HERCULES // Never has marketing been more misleading than it was for the new Dwayne Johnson vehicle “Hercules”. With trailers touting the legendary character of Hercules and his Twelve Labors from the Gods, which involved fighting several different monsters including a giant lion, a three headed hydra, and massive boar, most people stepping into the theater to see this film would have assumed this was a majority of the film, filled with CGI beasts and bulging muscles. What you soon find out, however, is that the imagery used in the marketing is actually only pulled from the first ten minutes of the film, where a brief description of the events are sped through to build up The Rock’s character before his first step on-screen. Perhaps this is the sign of great marketing, in selling a small portion of the film and then revealing how much more in depth the film goes. But for those looking for the “Hercules” that they saw in the trailers, do not get your hopes up.

Dwayne Johnson continues his successful career as Hercules, the obvious leader of the men that follow him. With the physique of a Greek demigod, Johnson is a great representation of the legend and even embodies the characteristics one would associate with Zeus’ son. Exploring Hercules’ past, in the loss of his family and the concurring of the beasts, the story also sheds light on his team of followers, and actually rewrites a bit of the legend, involving them in the stories and grounding the trials of Hercules in reality. In his band of mercenaries there is the prophet Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), the knife-thrower Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), the wild card Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), the Amazon woman Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and the storyteller Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), who is also Hercules’ nephew. Each has their own story for why they follow Hercules and involving each in the Twelve Labors and revealing this fact is what actually makes this film refreshing.

Drawing off many of the stories associated with Hercules, the film has a great time messing with perception, and applying new twists on legends like centaurs and Cerberus, the three-headed dog. Proving how entertaining an action-adventure Hercules film can be, there is no shortage of fight scenes, with Dwayne Johnson expertly leading them all with his battle cry. The eventual revenge storyline is carried out in true action flick fashion where the hero is broken down and built back up with the imaginary of Johnson chained up and breaking free being one of the most memorable scenes in the film. Also starring John Hurt as Lord Cotys, his involvement gives the film a touch of talent that it otherwise lacks. Despite not quite fulfilling what its marketing sold it to be, “Hercules” still wades the waters of a decent action film, highlighting the strengths of its leading man. Becoming a perfect fusion of action, Greek mythology, and bit of humor, I wonder what the marketing would have looked like had they sold the film for what it was.

[Directed by Brett Ratner] [PG-13] [98 min] [25 July 2014]    07threehalf-stars

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