Just earlier this year, we had “The Legend of Hercules,” an abysmal, generic mishmash of monotonous battles, cheap-looking visuals, and flat characters that pretty much put an end to anyone’s desire to see another live-action version of the mythical demigod. However, we all knew there was yet another one on the way, this one based on the graphic novel “Hercules: The Thracian Wars” by Steve Moore and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the titular role. Johnson certainly fits the part, but it takes a little more than finding the right Hercules to make a riveting film out of the legend.
This version, which makes a point out of departing from the stories of old, begins by introducing us to Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) and his warrior companions, which includes his nephew, Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), a seer, Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), and a skilled archer, Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal). They are mercenaries fighting for gold, going from place to place and getting involved in other peoples’ battles. This eventually brings them into the employment of Lord Cotys (John Hurt), who wants them to help stop an evil warlord, Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann), who has been attacking villages across the land of Thrace. However, they soon realize that their employer may have been the evil one all along.
This version of “Hercules” starts off pretty well, telling us of his amazing feats before throwing us into his current situation and setting up his companions, who have become something of a family to him. Unfortunately this is where things start to go downhill. From this point, the film feels like it completely shuts down, entering into a sleep state as Hercules and his comrades are brought to Lord Cotys and begin to train his army, eventually leading to a pair of big, monotonous battles for control of Thrace. Like the previous film, it has a lot of trouble developing its characters beyond two-dimensional warriors that are just there to hack and slash, which doesn’t pair particularly well with the dead pacing that plagues most of the film.
However, the major difference here is that the third act begins to amend these problems, showing us that the characters are a little more than they appeared to be before sending them into a dangerous situation that could mean all of their deaths. It’s just a shame that the film takes this long to wake up, because if that third act is any indication, this could have been a well-developed take on the character. Johnson does indeed make for a great Hercules, which is rather fitting given that this was apparently something he’s wanted to do for a long time. If only the screenplay had equated that passion, then this might have really been something.
“Hercules” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The picture is wonderfully sharp throughout the presentation, guaranteeing that you get to see every detail of the elaborate production design and visual effects. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a little on the soft side, but once turned up a bit, you’re treated to a great track that allows you to hear everything perfectly from the dialogue down to the sound effects. Overall, the film has been given great treatment, leaving very little to complain about.
Commentary by Director/Producer Brett Ratner and Producer Beau Flynn (Theatrical Version)
Brett Ratner and Dwayne Johnson: An Introduction
Hercules & His Mercenaries
The Bessi Battle
The Effects of Hercules
The bulk of these extras are featurettes that run about 5-10 minutes apiece, but unfortunately the only ones that are really worth watching are the ones focusing on The Bessi Battle and the effects. These are the only ones that really have anything to say, while the others are rather superficial. Luckily, the commentary with Ratner and Flynn is pretty informative, giving you interesting little tidbits of background information on the project and individual scenes. There’s also about 15 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, but almost all of them are from the rather dull section of the film, so they’re not particularly worth watching.
This “Hercules” is a slight improvement over the previous rendition, but that’s not saying very much. Johnson has a ball with the role, and there’s something to be said for the exciting third act, but that doesn’t make up for the sheer drudgery of the first two-thirds of the film that feature terrible pacing and very little characterization. There was some potential here with the departure from the usual legend, but unfortunately it ends up being squandered, making “Hercules” just another forgettable action flick.