Without the mythological hero, Hercules, the popular culture of today would probably look a lot different than it does. You can easily draw a line from modern superheroes back to the time of the ancient Greeks. So why is it that after thousands of years since his inception we are still waiting for a decent Hercules movie?
Renny Harlin (The Long Kiss Goodnight) directs the new film, The Legend of Hercules, which is a mash-up of Herc’s mythology and the movies 300, Superman, Thor, Gladiator and HBO’s Game of Thrones. And you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, that sounds pretty cool,” but unfortunately the acting, production values and writing are not nearly as good as those other referenced films.
To be fair, movies like Thor and Superman were influenced by the Hercules myth and not the other way around; nevertheless, The Legend of Hercules offers Kellan Lutz (the poor man’s version of Chris Hemsworth) as Hercules and Liam Garrigan (the b-movie version of Tom Hiddleston) as his evil brother Iphicles. These two actors were obviously cast in these roles because of their likeness and character similarities to the Thor and Loki characters of the Marvel films.
Although it’s all very familiar territory to modern moviegoers, the narrative of this film sticks fairly close to its age-old roots. Hercules is fathered by the god, Zeus, with his human mother, Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee, who you might recognize from Game of Thrones), who cheats on her husband, King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), to get back at him for being such a malevolent ruler (i.e. jerk.)
The Legend of HerculesHercules is born and named Alcides by the King, then faster than you can say “superfecundation” the hero and his nefarious brother, Iphicles, are in their twenties and both vying for the affections of Princess Hebe (Gaia Weiss), who loves Hercules but whom King Amphitryon has promised to Iphicles in order to secure his standing with the kingdom of Crete.
Hebe and Herc decide to escape Amphitryon and elope, but they are captured and Hercules is sent away on a military mission for three moons (not sure how long that is) where he is captured (again) and sold as a slave; where he is then forced into gladiator style battles at the bidding of his new master.
Herc, with his godly strength, easily moves up the ranks on the gladiator circuit and eventually earns his freedom. He discards the name Alcides and fully embraces the fact that he is the son of Zeus. He then goes up against his no-good fake father and brother and tries to reclaim his beloved Princess Hebe.
On the plus side, there are some decent fight sequences in this film; but sadly they are tonally lifted from the film 300 and rife with excessive visual gimmickry. Many of the special effects in The Legend of Hercules are very low budget by today’s standards and the Hercules fight with the Nemean Lion (the films singular nod to the twelve labors of Hercules myth) is comically bad.
The Legend of HerculesFor all the violent fighting in this movie there is barely a drop of blood spilt; not something you would expect from the gladiatorial style battles. The conception of Hercules by Zeus and the lovemaking scenes with Hebe probably earned this film a PG-13 rating more so than the exaggerated fights.
For the screening I attended, the 3D effects made for a very dark and muddy picture (per usual.) Although the 3D gimmick is used in a decent enough manner in this film, its darkening effect makes this mediocre (at best) movie a labor to watch and I advise avoiding the 3D enhanced version altogether.
This film is poorly written, haphazardly directed and stoically acted, but that said, it does have a certain nostalgic panache to it; like an old-timey Saturday morning adventure flick you might have seen on TV as a child – and in that respect, it’s not all bad.