Strap On Your Loin Cloths, It’s Time for a Hercules Gif Review
Pure Oscar material.
After a weekend of intense internal debate, yesterday I decided to hop on the bus, schlep to the theater, and see Hercules. After all, I justified to myself, it has Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson! Surely it will at least be entertaining! My subconscious was screaming in the background—But Brett Ratner. It’s directed by Brett Ratner!—but I did not listen. I should have. Because Hercules was bad. And it needed to be worse.
Warning: Spoilers for the entire movie below, if you were planning on seeing Hercules.
Allow me to explain. Hercules is caught in that grey zone where it’s not a good movie, but it’s not whacktastically bad enough to at least be fun. It’s a syndrome shared by last December’s 47 Ronin, in which half the actors were either bad—Keanu—or hamming it up magnificently, like Rinko Kikuchi
…and half thought they were in a serious adaptation of ancient Japanese legend, so they showed up to work prepared to deliver their often substantial acting chops. How dare you, Hiroyuki Sanada! How dare you act well.
“But Rebecca!,” I hear you say. “The Rock throws a horse in the trailer! He throws a horse!”
True enough. But moments like that one were few and far between. There needed to be approximately 600% more horse-throwing. All the particularly fun moments were in the trailer, leaving the movie itself a mish-mosh of dull, lackadaisical action sequences and characters whose fates didn’t matter to me all that much.
Primary among those characters, of course, is Hercules, who—as the conceit of this movie dictates—actually isn’t the son of Zeus. Basically everything you know about Hercules, up to and including those labors you saw in the trailers, is actually something he and his merry band of fellow mercenaries said he did in order to give his legend a boost and make him more terrifying to his enemies and a more appealing hire to anyone who might need someone like The Rock to bust some a-holes up. It’s similar to what Troy did, sucking the “myth” out of Greek mythology to yield a more grounded movie. I know some of you are shouting
…but I for one didn’t mind that part. 2010’s Clash of the Titans reboot kept its fantasy elements, after all, and look how that turned out.
The problem is that the story Hercules chooses to tell instead of the 12 Labors is thoroughly clichéd. The Rockules and his friends—The Rebel, The Weird One, Old Comic Relief Dude, Young Guy Who Wants to Fight, and, of course, The Girl (a badass Amazon who beats people up with her bow, and I still felt no investment in her fate)—are hired by Rebecca Ferguson to help her dad John Hurt win a civil war. Only it turns out… wait for it… John Hurt is actually the bad guy, so now The Rockules has to defeat all the soldiers he trained a few days earlier.
As twists go, it’s Benedict Cumberbatch-is-Khan levels of obvious. And, look, this is an action movie. I do not expect groundbreaking stories. But what sets a mediocre actioner like Hercules apart from a good one like, say, The Rock’s Fast & Furious 6, is that you have to have characters whom you’re excited to see going through the paces of beating up baddies and giving inspiring speeches. Hercules didn’t have that. It almost made me fall asleep, which is absolutely inexcusable in a movie where you have The Rock playing history’s most famous badass.
Most of the best moments in the film were a result of The Rock’s goofy charisma. There’s the aforementioned horse throwing and the moment where he pumps himself up by bellowing IIIIIII AAAAMMMMMM HEERRRRRCUUULLEEESSSSS before pulling himself loose from some chains. Hercules needed more of that. Needed more stupid. Either intentional stupid, like the kind we get in Pacific Rim—GIANT MONSTERS FIGHTING GIANT ROBOTS, AW YISS
…or unintentional stupid, as in fantasy classics (classics, I say) like The Beastmaster.
At this point, I don’t really care. Hercules was boring. I feel lied to. There was a moment about a third of the way through the film when Iolaus (Reece Ritchie)—who’s in charge of telling people how great Hercules is and is also his nephew this time around, sorry slash shippers—pitches prospective titles for a new saga, one of which is “The Legend of Hercules.” He’s told it “sounds boring.” It’s an apparent potshot at The Legend of Hercules, which you’ll be forgiven for not knowing came out last January, because very few people actually saw it. But Hercules, you have no room to talk. The Legend of Hercules has Kellan Lutz. You have The Rock. I dared you to do better, and you failed me.