I’ve been trying to think of something nice to say about The Legend of Hercules, but it’s kind of difficult to do that when a movie fails on every possible level. Perhaps the best thing I can say about the movie is that it’s going to make a great Rifftrax when Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy get their hands on it. The second best thing I can say about it is that it’s short, clocking in at only 99 minutes. That means the constant assault of insipidness ends mercifully quickly, unlike the movie’s fight scenes.
As the evil king Amphitryon (Scott Adkins) grows more and more mad with power, conquering city-states and waging war in an effort to sate his blood lust, his wife Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) turns to Hera and prays for deliverance, for safety, for someone to stop the king. That person turns out to be her son, Hercules (Kellan Lutz). Of course, first Zeus has to visit himself lustfully upon her to create the baby, and after that hilarious scene, the movie only seems to become more and more ludicrous.
I didn’t expect much from The Legend of Hercules going into the theater; after all, it’s the beefy vampire from Twilight in a leather skirt and a thick layer of spray-on tan, it’s not selling itself as Citizen Kane. Even if you take the movie for what it wants to be – a brain-dead remix of Gladiator mashed up with the Clash of the Titans remake tinged with a sanitized distillate of the Spartacus TV series – it’s still somehow unsuccessful.
The centerpiece of any Hercules story is its action. Hercules’s powers are best used for violence, but at every turn, this Hercules movie manages to screw up action scenes by trying way too hard to be 300. Hercules and his pal Sotiris (Liam McIntyre, seemingly stuck in sandals forever) are doing battle with a group of mercenaries led by Tarak (Johnathon Schaech from That Thing You Do!, looking like a homeless man’s Arnold Vosloo). Soldiers stabbing one another should be pretty easy to make exciting when you’ve got a physical young actor like Kellan Lutz and an experienced fighter in Liam McIntyre; unfortunately, the fight ends up being a let-down due to unnecessary and distraction slow motion, baffling choreography, and poor editing. One scene of Hercules flying through the air with his sword is plenty, but to repeat that several times throughout the movie was just too much.
The overuse of CGI is another problem. The movie was apparently shot in Bulgaria, but from the amount of poor background CGI, it may as well have been Naboo. Indeed, a cheesecake shot of Lutz swimming in a lagoon while his lovesick princess Hebe (Gaia Weiss) looks like something George Lucas would’ve rejected from the prequel trilogy. The laws of physics are meaningless, as Hercules swings around massive stones that behave as if they have no weight. One of the movie’s other set pieces, in which Hercules borrows his father’s lightning power to strike down enemy soldiers, the lightning is rendered as a giant electric whip, kind of like Whiplash from Iron Man 2, but not nearly as well executed or realistic. For a movie that reportedly cost $70 million, the CGI is abysmal, from the completely fake Nemean lion to reaction shots filmed in front of a rear projection screen.
Indeed, this movie is chock full of stuff borrowed from other movies, just done very poorly. Even the actors look like poor copies of other actors. Kellan Lutz is low rent take on Channing Tatum from The Eagle, or perhaps the lost Hemsworth brother – without the charisma – after bleaching his teeth to death. (Perhaps to compensate for Lutz’s listlessness, Gaia Weiss overacts enough to make Willem Dafoe blush, playing a homeless man’s version of Daenerys Targaryen.) Roxanne McKee and Scott Adkins are the bizarro versions of Queen Gorgo and Leonidas from 300, while Liam Garrigan (their son Iphicles) is the store-brand version of Commodus from Gladiator.
These descriptives aren’t just descriptions of the performances, but also the characters. The script, credited to four people (Daniel Giat, Renny Harlin, Sean Hood, and Giulio Steve), shows it in the way it absolutely refuses to stick with a tone or style for very long. Some characters speak like characters from a 50s sword and sandals film. Other characters speak like modern-day people. Other characters still switch back and forth. Kellan Lutz lapses in and out of an accent of some sort, wavering from goofy bro to fake Steve Reeves. One of the movie’s most important scenes, a death scene in fact, merely provokes laughs instead of pathos. Liam McIntyre is pretty good, as is Rade Serbedzija as Chiron, but aside from those two, the actors are either miscast, poorly directed, or are not given much to work with.
The actors seem to take The Legend of Hercules very seriously, yet it’s not a serious movie. It’s a dumb movie, pure and simple. Renny Harlin has done good dumb movies in the past (Die Hard 2, Deep Blue Sea), but this isn’t one of them. Unless you like to make fun of movies as you watch them, of course. Then again, it may be too loud even for that sort of fun.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan would like to launch himself off a hydraulic catapult, fly through the air, and attack a guy with a sword, but he just doesn’t have the abs for it. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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