THE LEGEND OF HERCULES
Still waiting for someone to measure up to and surpass Steve Reeves!
Film Review © 2014 by Trip Reynolds
Directed by Renny Harlin; Screenplay by Sean Hood, Daniel Giat, Renny Harlin, and Giulio Steve. Produced by Boaz Davidson, Renny Harlin, Danny Lerner, and Les Weldon. Co-produced by Gisella Marengo, Nikki Stanghetti, and Jonathan Yunger. Executive produced by Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, and John Thompson. Co-Executive produced by Lonnie Ramati. Executive producer in charge, David Varod.
Starring: Kellan Lutz (as Hercules), Gala Weiss (as the lover of Hercules, Princess Hebe), Scott Adkins (as the conceitedly evil King Amphitryon); Roxanne McKee (as wife of King Amphitryon, Queen Alcmene), Liam Garrigan (as biological son to King Amphitryon and step-brother to Hercules, the devious Prince Iphicles), Liam McIntyre (as friend to Hercules, Sotiris); Rade Serbedzija (as mentor to Hercules, Chiron), Johnathon Schaech (as Tarak), Luke Newberry (as Agamemnon), Kenneth Cranham (as Lucius), Mariah Gale (as Kakia), and Sarai Givaty (as Saphirra), and a host of others.
"Reeves’ matinee-idol looks and physique qualities led him into the movies; audiences were able to enjoy Reeves in the Italian-produced series of Hercules films made in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. In those roles, he was the Arnold Schwarzenegger of his era, the most visible and best-known bodybuilder in the world; in fact, Reeves’ Hercules films served as an inspiration to the young Arnold."
Okay, let's be fair and give this latest "Hercules" featuring Kellan Lutz the opportunity to stand on its own. After all, why should we judge "it" against previous film and television versions starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (not really), Lou Ferrigno, Kevin Sorbo, Reg Park, and of course, Steve Reeves among others? Answer: Because we can and should. Unless someone has truly improved on the original, why waste your time and money with a substandard clone or upgrade? Well? Well??
If you're hoping this film would at least be more than a B-film, alas, you're out of luck. The trailer for this film is better than the entire movie. Did anyone actually watch this entire film before they put it in the can for distribution?
Steve Reeves (January 21, 1926 – May 1, 2000) was an American bodybuilder and actor. At the peak of his career, he was the highest-paid actor in Europe. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Reeves
The trailer pretty much capsulized the meat-and-potatoes of the film, a story that chronicles Hercules before he became a demi-God empowered with the strength of Zeus. In summary, when Hercules' step-father, King Amphitryon, discovered his wife, Queen Alcmene, gave birth to Zeus' son, he exiled Hercules to fight in foreign lands and sent mercenaries to kill him. Although the mercenaries failed to kill Hercules, he was captured, enslaved, and forced to fight for his freedom as a gladiator. Ultimately, he won his freedom and returned home to reclaim his lover, Princess Hebe, and to fight for his rightful place as heir to the throne in the predictable pseudo-epic final battle against evil King Amphitryon and the devious, Prince Iphicles.
Film has some nice production values, but if you're looking for amazing feats of derring-do (albeit with special effects and computer graphics) look elsewhere. Absolutely none of the feats performed by Hercules in this film were particularly original, and that's a mistake. In this regard, the scriptwriters and producers should have looked to Marvel Comics, that's right, Marvel. Marvel is in the business of creating characters, and equally important, existence in the Marvel Universe requires characters to have very defined and validated skills, knowledge and proficiencies. Yes, it's all make-believe, but for us to suspend our doubts and actually believe in each character - every aspect (scientific, mystical, emotional, political, etc.) of every relationship must be anchored with consistent context or the Marvel Universe will appear vague and unrealistic. For example, how strong is Hercules?? He's the son of the supreme Greek God, Zeus; so is he as strong or stronger than Thor, the son of Odin, King of the Norse Gods?
Weight 325 lbs.
Hercules' principal power is his vast physical strength and is physically the strongest of all existing Olympians. As the Olympian God of Strength, Hercules possesses enormous superhuman strength. Hercules' great strength also extends to his powerful leg muscles, allowing him to jump great distances and heights; while the exact limit is unknown, he is capable of leaping a height of at least 100 feet. He has been observed lifting and hurling a giant Sequoia tree, carrying a starship across his back and shoulders, and lifting and tossing Godzilla, dragging the island of Manhattan, knocking out a Titan, he even was capable of holding and supporting the heavens themselves. His strength combined with his expert combat skills has enabled him to hold his own against Thor, the Hulk, and the Sentry. Hercules is also an Olympian thereby being an immortal, and as true immortals, the Olympian gods do not age and are not susceptible to disease. Although they can be wounded in battle, they cannot die by any conventional means, and have a rapid healing rate. Hercules has a greater resistance to physical injury than any other Olympian god except for Zeus, and possibly Neptune and Pluto. Hercules is virtually tireless. His supernaturally enhanced musculature produces no fatigue poisons. He can even survive unprotected in the vacuum of space for a brief period of time. Only an injury of such magnitude that it incinerated him or dispersed a major portion of his bodily molecules could kill Hercules. In at least some such cases, Zeus or one of the other gods might still be able to resurrect him.
