The Legend of Hercules Review

In 2014, it appears that even Hercules will claim he's Spartacus, too.

Midway through The Legend of Hercules a wide-eyed, enraptured follower wanting to believe asks the immovable slab of marble masquerading as a protagonist why he should follow him into an arena of gladiators and certain death. “Imagine your family; follow me, and I will bring you back to them,” Hercules mumbles with all the conviction of a Mythology 101 reading of the classics. Yet this true believer, as well as the audience, knows it will be so. And never once will Hercules, nor the film named after him, give you any reason to doubt the fulfillment of that promise or any other preconceived notion attached to a January release of demigods and special effects. You can more than guess this story, but it’s not necessarily the one in the title. As one of the most popular ancient myths of Western culture, Hercules (or Heracles) has made for an enduring cinematic subject over the decades. Whether it’s Kevin Sorbo or Disney, there is always room for more variations on the son of Zeus who performed 12 mighty labors and slaughtered his wife and kids made for an appealing brand name. Indeed, the rather grisly origins of the character are often shrouded in favor of the romantic hero who through strength and occasional intelligence is able to outmaneuver Hera, Hades, Ares, or whatever god is the subject of fear this week. But the demigod of The Legend of Hercules is not quite those things. Nay, he is very much the careful fruition of a finely tuned formula that is determined to regurgitate passing trends. Consider that while this Hercules (Kellan Lutz) is the offspring of Zeus and mere mortal Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee), it is not a labor of supernatural deed that he must undertake, but one of Kubrickian superstardom. Yes, in this version, Hercules is forced to go full-Spartacus on his enemies after his “father” King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins) decides that the kid really doesn’t look a whole lot like him, sending Zeus’ unwanted gift on a suicide mission that results in Hercules having to fight for his freedom in the gladiatorial pits of Sicily. Also, there is the kidnapped Princess Hebe of Crete (Gaia Weiss) that Hercules is in love with and some such, but the point is that this is the Hercules who will fight an armada of speed-ramping foes through rain, sludge or lightning bolt—where he honestly holds an exceedingly unfair advantage.