Apparently the well of sword-and-shield-mythology-epics never runs dry in Hollywood. Even after Clash of the Titans (2010, RT 28%), Immortals (2011, RT 35%), and Wrath of the Titans (2012, RT 25%), there are still four of these collections of moving images (saying film is a stretch) slated for release this year with Pompeii (RT 27%), 300: Rise of an Empire (RT 41%), The Legend of Hercules (RT 3%) and Hercules. The explosion of these movies likely stems from several factors, chiefly their marketability, simple plots with simple writing, endless action sequences, and the amazing successes of 300 (RT 60%) and of course, the more grounded Gladiator (RT 76% and 2000 winner for Academy Award for Best Picture). I have to admit, this genre/sub-genre tends to fool me out of my money with their flashy trailers. One of my biggest disappointments of all time was Immortals. After seeing the trailer for that mess, I thought I was going to see the next Spartacus (1960). I remember running into work and yelling at my coworkers “Hey. Hey! guys-guys-guys, the next trailer for Immortals is up! Stop what you’re doing. I have the video here. Look. LOOOOK!” Eventually their constant reply of “Not again. That movie looks criminally terrible” lost its effect and they had to lock me out of the office. But at least Immortals, like the scif-fi flick Pacific Rim, had slick trailers that can fool someone into wasting their money. The Legend of Hercules plays it straight and gives us a trailer as unengaging as the movie it promotes. Luckily, I knew my tendencies for over-excitement well enough not to be fooled into buying a theater ticket for Immortals and I waited for RedBox to give me my fix. Sadly, but not surprisingly, I was right to wait for the DVD for both Immortals and The Legend of Hercules. Or maybe I was wrong to get the DVD at all.
Just so we’re clear: this movie is not good. The title implies the film is about Hercules but it may as well feature generic-Greek-strongman-with-a-penchant-for-the-supernatural. Leave any hope you have of seeing the trials of Hercules at the 7/11 RedBox where you awkwardly stand for 15 minutes trying to pick a movie while that lady stands over your shoulder trying to sneak a peek while you click “next” over and over and wonder how Ride Along can still be in the machine. Our story follows Hercules as he is captured in enemy territory and fights to return to his homeland in order to prevent his half-brother Iphicles (played by Jared Leto look-alike contest winner Liam Garrigan) from marrying his true love Hebe (played by Porunn from the History Channel’s Vikings. No joke there. I really like her in Vikings). The story is generic and the actors add zero passion or chemistry to the film. You get the feeling that this a paycheck movie where the people involved are minimally engaged in the film’s success and use it as a stepping stone to greener cinematic pastures.
What may be even more damning than the bad acting, bad script, and bad dialogue is the cheap special effects backing up the boring fight scenes. In the January edition of the Flashforward series, I mentioned the scene in the trailer where Hercules is chained to two stone pillars and in a great showcase of upper body strength and latissimus dorsi power, he growls and pulls on the chains, ripping the stones off the pillar and proceeds to use the would-be-shackles as a flail. Now, I’ll admit, if this was a scene from 300, I may have repeated that same sentence with drooling excitement but here the scene looks terrible and is incredibly overwrought with sequences cookie cut for 3D screens. Equally terrible and forced for 3D showings is a later scene alluded to in the trailer where Hercules uses lightning attached to his sword as a whip. Adding to the confusion is the fact that, to this point, Hercules really hasn’t shown himself to be supernaturally gifted at all. Basically, he goes from super-fighter (which is believable and acceptable) to “Hey. I think I’ll use that lightning in the sky as a whip because, you know, my mom said my dad is really Zeus. I haven’t been able to do this before, but I can tell these guys really want to beat me up even though I clearly have no lunch money in this uniform which was clearly made to show off my muscles. But you know. Maybe I’ll try the lightning whip thing. Yeah. That could work.” BOOM! He kills fifty guys in one of the worst uses of special effects I can remember.
All of this looked incredibly cheap, giving the movie the feeling that not only were the people involved not invested but they were rushed to eke the movie out, likely to get ahead of The Rock’s upcoming Hercules and scrape up a quick box office take, a mission in which they failed miserably (overall, the movie tanked, grossing $44 million against a budget of $70 million).
Sadly, I don’t think I’ve learned my lesson about these mythology epics, because I still actually want to see Hercules. Maybe you can blame people like me for why Hollywood still makes these movies. Maybe one day I’ll learn, but I know I’ll be fooled again.
Rating: 1/10. Just last week I was worried that this blog had too many movies rated >8/10. Thanks to this movie I can extend my lowest rated movie from the previous 5/10 (for Pacific Rim), and fill out my range of ratings. Honestly, I never considered if this rating system should include a 0/10, but this movie comes close. I’ll save that innovation for a worse movie. It may take a while to find such a worthy candidate.
Rotten Tomatoes: 3%.
Where to see it: Nowhere. Really, don’t see this movie.
Check out this review by “Word from the R.O.K.”: “this film still clings to me like butter left too long in a sweltering sun. I am unable to wash it off and may have to resort to a Brillo pad”