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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 17 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 03
Latest Hercules hardly legendary
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Latest Hercules hardly legendary

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

THE LEGEND OF HERCULES
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King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins) is a tyrant ruling with an iron fist and zero compassion. His wife, the beautiful Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee), vaguely remembers a time when her husband's soul was pure, a time before power and victory went to his head, those days sadly forgotten.

She prays to the Goddess Hera for guidance, her trusted and wise teacher Chiron (Rade Serbedzija) by her side feeling every ounce of her pain as she does so. From there a baby is conceived, not due to the efforts of King Amphitryon, but by the all-powerful ruler of Olympus himself, Zeus coming down to the mortal realm to lie with the Queen for a single night.

Two decades later, that child, given the name Alcides by the King, known as Hercules (Kellan Lutz) to the Gods that helped sire him, comes into his own as a man. He discovers the person he thought was his father is really a despot, the mother who bore him a silently tragic figure who sacrificed all to see her son thrive and the man he calls brother, Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), is a selfish and spineless neophyte who cares little to nothing for anyone other than himself.

That's a lot of bluster and bloviating in regards to a movie that requires very little of either, director Renny Harlin's The Legend of Hercules featuring a ton of movement and a heck of a lot of action, all of it signifying extremely little, nothing of substance or importance happening, even though the movie itself would love to prove otherwise.

The director of Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger, someone who had so recently seemed to be getting back into form with the found-footage thriller Devil's Pass, seems to be going through the motions, aping everything from television's Spartacus, to Ray Harryhausen classics like Jason and the Argonauts, to recent sword and sandal epics like Gladiator and 300, in order to bring his mythological adventure to its foregone conclusion.

The script, credited to four writers, including Harlin, is wet behind the ears, the basic thrust a soapy melodramatic treacle revolving around Hercules' love for the beautiful Princess Hebe (Gaia Weiss) and his rise as a leader of the downtrodden and dispossessed people of Greece. At just over 90 minutes in length, there's never enough time to explore character developments in any detail, time passing in such haphazard fashion, pieces don't so much fit together as they connect in some sterile, preordained cookie-cutter manner that's frankly boring.

That's the main rub. There is no sense of whimsy, no spirit of adventure. More, there's nothing even close to fun, and if Harlin and company were trying to craft a modern day spin on the old chestnuts from yesteryear, all they've really accomplished is to manufacture a piece of cinematic claptrap that makes the 2010 misbegotten Clash of the Titans remake look like one of the 100 greatest cinematic achievements of all-time.

Look, I've always sort of liked Harlin. I dig Die Hard 2. I think the opening segment of Cliffhanger is close to magnificent (rest not so much). Deep Blue Sea isn't so much a guilty pleasure as it is a hugely entertaining fright flick masquerading as a monster movie crossed with a disaster opus. As for The Long Kiss Goodnight, I'm head over heels for the darn thing, the film a late '90s hyperbolic action spectacular bordering on classic.

But he's had a long run of failures this past decade, of that there is no doubt, and while Devil's Pass had its merits, it wasn't like that low budget minimalistic affair was going to suddenly put him back on the A-list. Yet, even with the worst of his works (and, trust me, stuff like The Covenant, Driven and Mindhunters are all pretty bad) there is a competence to the filmmaking speaking to Harlin's confidence behind the camera. Here, though, things just feel off, and while there are some solid moments of explosive action theatrics, they're all so few and extremely far between, their appearance is more an annoying reminder of what could have been than anything to crow about.

I'm not going to say much in the way of more, especially as it pertains to Twilight heartthrob Lutz or newcomer Weiss, neither of whom are likely to put this title all that high on their respective resumes. Both look great, aesthetically speaking fitting their respective characters just fine, but other than that, the less we speak on the matter the better, which I'm sure is all one really needs to know as far as performances are concerned. As for The Legend of Hercules itself, there's a reason Summit picked it up for next to nothing to distribute, only to unceremoniously drop it into January with little fanfare. It's just not very good, and it doesn't take a lightning bolt flung from the hands of Zeus himself for even the most clueless to instantly realize it.

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