REVIEW: THE LEGEND OF HERCULES / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: RENNY HARLIN / SCREENPLAY: SEAN HOOD, DANIEL GIAT, RENNY HARLIN, GIULIO STEVE / STARRING: KELLAN LUTZ, GAIA WEISS, SCOTT ADKINS, ROXANNE MCKEE, LIAM GARRIGAN, LIAM MCINTYRE, RADE SERBEDZIJA / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 4TH
If you’re expecting the twelve labours of Hercules, then look elsewhere. The only labour involved in this film is the effort it will take to get from one end of it to the other.
Following essentially the same trajectory as Gladiator, our Hercules is born a bastard (albeit son of the God of Gods) and sent to die by his stepfather King Amphitryon, after falling for his elder brother’s bride-to-be Hebe. What follows is a cartoonish series of post-bullet time gladiatorial battles, as Hercules survives and returns to the family bosom to avenge the death of his mother and dispatch the King, all before Iphicles can consummate a marriage to Hercules’ true love.
With dialogue pared down to a level beyond perfunctory, and characters with less flesh on them than the actors they’re played by, The Legend of Hercules has the feel of a second-rate video game lacking entirely in flair or finesse, and constitutes little more than a checklist of every clichéd action camera move imaginable – generally multiple times over.
Finance and fashion are the two main culprits when adaptations of great works don’t learn from the productions of the past, and The Legend of Hercules fails on both counts. With a budget spent almost exclusively on unconvincing CGI, the acting is no more authentic than the backdrops, and in the afterglow of Game of Thrones it’s an astonishing choice to have made a production so thin. You need to spend it where it can be appreciated, and reflect what you wish to emulate; this is a production that misunderstands both concepts.
Finnish director Renny Harlin’s 30-year career in Hollywood is distinguished by a lack of imagination, an enthusiasm for formula, and a willingness to pound his audiences into submission with all the elegance of a heavy metal Eurovision contestant and none of the attendant irony. The Legend of Hercules is yet more proof, if any were needed, that the zeitgeist is well and truly beyond him; it wants so badly to be 300, but falls short on every front. It’s too prim to appeal to the swords ’n’ saucy crowd, too bloodless to be an exploitation pic, too dour for pulp and far too slender to be taken seriously. It’s not even so camp as to be entertaining, although the ‘electrifying’ climax was hilarious, and the line, “Have you come to bring the wrath of Zeus upon me, boy?” did bring our house down at least.
If The Legend of Hercules was intended as the origin film to a series of sequels, the disappointing box office has made it unlikely the labours will ever be undertaken. And that is, perhaps, the film’s one saving grace.
Extras: Making of / Commentary