Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Take: HERCULES (starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson)

Okay, before I tell you how much I enjoyed this movie, let's get The Big Gripe out of the way …
That being the advertising campaign that preceded the film's release and was pretty much a total misrepresentation of what the movie is really about. If you saw any of the trailers, you saw repeated showings of Herc fighting the Nemean Lion or the Hydra or the giant Wild Boar of the forest. Great special effects, nicely staged, very exciting-looking stuff. And all of it is in the movie … Trouble is, it only lasts about five minutes total and is told in flashbacks very early on in the film when Herc's young chronicler, Iolaus, is telling these tales to some bad guys who have him captured, trying to frighten them with the threat of how Herc will be showing up to kick their asses if they don't let him go.
Of course, Herc does show up --- along with the rest of his traveling mercenary band --- does kick the necessary asses, and saves Iolaus from being skewered in a most unpleasant manner.
And then the real storyline of the film starts to unfold …

This is at a later point in the legendary hero's life, well after he had completed the famed 12 Labors --- only to still be betrayed by the vengeful goddess Hera for being the seed of her husband, Zeus, king of the gods, and a mortal woman. This revenge takes the form of Hercules apparently going mad in the middle of one night and savagely slaying his own family – his beloved wife and children. After that, Herc renounces Zeus and all the gods and sets out to live the remainder of his life as a mere mortal, a man haunted and tormented, no longer a demigod.
Toward that end, he has formed the aforementioned band of mercenaries who roam the Greek world fighting for money, not causes. The hero of myth and legend lives only in the stories spun by Iolaus as sort of a PR campaign to attract potential customers and discourage future foes.
The movie, then, becomes more a tale of ancient intrigue and epic battles than myth and fantasy monsters. And when Lord Cotys, the king of Thrace, hires Herc and his band to train the battered remnants of the Thracean army into a fighting force to go up against the rebel horde of one Rheseus, who allegedly is threatening to overrun the entire kingdom, elements of Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven come into play.

Hard to say any more without spoiling too much of how the rest of it all plays out. Suffice to say there are some spectacular battle scenes, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson does a credible job playing his role and shouldering the brunt of the movie's load, there are some interesting (though not entirely unforeseen) twists, there are some nice bits of wry humor, and there's even some respectful homages to Hercules (Steve Reeves), Samson and Delilah (Vic Mature) and other strong man epics that have come before. And if you don't feel at least some small urge to stand and cheer when The Rock proclaims (and proves): "I am Hercules!" … well, you're probably in the wrong movie to begin with.

A lot of fun. Gritty action with just the right touches of fantasy and drama.
I recommend it.

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