The myth of Hercules is not new to most. Born as a demigod, Hercules was the son of Zeus and the mortal Queen Alcmene. In Greek mythology, Hercules had to endure the trials of 12 great labors, including slaying the Nemean lion, slaying the nine-headed Hydra, capturing the Erymanthian boar, capturing the Cretan bull, and stealing the mares of Diomedes.
Forget all of that.
“The Legend of Hercules” is the first of two adaptations this year of the famous Greek myth.
In this version, Hercules is sent to Queen Alcmene as a gift from Hera with the seed of Zeus to defeat the tyrannical rule of Hercules’s stepfather, King Amphitryon. Despised by the king and envied by his stepbrother Iphicles, Hercules is exiled and enslaved so that Iphicles can take over the kingdom and wed Princess Hebe.
Hercules is forced to fight vicious, undefeated warriors in muddy pits and gladiator-sized stadiums as onlookers gamble on his life. He fights one after another to win his freedom and stop the marriage of his Hebe to Iphicles.
Hercules only learns of his superstrength and birth from a conversation with Hera. Without any buildup or struggle, he instantly acknowledges his origins when it is necessary for him to break free from detention with the help of Zeus (represented throughout the film as lightning and thunder).
What is supposed to be a heroic tale of challenges to be faced is quickly turned into a fluffy love story that doesn’t surpass the complexity of just two brothers fighting for a girl. Without spoiling too much, what doesn’t sit well is the resolution of the film. It is both confusing and disappointing to see the screenwriters give up after the climax and settle for the clichéd “happily ever after.”
Though the film is kept at a light and quick pace, scenes often eagerly jump from one to another, presenting a choppy summary of this story rather than taking time to unravel the motives of each character. For the film to keep a PG-13 rating, blood is minimal and cameras pan away when people are stabbed or sliced.
The majority of the cast members, with the exception of Kellan Lutz (known for his role in “Twilight”) as Hercules, are fresh faces or B-list actors. Their attempts to draw out emotions despite the weak script come across as forced.
There is never time to connect with whichever emotion the scene was meant to evoke because the script carries so fast. In addition, there is a lack of character and plot development that explains why Iphicles needed to defeat Hercules and pursue Hebe, who is clearly in love with Hercules.
Director Renny Harlin’s interpretation of the classical myth fails to show how Hercules became a legend. Harlin scratches the surface by choosing to depict only one of the 12 labors that Hercules had to encounter—defeating a poorly constructed CGI version of the Nemean lion. Sam McCurdy, who shot the 3-D film, was either struggling with or abusing the freeze-frame feature as scenes jerked back and forth.
While “The Legend of Hercules” may fuse many modern features of the cinematic experience such as 3-D appeal, various slow-motion battle choreography, and heavy use of computer-generated effects, it lacks originality. In an attempt to add so much, the result is a colossal, unorganized mess of fighting and dialogue, not to mention unnecessary camera shots of water splashing.
What might appeal to its target audience would be the action sequences and fight scenes, which are more or less borrowed tones from more successful films such as “300” and “Gladiator.”
The best bet is to hold out on this one—there will be another Hercules adaptation starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson hitting theaters this July. Stripped down to the basics, “The Legend of Hercules” does little to carry on the legacy of Hercules, proving only to be more of a sappy fairy tale than the Disney version.
The Legend of Hercules
Director: Renny Harlin
Starring: Kellan Lutz, Liam McIntyre, Scott Adkins, Liam Garrigan, Johnathon Schaech, Roxanne McKee
Running Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
Release Date: Jan. 10
1 star out of 5