What does one do? You are the legendary son of Zeus, you've worked through your 12 Labors, your wife an d children have been murdered, supposedly by your hand --- what comes next? You are Hercules, after all, so you and your band of fearless warriors hire yourselves out as mercenaries.
Such is the storyline here by Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) professes to King Eurystheus (Joseph Fiennes) that he wants nothing more than to retire and spend all of his time with wife and family. But after they are savagely murdered, his life takes a much different route.
Unable to remember the details of that fateful night, Hercules becomes the man suspected of the evil deed. To escape his demons, he forges a bond with five loyal compatriots, Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and his ever-faithful, storytelling nephew Iolaus (Reese Ritchie), and fights on the side of good.
When he is sought out by Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson), daughter of Lord Cotys (John Hurt) King of Thrace, to aid in their battle against Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann), to save their kingdom, he takes up the gauntlet.
Johnson was born to play Hercules. He looks fabulous --- incredibly fit --- and because Johnson has such a warm demeanor, we believe that Hercules will always do the right thing. He has a very calming presence on screen, and as an action hero, he doesn't disappoint.
I have always been a huge fan of McShane. He's had some juicy roles over the years, and that twinkle in his eyes has never disappeared. He provides much of the comic relief in "Hercules", which is always greatly appreciated. Besides being a fierce combatant, Amphiaraus is also a soothsayer whom Hercules consults before each battle. And when Amphiaraus is convinced his time to die has come, he's quite amusing.
The rest of the cast is solid, especially Sewell and Bolso Berdal. Sewell doesn't play a "good guy" very often, so it's refreshing to see him constantly at Hercules' side --- and he's funny as well. Bolso Berdal is incredibly stunning, and has quite a way with the bow-and-arrow.
"Hercules" is great fun and highly entertaining if you enjoy Greek mythology and action/adventure films. It is beautifully filmed by Dante Spinotti, with an array of gorgeous landscapes. The script drags a tad in the middle of the film, but the ending makes up for all of that. David will say that at an hour and 38 minutes, it's still too long, but I liked it nonetheless. I mean, really --- it's "Hercules", played by Dwayne Johnson!
Opinion: Mild See It Now!
I like Dwayne Johnson as an actor, I really do. I think he has a tremendous amount of on-screen charisma. His 2013 film opposite Mark Wahlberg, "Pain & Gain", was ample proof of that. In "Hercules", he, of course, shows off his ample muscles, but as leader of the Greek army, he is only given platitudes to utter by screenwriters Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos --- great name for a scribe of a Greek epic.
"Hercules" has a rousing beginning. We witness some of Hercules' famous 12 Labors, including brief skirmishes with a humungous wild boar and a vicious, oversized lion. He also severs the six heads of the Hydra in about six seconds. I loved Greek mythology in college, and Jeanne studied it extensively. Too bad the movie didn't include more of that.
For example, Hercules has a small group of loyal fighters that would die for him, including the famed archer Atalanta. She is portrayed by blond Norwegian beauty Ingrid Bolso Berdal (sans make-up in the film though --- no time for mascara when you're busy impaling the attacking enemies). But we know nothing of her background, only that she is a deadly killing machine with a bow-and-arrow.
Ian McShane, as Amphiaraus, is another of Hercules' party, albeit an aging warrior, whose running gag is that he believes he is about to die in battle. While preparing to be pierced by an incoming flaming arrow, he is saved at the last minute by our hero. There's a lot of that going on in this movie, notably in one scene where Hercules saves Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) from a beheading at the last instant. It's all so trite and predictable --- fine for an impressionable 10-year-old, not so much for adult audiences.
McShane's wise-cracking seems out of place for the era. While it may have been intended as comic relief from all the bloodshed, I doubt the people of ancient Greece, roughly 2300 years ago, spoke in this style. And the venerable John Hurt (189 acting credits on IMDb) is cast as the main villain, Lord Cotys. Sorry, but at 74 years of age, he doesn't scare anyone.
"Hercules" is fluff --- a good-looking piece of fluff --- but not much to be excited about, even in 3-D and IMAX. The character development is so slight we are not emotionally invested in any of them. It is basically a by-the-book action tale that is forgettable after the opening title is emblazoned on the screen.
Opinion: Mild Wait for DVD (for 10-year-olds)