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THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (review)

Review by Clay N Ferno

Kellen Lutz stars as Hercules, son of Zeus in this latest picture directed by the once decent director Renny Harlin.

While the action and fight scenes make for a Gladiator meets Fight Club experience, this PG-13 sword clash of the senses is likely best left for adolescents craving a matinee adrenaline and sugar rush.

The film is marketed with 3D in mind, but was not a huge selling point when leaving the theatre. A standard definition Redbox rental will suffice, and the price would be more reasonable for fans of the Greek demigod Herc.

In contrast to last summer’s Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, this movie takes no steps to relating Greek mythology to the main plot point of the jealous stepdad seeking revenge on his Zeus-sired stepson Hercules.

In fact, of the famous mythological tales, it seemed as though the filmmakers only made it to the first chapter of his most famous fight with a Lion before deciding to take liberties with the mythical Hercules.

The rest is typical small minded story-building with a military battle, capture, imprisonment and multiple scenes of Herc taking on more than one opponent at a time.

Gaia Weiss stars as love interest Hebe. While she is indeed beautiful, her interactions with Kellen and the supplied wet noodle dialogue do not serve her well. As a female lead, women are given short shrift once again by Hollywood, objectifying her as a love interest when so much more could have been done with Hebe and one of Mythology’s most important and powerful gods.

Harlin dipped his toes into Greek mythology, including two important oracle scenes, but is careful not to go to the extreme of Miller and Snyder’s vision of 300. The backdrop of the action seems to take place in just a couple of city-states, a gladiator arena and one town square with capital building.

Considering the scope of a hero like Hercules and the many adventures he had, a montage of many slayings and traveled to lands would have been welcomed to break up the monotony of the set dressings.

While captured (as the god is twice in the movie), he is shown escaping from a famous Hercules trope, the two pillars. What happens after his escape is more God of War (video game) than Steve Reeves in the 1958 classic, as the power of Zeus electrifies his chains and he takes out all of the soldiers guarding him. Not what I would have expected from the scene, but this was fun to watch.

Having lived with and grown with films and television of the ancient world (300, Gladiator, Ben-Hur, Rome) this comes as a candy coated version of the classic with little respect for the rich tapestry of the Gods. A common complaint these days, when even a Superman movie can skirt people’s expectations of what they know of a character.

You won’t be able to watch The Legend of Hercules as a replacement for any of the thousands of books on the subject. In fact, the Marvel comics Hercules by Greg Pak is where I would steer you if you wanted more of this burly (and in the comics, hilarious) demigod.

In conclusion, we could break this movie down to pros and cons. Costuming, casting and action were all fair to good. Watching swords clash and big fight scenes choreographed and trained for is always a treat, and these were the best part of the film by far.

What really hurt the film were biggies.

There is a camera technique, whereby kill shots and head wounds are slowed down to increase the impact of the scene. This technique is overblown in Herc and does not translate well with the 3D. Dialogue was stiff, forced and unnecessarily Shakespearian. Sure, Thor and Loki can get away with pulling this off but not here. It made the actors look even more foolish tripping over ‘Thees’ and ‘Thous’.

This vacuous telling of The Legend of Hercules is suited for teenagers, but not for anyone looking for substance, history, or even an fantastical escape.

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