Being a film critic can leave you awkwardly vulnerable at times. It becomes a sort of intellectual gambling game when you reach cinematic pomposity so you place your opinionated wager early. Most of the time you can pin the tail on the donkey but then the odd one fumbles along that completely funks with your schmidt. And because you’ve probably worked out that I didn’t like Hercules, it’s a fortunate thing I didn’t tell many people its supposed fate. Except for a few, who hopefully weren’t listening.
What ensues in this film is a collection of mostly uninteresting events done in even less interesting ways. For whatever half-witted reason somebody decided a Hercules movie would be better if it wasn’t set during the amazing twelve labours, but rather during an improvised aftermath that has Hercules meandering around like a really muscly thumb-twiddler. The events are so inconsequential, I’m too bored to elaborate. The only intriguing story artefact is the demi-god’s divine ambiguity and the almost assumed non-existence of the gods, despite the embellishment of his legend.
It’s disconcerting when a movie as simple as Hercules somehow leaves you uninformed and confused halfway. Being as this was after Herc’s twelve labours, I assumed they were going with the version where his family were dead, only they showed up part way, then everyone has a BBQ and talks about Hercule’s dead family. So what I witnessed before was an incognito flashback? Greek logic I suppose.
The film’s biggest handicap is that it plays like a History Channel documentary. Conscious of its own genre and the expectations – it’s written with a misguided sense of enthusiasm and misplaced inspiration – it succumbs to cheesy pep talks and buddy romance. The only solace is a pocket of surprisingly well-paced jokes made in spirited cleverness and drunken comradeship. The actors play their lines with a sincere expression, hoping by doing so to redeem the script, but competent acting doesn’t fix the problem, it only delays it.
Therein lies part of the probable problem; Hercules relies too much on Dwayne Johnson as a casting piggybacker. Though a proven actor, he is not able to rescue this movie – by little fault of his own. Being built like a fridge does little to ripen the already diminished character of Hercules this film presents.
What I cannot fault are the battle scenarios. Yet, even though they are entertaining, you’ve seen them so many times in other movies that it doesn’t pay the debt.With the exception of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, bad action scenes are getting difficult to come by. It seems any film that wants them can have them.
This would be easier for me if Hercules fell right off the spectrum of dispassionate loathing. But it’s so determined to be good that it stumbles across a few things worth keeping, and that frustrates me. It’s fun to hate something, it’s even more fun to write about it, but it’s annoying to tell about something you mostly disapprove of, because that small slither of hope keeps alive something that shouldn’t be.
I go into a movie with optimism. That’s who I am. I abound with positivity and a belief that greatness is always a possibility. It’s an attitude that’s got me kicked out of a lot of high school productions. So when the awful prologue exposition came upon my happy mind I held out hope; I kept my objectivity and rallied all maturity – knowing I couldn’t sentence a film for its first frivolous five minutes.
Turns out you can.