THE LEGEND OF HERCULES
** (out of 5)
January 10, 2014
Kellan Lutz as HERCULES
Gaia Weiss as HEBE
Scott Adkins as KING AMPHITRYON
Roxanne McKee as QUEEN ALCMENE
Liam Garrigan as IPHICLES
Liam McIntyre as SOTIRIS
Rade Serbedzija as CHIRON
Directed by: Renny Harlin
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
There are certain directors out there who make absolute crap, but in general, I love what they do. These aren’t films that I would ever defend as great movies, but rather as entertaining ones. These directors make the cinematic equivalent of a Big Mac: enjoyable to experience, but not good for you in any way.
Some of these directors include Roland Emmerich, Brett Ratner and “The Legend of Hercules” auteur Renny Harlin.
With the exception of what I will refer to as “the dark years” of Harlin’s career, during which he made movies like “The Covenant” and “The Exorcist: The Beginning,” I tend to enjoy watching his films. Yes, even “Cutthroat Island” and “Mindhunters.” His last good theatrical release was “12 Rounds,” which was fun in its own right, after which he disappeared to smaller movies on the direct-to-DVD shelves.
I wouldn’t say that Harlin makes a triumphant return to filmmaking with “The Legend of Hercules,” but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the movie to a certain degree. Probably not enough to give it a recommended positive rating, but I didn’t feel like I wasted an evening watching it.
The films tells the origin story of Hercules (Kellan Lutz), a demigod who is the son of Zeus and destined for greatness. When his jealous older brother uses political maneuvering to secure the hand of Herc’s girlfriend, the big guy is sold into warrior slavery to keep him out of the way. However, Hercules is not to be outdone, and soon he devises a plan to return to Greece and win the woman of his dreams.
If you look at the grand cinematic landscape, the character of Hercules has really never been given a very heroic history. Going back to the Italian films from the 50s starring Steve Reeves (most of them riffed away on “Mystery-Science Theater 3000” back in the day), leading into Arnold Schwarzenegger (aka Arnold Strong) starring as the hero in “Hercules in New York” in the 60s, continuing with an overdubbed Lou Ferrigno in the 80s and finally getting the Disney treatment in one of their lesser animated films from the 90s.
So, considering that “The Legend of Hercules” isn’t that great is par for the course. Also considering this was an early January release between movies like “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” and “The Nut Job,” you can’t expect too much.
Like many sword-and-sandal movies made today, it’s almost painfully derivative of “300” with ramping camera speeds and virtual sets. Harlin uses some fun 3D gimmicks, though they are added indiscriminately and mostly in the epic first shot of the film.
I understand the thinking behind casting Kellan Lutz as the title character, but I doubt many people care about him outside of the “Twilight” franchise. (And even then, he wasn’t exactly a draw to that series.) Lutz isn’t known for acting. Like me, he’s best know for having a pretty face and bulging muscles. In this sense, he fits the Herculean body image. The acting… not so much.
However, Harlin makes the genius move of surrounding Lutz with actors who are worse than he is, so the lead doesn’t look so bad. Many of these actors are British, but aren’t exactly ready for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Instead, they affect their best posh accent (which makes no sense to be heard in ancient Greece, unless they were angling for a type of “I, Claudius” BBC production), making them sound silly with line delivery and emotion. (The only detractor from this is Hercules himself, because Lutz can barely speak comprehensively let alone do accents, and Rade Serbedzija, who brings his own ridiculous “moose and squir-rel” accent into the mix.)
Still, “The Legend of Hercules” isn’t a total loss. There are some decent action moments, and the film runs a breezy 90-odd minutes, making it less of a burden than other sword-and-sandal movies that feel the need to bloat their running times north of two hours.