. The best bits of the movie were ultimately the action sequences, of which there were thankfully many.
The director clearly was proud of the fact that he managed to appropriate a high-speed camera, because literally every punch, hit and kick was slowed down to ¼ speed. It makes me wonder how long the film would have actually lasted without all the slow-motion (probably about 15 minutes). It’s ironic, because this is the same director of Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger, which were of course absolutely phenomenal action blockbusters. (Actually, it’s probably just a question of technology; had high-speed cameras been as affordable in the 80s, we would have seen old Sly Stallone falling from cliffs like Neil Armstrong on the moon.) The action sequences were fun, yes, but I didn’t need to see Kellan Lutz’s grimaces four times longer than absolutely necessary.
I’ve read criticisms of the costumery, the scenery and the CGI; I actually disagree. I thought the costumes were well done, the scenery believable (it was largely filmed in Bulgaria, just north of Greece where everything is set), and while the GCI was telling, it didn’t really detract from the storytelling (I tend to be a bit lenient in this regard—I know how phenomenally difficult CGI really is). My only real complaint is the overly simplistic plot; Hercules is banished for loving his brother’s bride-to-be, and basically fights his way back to her.
In keeping with Greek mythology, there was plenty of death; without giving too much away, no one is safe. (The ending is the only exception to this, which is a shame—it could have been an worthwhile tragedy.) Even Hercules does his fair share of brutal murdering (except women—he let that one girl live), which was surprisingly refreshing—most hero stories have the hero nobly spare lives. Not so Hercules; he gets down and dirty with the rest of them.
Ultimately The Legend of Hercules is a change to switch off and enjoy some action-packed eye-candy (plenty of semi-naked men on parade). Don’t expect much from it, and you might be pleasantly surprised.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Featured image taken from http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2423312384/tt1043726?ref_=ttmd_md_pv.