Let’s start with one of the very worst things about Hercules that doesn’t actually have anything to do with the movie. Somebody took a really nasty shit in the theater at the AMC Boston Common. I’m not sure if it was the visibly strung out person lying down on multiple seats or the crying baby a very dumb parent brought to this movie. Either way, everybody poops and there are two prime suspects who shat themselves in this story. When reviewing a movie, somebody pooping in the movie theater shouldn’t impact my final opinion. In an opposite scenario, I’d still think BOYHOOD was a masterpiece if I had to smell a lingering turd throughout the 3 hour runtime. But when you’re watching a movie as dismal as HERCULES, there’s something too ironic about smelling crap while watching it.
But what about the actual movie itself? You know a film is in trouble when something is bad before you’ve even seen a frame of footage on screen. As a narrator begins to tell us the story of Hercules over black, the disastrously terrible accents can be heard from the first word spoken. The film then goes on to show us all the cool shots in the trailer of The Rock fighting supernatural monsters (and lions) before disappointing everybody in the audience by explaining that it’s all myth. After this initial bummer, at least we get to see Hercules fight some people and kick ass for another few minutes. At this point, it’s pretty goofy fun until you realize there’s still 90 minutes to go. And it goes downhill… fast.
By the time Hercules and his gang are hired by a king, the movie ditches the potential of The Rock wearing a lion on his head and fighting supernatural creatures for a dull and uninvolving story of training an army for battle. It’s as if this movie is ashamed to be a movie about Hercules and instead wants to be a movie about a really strong guy who happens to be named Hercules. You see, he’s not even a demi-god. He’s just really, really tough. All that cool stuff that happened in the trailer? It’s all just a story Badass Mercenary Hercules made up to sell his services. The script plays like a rejected EXPENDABLES adventure in an ancient setting. It just happens to be called HERCULES. Disappointed yet? There are worse things than the story here. But hey, at least you get to see The Rock throw a horse at somebody halfway through the movie.
HERCULES has some of the most spectacularly incompetent editing I have ever seen in a mainstream film. Random cutaways to violent flashbacks happen at such inappropriate moments that dramatic scenes play like a TIM & ERIC sketches. Sweeping (yet shaky) shots of mountains are randomly placed whenever something significant happens. Shots of armies marching across landscapes are placed in montages so lengthy that you’ll check your watch to wonder how long you’ve been seeing people walk for. Hercules is so poorly edited that a part of me thinks that a Hollywood executive told his supercomputer “File –> Make Movie” and went off to collect a paycheck. Everything seems to be on shuffle. It’s as if the scenes were uploaded into Final Cut Pro with random cutaway shots, boring exposition, the occasional yelled inspirational speech on being a warrior, and of course CGI battle sequences that we’ve seen in countless other movies. None of this actually makes sense, but director Brett Ratner hopes you’ll like seeing things getting stabbed frequently enough to forget about this movie’s total incoherence.
The good news is that the cast are having a field day here. The Rock puts in his 110% as Hercules. I can’t name another current actor better suited for the role, and it shows here. Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, and John Hurt must have realized how bad this movie was going to be once they read the script and play their roles with such over the top conviction that this almost becomes watchable. The other highlight of this movie is that The Rock uses the 1 F-bomb available for PG-13 rated movies to say, “Fucking centaurs…” Too bad there are no actual centaurs in this movie since this film is afraid to tackle anything supernatural, mythological, or even interesting.
This is the point of the review where we talk about Brett Ratner. When Transformers 4 came out, film journalists once again had a field day getting into heated debates over whether Michael Bay is cancerous to filmmaking or not. I propose a call to arms where we stop crucifying the director critics love to hate and instead focus our anger on somebody worse. Brett Ratner’s filmmaking throughout this strikes me as somebody going through the motions to pad out a 98 minute runtime. Shots are ugly, the colors within scenes tend to be wildly inconsistent, and the CGI occasionally boasts SHARKNADO levels of realism.
The difference between a bad movie like TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION and this is that one is the distinct work of an auteur with vision for better or worse. Even though the Transformers movies suck, it’s clear that Michael Bay cares about the aesthetic nature of filmmaking. HERCULES is the work of somebody going through the motions to pad together a 90 minute movie for a summer release date. This is a spreadsheet disguised as a movie, and few directors lead the corporate and committee driven filmmaking process like Brett Ratner. And the worst part is that he doesn’t even sell out in style. It’s a shame HERCULES isn’t the guilty pleasure of the summer, because this had so much potential to be gloriously dumb entertainment. This was a pretty easy thing to get right as all the ingredients were there to make this premise work. It’s just too bad the filmmakers couldn’t be bothered to give us an actual movie about the Greek legend instead of giving us a mediocre 300 rehash without the ultraviolence, visual style, or fun.
HERCULES (2014) [98 min.]
DIR. BRETT RATNER
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