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Review: The Legend of Hercules

The Legend of Hercules
01.10.2014
3 10

PLOT:Mythical Greek half-god Hercules is sent into exile by his stepfather, sold into slavery, becomes a Gladiator, and builds an army in order to take his rightful kingdom.

REVIEW: Model-turned-actor Kellan Lutz seems like a very nice guy in the real world, so I'll try to take it easy on him. As an actor, he makes a great model. (I've never seen him model but I can only assume he's good at that.) Playing the title character in THE LEGEND OF HERCULES, Lutz appears lost at every turn, utilizing a scowling and squinting technique presumably picked up on a photoshoot somewhere; it might work in a picture, but in a moving picture it's an amusingly strange thing to see. That Lutz is not a good actor isn't necessarily his fault, and it isn't necessarily HERCULES' biggest issue, but a movie like this lives and dies by its hero - and here we have a really lousy hero. At least he has perfect teeth…

The main issue with THE LEGEND OF HERCULES is that it's a passionless, derivative affair, made by a director looking for a paycheck who was most likely being forced to emulate 300 and "Spartacus." I say forced because it is obvious that director Renny Harlin can still compose an action sequence when he wants to - several the movies fight scenes are more or less well-choreographed and entertaining - but he was surely encouraged by producers clinging to a dying fad to utilize ample wirework and that tired slow-mo/fast-mo thing Zack Snyder is infamous for. Can anyone witness a gladiator-type hurling himself through the air - sword raised, teeth bared, defying physics and all that - and not roll their eyes and think "This is 2014 guys - you might as well be doing bullet time." The fact that HERCULES goes to this well again and again is just one of many pieces of evidence that it's a cheap knockoff, out of touch and sort of pathetic; with its impossible-to-take-seriously leading man and a supporting cast of mostly forgettable faces, HERCULES is exactly the kind of movie you'd expect is made solely for the purpose of its producers selling it to overseas markets. The joy of cinema is not present here.

The joy of storytelling isn't present much either; perhaps the script read like a classic adventure, but brought to film it's an awkward slog: scenes start and stop abruptly, tension is nowhere to be found, the characters are made to provide needless exposition and passionless platitudes. Not to mention the fact that, intentional or not, the narrative often comes off as GLADIATOR-lite. None of the actors appear to be having a good time, save for maybe Lutz - who is goofy beyond words sometimes - and Scott Adkins, who plays Hercules' step-father and the evil king who casts his son into exile and kills his mommy. Adkins' performance is by no means great, but it's kind of hammy and growlingly over-the-top in a way that reminds you of actors who used to go for broke in the sword-and-sandals epics of yore. I'm tempted to mention Johnathon Schaech's utterly bizarre turn as a cornrowed Egyptian soldier, but you wouldn't believe me if I told you.

Harlin deserves a bit of credit for at least making the fight scenes - of which there aren't enough - bearable. The director does indeed fall back on visuals that are all too familiar, but at least he can frame a shot correctly and give you an idea of where the combatants are in relation to each other; these sequences aren't edited to within an inch of their lives, either. They aren't necessarily innovate scenes, because there are no stakes the audience cares about, but they're competent enough to break us out of our slumber. Beware any scene that begins with two people in a room, in a cage or atop a hill - they're about to start talking to each other and you will not like it when they do that.

I honestly just remembered right now, as I'm writing this, that HERCULES is in 3D. It's one of those dreadfully muddy jobs, reminiscent of when studios rushed their movies through a conversion process after AVATAR's success. Yes, if you take your glasses off the screen is somewhat blurry, but there is absolutely nothing about the way the technology is exploited here that is note-worthy. As is apparently mandatory in a movie where the 3D is unexceptional, confetti, petals and dust motes are dispatched often to give the audience something that actually pops off the screen. And when confetti overpowers the other visuals in your film, you're in trouble.

Source: JoBlo.com

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