…Wait, not that Hercules?
Wait, who plays Hercules? The Rock? Like, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? And this is a real movie that’s happening?
That was essentially my thought process about Hercules when I first heard about it. It’s probably just going to be The Rock being really muscular and killing a lot of people while yelling I AM HERCULEEEESSSSSSS!! And you know what? That is exactly what it is.
Okay, the bad stuff first. The script is… oy vey. It switches back and forth between period speech—big words, long sentences, you know—and straight up jokes. Like, funny asides to the camera or other characters that are completely out of character. They’re kind of amusing the first few times, but they just keep going and going and going. Hercules also dips into overdrama a few times, specifically during the many, many flashbacks to the death of Herc’s wife and children. The close-up shots of their lifeless, blood-covered faces accompanied by dramatic drum hits and jump cuts are just too much and they feel out of place in an otherwise pretty well-shot and well-edited movie.
Hercules is not a 300-style blood-and-guts fest. You won’t find any slow-motion overly stylized action sequences here. Instead, the fights are epic and yet brought down to human scale, jumping around from one member of Herc’s band of mercenaries to another as they slay baddie after baddie. It’s refreshing to see actually decent battle sequences in a movie this big, especially given the rise of shaky-cam to make up for lack of choreography. Hercules also spends a lot of time humanizing the titular hero and bringing him down to human scale. It certainly helps that his crew are all well-realized and enjoyable to watch.
Instead of the ancient history action epic we’ve come to know so well over the past few years, Hercules plays out more like a mish-mash of almost every conceivable action movie cliché. Hero tormented by his past? Check. Band of misfits who have been together so long they're like family? Check. Army of civilians that need to be turned from farmers to warriors before imminent doom approaches? Rocky-style training montage? Inspirational speeches before every major battle? Check, check, and check. And yet, somehow, it kind of all works. Hercules embraces its clichés and its corniness and it makes something that's actually pretty enjoyable to watch.
I wasn't expected to be emotionally or intellectually challenged by Hercules, or for The Rock to turn in an Oscar-worthy performance. (Truth be told, he's probably the weakest part of the whole thing.) I expected to see The Rock fucking shit up, and I got that and a little extra.