The legend Hercules is reborn on screen in 3D for cinemas and IMAX, thanks to director, Brett Ratner and screenwriters Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopulous. The triumphant title of the infamous Greek hero lays in the hands of Dwayne Johnson – a ‘Rock’ turned demigod. Following the comic series of Hercules: The Thracian Wars by late author, Steve Moore, the film Hercules will have fans dying to know whether it holds true to the epic. Read on and find out.
For a boy born half-human and half-god, any sane parent would choose to name their son, “Hercules”, which is Greek for ‘Glorious Gift’. Due to Zeus’ infidelity with a mortal woman, the Goddess Hera sought to kill Hercules from a young age. Although her attempts of murdering the demigod failed, even with serpents. Nothing could destroy the son of Zeus, or so the legend is believed. In later years, to prove his indestructible nature, Hercules agreed to face twelve labours for King Eurystheus (Joseph Fiennes), including; the Lernean Hydra, the Erymanthian Boar, and the Nemean Lion. Yet, the final task still remains for Hercules, moreso in his nightmares, that is the terrifying three-headed wolves, Cerberus.
The film takes off when the audience are introduced to the storyteller of Hercules, Iolaus (Reece Ritchie) who is being lowered onto a sharp spike by pirates, in Mount Domion Coast. The young man attempts to persuade the sceptical pirates from killing him, by reciting the epic adventures of Hercules. Only when it comes to a point where, Iolaus is about to lose his genitals, his uncle – the man, beast and legend, Hercules, tears through the fog wearing a lion’s head. To their disbelief, Hercules takes out the first five men who charge toward him with one blow of his famous club and proceeds to save his nephew.
During the opening fight scene, the co-stars appear in succession, each dispatching pirates in their own unique ways – Amphiaraus (Ian McShane) the psychic with a spear, Autolycus (Rufus Sewell) armed with throwing knives, Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) the sexy archer and Tydeus (Askel Hennie) the wildling with dual axes. When they return from the battle to a bar, Hercules confides in Autolycus that he wants to live a Barbarian life, under the belief that he “won’t find peace unless he moves as far away as possible”. However, that all changes when a new offer of gold presents itself. Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) demands that Hercules and his mercenaries help the King of Thrace, Lord Cotys (John Hurt) destroy a tyrannical warlord, culpable of destroying their villages.
Upon arrival, Hercules is bombarded by Ergenia’s son, Arius (Isaac Andrews) who wants to be like the legend. The young boy’s presence serves as a reminder of his own family, a fragmented flashback of an unspoken suffering. This mysterious aspect of Hercules’ past is slowly drawn out throughout the film, to maintain the audiences interest until the final reveal. When the mercenaries meet Lord Cotys, they are told that ‘centaurs’ are to blame for dooming the land and are asked to build an army to fight the enemy, Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann). Being a mercenary himself, Hercules accepts the deed in exchange for his weight in gold for himself and his crew. However, unforeseen circumstances steer the demigod into the past and challenge him to face his ultimate fate.
The question of heroism and determining what path Hercules should follow is the main focus of the story, as with every hero’s journey of self-discovery. Over the course of the film, Hercules learns that victory comes at a cost and that he is ultimately responsible for setting things right for the sake of the kingdom. I found that the plot of Hercules was not as structured as it should have been to tie the first and second half of the film together, without losing the audiences interest.
The stunning work of cinematographer, Dante Spinotti, takes the audience back to the stone ages. Pan shots of mountainous scenery are absolutely gorgeous, particularly when Hercules’ army are travelling across Bessi Heartland for their first battle. Fog and smoke projections have effectively been used to create depth and the gloomy atmosphere of the era. What I loved the most, was the overhead shots of soldier formations, particularly the “wall” of armed men standing in unison to create a shield and protect the King of Thrace. The ancient period is reinforced by the draped style of clothing, with a special focus on the armour of Hercules. In one scene, one of the soldiers does a test-run with the new and improved armour for the men to wear in battle, certain that the material won’t protect him from danger, only to be proven wrong.
The 3D visuals and CGI effects are packed with a punch, with unforgettable close-ups. One of the best examples comes from a battle scene, where a rain of fiery arrows are shot across the sky and miss, to his dismay, Amphiaraus. However, the 3D-format is not essential for Hercules, and serves to the audience as a booster for special effects. At the end of the film, during the credits, an animated version of the twelve labours is beautifully illustrated, with the combined efforts of Hercules and his crew.
As with all legendary tales, the audience can expect epic ballads and sensational music. Composer, Fernando Velázquez delivers his score on all fronts of power and glory. However, the most prominent sounds are defined by the war chants, the fury of men in battle and the taste of victory with each roar. The amazing soundtrack for Hercules was recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and will be released by Sony Masterworks.
Hercules is an action-packed film, which encompasses everything you would expect for the title. The all-star cast have done an amazing job, and with no doubt, Dwayne Johnson proves to be the most suitable candidate for the leading role of Hercules. However, the story lacks complexity and does not exceed beyond the myths of the legend. Nevertheless, fans will surely be entertained for the comedic aspects and remarkable battle sequences.
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