Hercules is the equivalent of hiring a day laborer only to discover them dozing under the cabana 20 minutes later. You weren’t really ever expecting that much, just a tidy little one-and-done job, so you can’t help but flabbergast at the flagrant display of utter laziness. It’s truly an epic tableau of “who gives a fuck?” It’s so imposingly boring, you’d think you walked into a documentary about dust mites. It’s so recklessly rattlebrained that you think the screenplay is the product of ‘Myths by Charlie Kelly’. It’s the Kitten Mittens of sword and sandals movies. Every character and plot line is so mismanaged you’d think Halliburton were producing it.
In such, Hercules is not so much a movie as a movie impersonator. There’s characters and they’re doing stuff, and there’s fight scenes and fire and a CGI lion but when all is said and done, nothing happens. It’s the same story we’ve ignored and forgotten a hundred times before. Plot deviations are as satisfying as zero snickers bar. Surprise “twists” are as curvaceous as Calista Flockheart. It’s so aggressively blah that a cocaine fiend could doze off in the midst of it (because lord knows I did.)
I guess we can cover the “plot”, if for no reason other than to dissuade you from submitting yourself to it. Hercules, you see, isn’t really all he’s cracked up to be. He’s a hulking gun-for-hire; a wig-wearing mercenary. The muscley chump doesn’t even fight solo; that pussy needs a small troop of misfits (whose names we never bother to learn) backing him up at every turn. We’ve all been duped! If you’re gonna give Herc sidekicks, at least toss in Xena Warrior Princess, amiright? And for a guy who’s “half-God”, his bulky shoulders have been all but torn at the seams, with stretch mark highways recoiling against his unnatural mass of “Good God, I didn’t even know those muscle groups existed”.
Speaking of that half-God thing, it’s still unclear by the end of the movie whether “screenwriters” Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos (oh ok, so he’s where all these mouth-heavy names are coming from) intended for Hercules to actually be a demi-God or if he’s just rocking the title for namesake purposes. Ian McShane offers something that’s supposed to resemble a stirring speech about Herc taking up the mantle of the name but that just muddies the waters on the matter. But that is characteristic of the whole endeavor. Again, who cares?
And the story goes a little like this: blah blah blah, I only fight for gold, blah blah blah, pretty princess needs help saving kingdom, blah blah blah, villages burned to the ground, blah blah blah, hired for twice his weight in gold, blah blah blah, evil Reeses and his centaur army, blah blah blah, Hercules trains good king’s army, blah blah blah, please make it stop. I mean you name your villain after a candy bar and don’t expect jeers? Come on.
And while we’re on the topic of Reeses (I know his name is actually spelled Rhesus but, again, who cares?), what an abortion of a character he is. I don’t even want to mention where his character goes (spoiler: nowhere.) I quite honestly think they forgot that he existed by the last act.
It’s all well and good to poke fun at Hercules but in all seriousness, it’s an abomination of storytelling, so bereft of skill and care, so mindlessly inconsequential that you will literally (fine, figuratively) be worse for wear having seen. After bearing witness to a completely unnecessary 300 sequel this year, we had hoped that the meat and potatoes warrior action thing had been put to bed for 2014. Brett Ratner manages to dredge it up again and make it improbably more boring than it was there.
But that Ratner guy really does possess an undeniable gift for making movies that lack a soul. Let’s just say he’s swung for the rafters here. So long as you manage to keep your eyes open, he will stun you with his complete and utter lack of storytelling prowess. He will wow you with characters speaking out the “themes” of the movies. He will try to hypnotize you into falling asleep so you won’t remember that you actually paid money to watch this.
If Hercules were a food group, it’d be French Fries. And not those extra crispy, uber-delectable French Fries. We’re talking the limp, soggy, sitting in oil all night French Fries. The “oh god, I’m just gonna throw these away” French Fries. The “did someone re-fry these French Fries?” French Fries. The ‘Rock with a Wig’ French Fries.
But let’s be honest with ourselves here, The Rock is good enough when he’s in something half-decent. Throw him in something with “Fast” or “Furious” in the title and he’s immensely watchable. Hell, I quite enjoyed him in Pain & Gain. Even The Toothfairy pushed the boundaries of…. wait, no, let’s just not go there. But while that formerly mentioned movie is an embarrassment, this is even more of an inglorious let down. I mean every time he’s called on to do something great, it usually involves pushing something huge or pulling on something strong. For both, The Rock sports a face like he’s pitching a legendary deuce.
For a movie all about being fit as shit, he’s only bashing things in the shadows or beating up on CGI. Once more, who cares? It’s a complete and utter waste of what that modern day Andre the Giant has going for him. With Hercules, Dwayne Johnson has hit Rock Bottom.
Driving home from the theater, I passed by a dojo in which a bunch of kids in stark white gis were thrusting their spindly elbows and yelping dramatically. A mom videotaped in the corner. I would rather watch that video than any given five minutes of this movie. It would have more life, energy and nuance than all of Brett Ratner’s Shatner of a film.
Hercules is the movie equivalent of having a pube stuck in your throat, you just want to cough it up and be free of it. Just keep telling yourself it will pass. Its legend will tell of how you’ll never get that 98 minutes back. I went in fully expecting to see a C- movie, too bad it was a full blown F.
Matt Oakes saw over 150 movies in theaters and probably drank more than his weight in beer last year. Check out more reviews at his website www.silverscreenriot.com and follow Matt on Facebook and on Twitter.