“Hercules” is the second attempt this year to make an incarnation of the Greek warrior after “The Legend of Hercules.” For me, “Hercules” is like a lot of other characters in literature and mythology, such as Dracula or Robin Hood, that have been subjected to various cinematic interpretations. Everyone from Disney to Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken a stab at it.
This latest effort mostly works due its commitment to goofiness.
This version tells the life and journey of Hercules (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, perfectly cast as the hulking half-man, half-god) after he performed his legendary 12 labors. He’s hired as a mercenary, called on by a king (John Hurt) to train his army and go into battle against an evil warlord.
What the movie may lack in depth or realism, it makes up for with some impressive set pieces, including an ambush sequence with some ferocious barbarians. Some of the scenes look like they were stolen right out of Schwarzenegger’s own “Conan” series.
Director Brett Ratner (the “Rush Hour” trilogy, “Red Dragon”) and Johnson have senses of tongue-in-cheek throughout. Johnson knows for a fact that he’s winking at the camera during some scenes and finds a good balance between being the action hero while also not taking himself too seriously.
There’s something borderline campy and cheesy about this Hercules, and the movie makes no apologies for that. The dialogue knows it’s silly. The conclusion is predictable, and the action sequences are standard CGI stretched out to infinity and beyond. Not to mention, we get the likes of Joseph Fiennes and Ian McShane adding energy and humor where necessary.
Having said that, I am recommending this movie on the basis of its campy spirit and Johnson keeping the movie on its toes. I think it works in the tradition of dumb, fun summer movies. It does what it’s made to do: Be entertaining in the moment and not much else.
Rated PG-13 for epic battle sequences, violence, suggestive comments, brief strong language, and partial nudity.
Hall is a new columnist for the Courier.