"Hercules": The surprise hit?

What if the Hercules legend we’ve always heard about was nothing more than that, a legend? What if the half man, half god story was just exaggerations made by a great storyteller? This is the theme, and surprisingly fresh angle as Dwayne Johnson steps into the shoes (sandals?) of “Hercules”.

Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) is a mercenary for higher, who takes care of business with his small quartet of loyal friends. With each adventure, his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), tells all within earshot of Hercules’ legendary labors that he conquered in order to please the gods!  This is how the “legend was born”. It's not necessarily known if he is a demigod or not because of the unreliable narrator. Outside of his strength being a possible sign, every battle Hercules has been in he's had his friends at his side helping him defeat people and monsters. So it's not quite clear, perhaps even to himself, if he is a demigod, which makes for an interesting film.

When King Sitacles (Peter Mullan) of Thrace and his daughter Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) enlist the help of Hercules to defeat a tyrant, Hercules is happy to oblige at the price of double his weight in gold. The film focuses on his mission to help the people of Thrace as he deals with his own demons and the loss of his family.

The action in “Hercules” is awesome! At times the battle scenes feel reminiscent of “Gladiator” with debris flying past the camera, and Hercules belting out orders. Director Brett Ratner has learned a few things about placing the camera and capturing the action in a large scaled movie since “X-Men: The Last Stand”. Despite all the mayhem that’s going on, you can clearly follow where each character is and what they are doing in the battle which makes for a more engaged viewer during the film.

With the action on point, all that’s typically needed is a decent story to get between each battle scene. The smartly cast band of mercenaries and their leader bring an authenticity to the screen that you don’t always see in a film like this. Their love for one another feels like bonds that have been built over time and through various battles. Credit has to go to Johnson who holds the film together with an honest portrayal (except for the hair pieces) of a guy who wants to do the right thing, but happens to have the strength of ten men. It’s the heroes reluctant journey, flawed character, and tormented soul that really takes you down a road that you wouldn’t expect with The Rock at the helm.

“Hercules” isn’t mind blowingly original. It has a twist that I saw coming from the first act. It’s a great time at the movies though! In my opinion, the film is worthy of a sequel to see where this world can go. If you’re headed to the movies this weekend, this is the one you want to see.

Rating: B-

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