I will admit that I was driven to see Hercules, not out of a deep desire to behold THE ROCK as the ancient legend, but by sheer desperation to see anything to distract me from life…and I’d seen everything else. That being said, I was intrigued that this was getting at least mixed to positive reviews and I happen to think Dwayne Johnson is not without talent. I forgot Brett Ratner directed this film though…
Johnson is never going to win an Oscar or anything, but he has presence, charisma and surprisingly outstanding comedic timing. If you’ve never seen him host Saturday Night Live, I highly recommend it for a Netflix night. I think with the right script to harness both his man-shaming physical gifts and comedy skills, he could put on a showcase. Hercules would have been a perfect opportunity to have a rollicking, humor-filled journey through his legendary trials and feats. That, unfortunately, is not the Hercules Ratner served up.
Rather than embracing the myth and legend surrounding the character, Hercules does everything it can to strip the son of Zeus of anything remotely interesting. He’s not an indomitable force of strength and bravery, he’s a morose mercenary traveling with a band of companions from conflict to conflict. His wife and children were slain and he was framed for their murders so he has been drive from his home in Athens across Greece until he wanders into a civil war in Thrace (ruled by John Hurt, slumming here for some reason). Herc and company are hired by the king to train and lead his army and the rest of the film plays out the conflict with a few twists and turns.
The problem is….it’s all exceedingly rote and boring. The battles have no excitement to them, you never feel personally invested in Hercules or any of his companions. Without anything to augment his physical attributes, Johnson is left plowing his way through battle after battle, appearing not much more excited than I was (I was not). The film goes out of its way to de-mythologize anything remotely mythological and what’s the point in making a film about Hercules if you’re going to take away everything that makes him special?
I’m being harsh on the film because I despise Brett Ratner as a director, and think this was a seriously botched opportunity for Dwayne Johnson to get his “Conan” moment. It’s not actually groan-inducingly bad. It’s just not much of anything. Congratulations, Ratner, you managed to suck all the energy out of a story that’s been passed around Western civilization for thousands of years.