Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hercules ★★1/2

    The character of Hercules has been dissected in various forms of media for as long as I can remember; a favored persona for his charismatic appeal and entertainment value. The self entitled film "Hercules" is one of two pictures this year that have delved into the elaborate history of this Greek demigod and produced an adventure tale with little substance. Although this film contains the star power of Dwayne Johnson, it cannot overcome the limitations of a subpar script and poor direction.

    This emotionally starved rendition of the beloved Hercules has shunned the mythological facet of his heritage, thus bringing him into the context of an average Joe. A romanticized notion that is hardly conceivable and can never fully coax the audience into receiving their trust. The Twelve Labors have been reduced to mere fairy tales and Hercules is now employed as a humble mercenary, who collects his weight in gold for a myriad of tasks.

    Accompanying our hero on his countless journeys are a team of skilled warriors and a death wishing prophet named Amphiaraus. There is the proficient knife throwing and money-oriented companion in Autolycus. A trusted, yet demented warrior in Tydeus, and the virgin huntress turned marksman in Atalanta. Also along for the ride is Hercules' story rousing nephew, Iolaus. We are introduced to these characters through a rather uneventful expository scene, which comes complete with a marijuana reference.

    The plot is rather simplistic and requires Hercules to train the army of Thrace, proposed by Lord Cotys' lovely daughter, Ergenia, which gives him a reason other than financial prosperity to engage in this seemingly arduous assignment. Thrace has become weak and feeble; consequently, becoming the target of a savage warlord named Rheseus. It will take the resilience and patience of our protagonist to strengthen these men, thereby bringing peace back to the lands of mortal man.

    The film ultimately delivers what we would expect in any action driven picture. There is a plethora of bloodshed and stimulating sequences, along with a blend of sexual humor. Johnson pummels victims with a heavy handed club, while the rest of his cronies dish out justice in other, less sophisticated manners. There is nothing remotely distinctive about the fast paced progressions, which are hampered by a mediocre exercision of direction.

    Johnson is a relatively distant individual and sentiment seems neglected in all respects. He is reduced to short and less than memorable speeches intended to rally the forces--a restraint that is disappointing, considering I believe Johnson is capable of more than just a hollow exhibition of dialogue.

    There are some positives, however, that attempt to distract us from the film's weaknesses. With any picture that markets a physically superior hero, the actor must embrace the dedication to reveal a physique that identifies with their fictional equivalent; a commitment that is highly respected. Johnson exceeds expectations in this regard and almost thwarts the notion that he is a typical mortal man.

    Unfortunately, "Hercules" simply becomes another peg on the ladder of prosaic summer blockbusters; a humdrum performance of vapid entertainment. The plot twist is foreseeable and isn't suitable for the profusion of possibilities that Hercules can bring to the silver screen. It's only a matter of time before another adventure featuring this less than flattering rendering comes to fruition.

    As "Hercules' " time in the box office comes to a close (with a minuscule profit in tow) it only highlights the fact of how films are rapidly devoured by audiences over the laziness induced days of summer. One blockbuster is overshadowed by the subsequent, with little remorse. Regrettably, this film did not stand a chance considering Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" was forthcoming. ("Guardians" time will be upstaged shortly.) Though, maybe its for the best that this effort was eclipsed.

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