Film review: The Legend of Hercules
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"I declare to you that I love another; he's the reason I want to wake up in the morning, embrace the day. If your sword wound him and his face was unrecognisable to me, I will love him. If his tongue was cut from his throat, and I hadn't his voice to delight me, I would love him. And if you make only a memory of him, I would love him even more eternally. That's what you have to look forward to."
The Legend of Hercules has nothing to do with the legend of Hercules (or Herakles as the Greeks call him) as we know it from Greek mythology.
I remember when I went to the local library as a little boy and returned home with an enormous picture book about the 12 labours of Hercules. This picture book was so huge, when I was reading it nobody could see me.
In this picture book I read about Hercules slaying a lion of Nemea and the nine-headed serpent Hydra, catching a Erymanthian boar, cleaning the stables of Augeas by means of a river, retrieving the flesh-eating horses of Diomedes and abducting the hellhound Cerberus from the underworld.
In those days, these heroic feats appealed to me. They still do. But you won't notice much of that in this Greek tragedy. In other words, it's a sad affair.
Ultimately, it's a pathetic hodgepodge of themes from various movies. A little bit of Pompeii, which was also about a forbidden love between a princess and a slave who was forced to be a gladiator in Pompeii. The fight scenes were a weak duplicate of 300: Rise of an Empire and 300 itself. Especially because of the use of slow motion effects.
A comparison with Gladiator is also easily made. And the end is a lot like a children's matinee on Saturday afternoon with cartoons of mythological superheroes such as He-Man: Masters of the Universe.
This movie is bland, uninspired and surely not legendary. The only impressive item in this movie was the chest of Kellan Lutz, who played Hercules. Perhaps it can impress teenage girls who marvel while looking at these muscular males. I was less impressed than looking at a crispy fried tiny chicken on my plate during lunch.
In 1200 BC, King Amphitryon invades the kingdom of Argos. It comes to a fight between him and his rival King Galenus. After defeating Galenus, the kingdom Argos becomes part of Amphitryon's empire. He tells his wife Alcmene that this victory was for her. However, Alcmene is outraged by the thirst for power her husband displays. That night she asks Hera, wife of Zeus, for help. Hera finally appears and predicts that she will give birth to Hercules, son of Zeus.
Hercules, whose father calls him Alcides, is born and after 20 years has grown into a handsome muscular young man who is in love with the lovely Hebe. When they hear that Hebe will be engaged to Iphicles, Hercules' older brother, the two lovebirds try to flee. They are caught and Hercules is sent by his father on a expedition to Egypt, hoping he won't return alive.
Ultimately it appears to be a trap and the regiment is being ambushed. Hercules and the faithful Sotiris are the only two who remain. They are sold as slaves to fight as gladiators. Hercules is now doing everything to return to Tires to stop his older brother and beloved Hebe getting married.
In terms of originality, this story won't win a prize quickly. The special effects aren't that impressive either. The fight with a lion at the beginning of the movie looks promising for a few seconds, but the animated lion has the same appearance as the computerised images of Jumanji in 1985. So not really an improvement.
The gladiator fights captivated me a bit, yet it was a huge disappointment at the end. The fight where Hercules had to engage with six never-defeated gladiators was something I looked forward to. But it was as if Zeus himself came along and interfered, because at that moment a storm came up. The first thunderbolt distracted me for a moment and I needed to rewind the whole thing because the great heroic fight was already over.
For those who can't endure blood, don't worry because there is not a single drop of it in this film. I think they ran out of fake blood after filming 300: Rise of an Empire.
There were still a few things I had to chuckle about, or that annoyed me. The final battle with the lightning sword, which smacked down hundreds of soldiers, and the subsequent battle that Hercules fought with his father, were a bit exaggerated. It seemed like a Jean-Claude Van Damme scenario, where the hero gets beaten up terribly first before he claims victory.
The performances are also fairly limited and meaningless. Lutz looks frightfully muscled and Scott Adkins is a rather sad-looking king instead of a fearsome ruler.
Maybe it's the overdose of sandals movies I've seen lately, but I wasn't impressed with this Hercules remake. The only wow feeling I got was during the opening scene where the camera pops out of the water, swings over a battlefield with oncoming soldiers, then sways between the defending archers - a brilliant moment. But this was not maintained throughout the film. The rest is an accumulation of stale and insipid situations.
Hopefully, Hercules with Dwayne Johnson, which comes out later this year, will be far better.
My rating: 2/10
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