Weight 640 lbs.
Besides his enormous physical strength, and being durable enough to survive a blast from Celestials, Thor also has energy manipulation powers that are on par with the Silver Surfer. He is also armed with Mjolnir, the mystical warhammer that has been shown to be capable of opening passageways through space and time, blocking all sorts of energy blasts, and bending the elements to its master’s will. Thor has been shown to be able to swing Mjolnir at twice the speed of light. Thor is an Asgardian warrior god, trained and skilled in the arts of battle, and he’s been doing it for ages. While Thor has usually been shown to rely solely on his fighting ability, super strength, and nigh invulnerability, he has many other options available to him if a fight starts going badly. He has complete mastery over the weather, he can open chasms in the Earth, and if worst comes to worst, use the dreaded God-blast, an attack that is so powerful that one time Mjolnir shattered from the amount of power Thor channeled. This god-blast has even caused a tiny crack in the armor of the Celestial Exitar; the force of which created a shock wave which rocked the planet Pangoria to its foundations. While on Earth, Thor once claimed to withhold his power unless fighting someone with similar strength and durability. When facing both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four the Hulk has even stated that Thor with Mjolnir is the only one among them that he considers a threat. It is a common misconception that Thor and the other Gods of Asgard are truly immortal. Thor and the other members of his race do age but at a rate so slow that to other beings they give the appearance of immortality. Thor has been stated to be thousands of years old which makes his life span incomparable to that of the human beings which he protects. When the Asgardians consume the Golden Apples that are cultivated by the goddess Idunn, they are able to maintain themselves in their physical prime.
Hercules © Marvel Comics Thor © Marvel Comics
Unfortunately, instead of learning from the Marvel Universe and giving this film some necessary and original depth, the film failed to establish an actual personality for the character of Hercules. The only "character" we get is a bewildered and muscle-bound Kellan Lutz struggling to prevent his step-brother from forcibly marrying the woman he loves, the beautiful Princess Hebe. In addition to his physical attributes, Steve Reeves had charisma, he was a handsome man, had a great voice, and a demeanor that was consistently camera-friendly. However, Reeves never had the opportunity to excel as an actor; and likewise, this script did not provide Lutz with an opportunity to do anything other than flex his muscles. Attractive women often complain that men refuse to recognize their intellect; likewise, attractive and muscle-bound men consistently face the same challenge, and the script wrongly validated these stereotypes.
The trailer speaks of Hercules being "a man" before becoming known as the son of Zeus. Accordingly, film spent nearly 90 minutes presenting Hercules frolicking in the forest with his lover, or engaged in gladiatorial combat, or engaged in 300-Spartan-like battles scenes. Although scenes were shot to be visually impressive, the fault here is that we've seen such fighting sequences many times before and with better actors (Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Russell Crowe, Gerard Butler, etc.) and scripts (Spartacus, Ben Hur, Gladiator, 300, etc.). The film is titled, "The Legend of Hercules," but unlike the Marvel Universe that provides a robust backstory, we never discover to true backstory, from Zeus himself. Queen Alcmene gets a flimsy excuse from Zeus' wife, Hera, explaining why her omnipotent and omniscient "husband" needs to sleep with another woman, a frail human woman; but why is adultery the solution? Unlike "Jason and the Argonauts" 1963, and "Clash of the Titans" 1981 and similar films, there was absolutely no godly intervention from Zeus (except for the adultery), or from his wife Hera, or from any other gods in this film. Accordingly, did Zeus truly see Hercules as nothing more than his bastard child?
There are many capable actors in this film. In particular, Scott Adkins, Roxanne McKee, and especially Rade Serbedzija, known as a very capable character actor. They made the script have greater importance than it deserved. Ultimately, these "Herculean" films provide nothing more than an opportunity for some muscle-bound men to flare their testosterone while grunting, facing several pseudo-epic battles, and saving a damsel in distress. Given the simplicity of these action-based muscle films, its disappointing the thrills aren't as simple. If the film refuses to stimulate our intellect, then at least give us some herculean special effects that are worth the price of popcorn.
Steve Reeves is to "muscleman" films as Bruce Lee is to "martial arts" films - the "iconic" standard by which all others are judged. Let's hope a sequel does not sprout from this mediocre film, because as clearly represented by the images below, we've seen it all before - same muscles, same "Herculean stunts," different actor/different beefcake.
1958 1970 1983 1995 to 1999 2014 2014
Thankfully, Vincent Tabillon edited film to a fairly crisp running length of only 99 minutes, which makes it perfect for being slotted to run with twenty-(20) minutes of commercials in a two-(2) hour broadcast time slot. Look for it on Fox, Spike-TV or similar 18-49 male demographic cable and/or internet venues in the very near future!!!
Special effects and technical aspects are solid, but not spectacular. By the way, do we really need two feature films released about "Hercules" in the same year? Nope.
Recommendation: Wait for it . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . at the $5.00 bin at Walmart.