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article imageReview: ‘Hercules’ finds its strength in unexpected places Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jul 25, 2014 in Entertainment
Dwayne Johnson adorns a lion-skin hood in the title role of ‘Hercules,’ which tells the extravagant story of the fabled hero as he battles personal demons and prescribed enemies.
Filmmakers have routinely recruited burly men to portray mythical heroes famous for their unbelievable feats, but not so much their inspiring speeches. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the perfect example, casted to play Conan the Barbarian in spite of barely speaking English. But times are changing and it can no longer be assumed muscle excludes brains. Thus selecting Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. WWE's The Rock, for the lead role in Hercules allows for some flexibility with the character.
The legends of Hercules (Johnson) have been spread far and wide by Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), the hero’s talented nephew. Kings seek his help with monsters and are willing to pay generously for his services. But the tales are not entirely true. Hercules does possess great strength, but he is also aided by a band of loyal companions. As the group celebrates a mission completed, Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) arrives on behalf of her father Lord Cotys (John Hurt) to hire the mercenaries to assist with a rogue sorcerer terrorizing the countryside. Hercules agrees to lead their army to victory against the enemy, but commits to more than he bargained for before the battle is ended.
The legend claims Hercules is the son of Zeus, which makes him half god. It also boasts his fierce victories against mythical monsters and other amazing feats that are sung in the 12 labours. But this film doesn't necessarily buy into all that hyperbole. It proposes that while the muscular hero was the leader, he achieved all of these legendary accomplishments with the help of his comrades: Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), his childhood best friend; Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), an orphan rescued from a massacre; Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), a wise seer; and Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), an Amazon warrior.
The movie matches the over-the-topness of the myth, not missing the opportunity for grandiose battles or bravado. It’s all very exaggerated from Iolaus’ overdramatic descriptions of their adventures to Hercules’ clear-cutting, club-wielding to the fast-paced campaigns of unevenly matched opponents. There is also a fair amount of woven into the narrative. Though Hercules is allocated a few witty lines, most of the comedy is delivered by his friends. Amphiaraus is particularly funny as he stares death in the face, having already seen his own demise in a vision.
Director Brett Ratner finds the right balance of ruthless clashes, an inflated storyline and occasionally amusing dialogue. Not to be taken too seriously, this picture has fun with the folklore to create a fairly entertaining experience for audiences — with or without the 3D.
Director: Brett Ratner
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt and Ian McShane
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