It’s Heracles, Not Hercules

I swear to god, Hollywood is filled with dumb fucks. For as long as they’ve been making movies, they’ve been making Hercules movies. And for as long as they’ve been making Hercules movies, they’ve been calling him by his Roman name, and putting him in ancient Greece with the Greek gods. It’s a boneheaded move that makes zero sense. His Greek name is Heracles.

It can even create confusion. For example, this film stated the name “Hercules” is meant to be an appeasement to the Goddess Hera; he was named after her. Well, that only makes sense if you call him Heracles, not Hercules. If you are going to use the Roman Hercules, then the gods should be Jupiter, Minerva, Juno, etc. Since everything in this movie is based in Greek mythology, from this point forward, I am going to refer to him only as Heracles.

The movie begins with a five-minute recap of Heracles’ history. I knew I was in for a bad time when the story begins with two woeful CGI snakes that pop out of a statue’s head. After baby Heracles kills the two serpants, we smash-cut to an adult Heracles completing his famous 12 labors. He chops the head off the Hydra, he battles the Erymanthian Boar, and he kills the Namean Lion with his bare hands. This sequence features a barrage of shit-tier CGI. The Hydra looks passable because its in a fairly dark scene, but the Lion is dreadful. The CGI hairs looks like a bristle-brush. Aslan from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe looked more realistic, and that shit came out 10 years ago.

The derp squad.

We move on to a scene, meant to be clever, that introduces Heracles and his band of Merry Men. He rescues his nephew from a group of bad guys. Each of Heracles’ Merry Men is introduced by either doing something badass, making a pithy quip, or both.

The quips are groan inducing. Sadly, the movie never lets up on that. Even by the end of the movie, they are still spouting off cheesy one-liners that  would be tired in buddy-cop movies, let alone a fantasy/adventure epic. Rufus Sewell’s character shouts, “Don’t just stand there, kill somebody!” near the end of the film when he rescues Heracles. The dialogue is abysmal. The writers put no effort into making the dialogue sound “ancient.” They just talk like you and me talk today, bro, OK?

The Merry Men are as generic as the dialogue. Sewell plays Autolycus, the knife throwing expert with a lazy eye. Ian McShane plays Amphiaraus, a old guy/comic-relief who can/can’t predict the future depending on the script. Aksel Hennie plays Tydeus, a feral, mute warrior who seemed like he would have a storyline early on, but that was conveniently forgotten. Reece Ritchie plays Heracles’ nephew Iolaus, a worthless dipshit character who is a total rip-off of the Geoffrey Chaucer character from the 2001 film A Knight’s Tale (which also starred Sewell), and played far better by Paul Bettany. Finally, there’s Ingrid Borlso Berda who plays the token hot warrior chick, Atalanta, yet another cliche character.

At least he looks the part.

Heracles himself is played by Dwayne Johnson. As far as I know, he’s the only former professional wrestler to cross over into mainstream Hollywood success. To be honest, I like him. He’s got a lot of charisma, and throws himself full-on into the role. He gives it his all, but his acting leaves a lot to be desired. Although, I will say, I’m glad he used his regular voice, and didn’t try to force a bullshit English accent, which is what all these fucking movies tend to do. Johnson doesn’t turn in a bad performance, but he’s never going to win any Academy Awards. He looks fucking fantastic as Heracles, and he acquits himself in the role.

Everyone else turns in a decent performance, I guess. Nobody really stands out. It’s probably not the fault of the actors. They have total shit material to work with. The characters are flat, the story is idiotic, the lines cheesy, and there is no chance for character development. The only one who sort of stands out is John Hurt, who plays the villainous Lord Cotys. He stands out for his scenery chewing. It’s totally weird to see Hurt, foaming at the mouth, screaming that people have to kill Heracles, with giant balls of fire exploding around him. He’s come a long way from his days starring in The Elephant Man.

As I mentioned earlier, the story is idiotic. Hurt hires Heracles and his Merry Men to help his army fight some bad guys. Heracles quickly whips them into a fighting force. They go out, and capture the bad guys. Then, it turns out that Hurt is the true villain, because he plans to conquer all of Greece with the help of Heracles’ friend?/relative? King Eurystheus, played by Not Ralph Fiennes’ brother Joseph.

Is this the part where the alien bursts out of his chest?

In another twist, it turns out that Not Ralph Fiennes set up Heracles three years ago. He orchestrated a plot to drug Heracles and make it appear that he had murdered his family in a rage, thus sending him on his 12 labors as penance. He did this so he and Hurt could team up and conquer Greece.

Um? What? The? Fuck?

How in the name of fuck does that plan make any sense? How does setting up Heracles help either of them conquer Greece? And if they wanted Heracles out of the way, why then does Hurt hire him? These two plot twists are moronic and do nothing to help the story. They’re supposed to be clever, but they come off as incomprehensibly stupid. This movie would have been much better served by a straight-forward action/adventure tale. Too bad the writers and director were too stupid to realize it.

Speaking of directors, Brett Ratner is the auteur that brings us this cinematic gem. Most film critics hate Ratner. I don’t. I liked the first two Rush Hour movies. The guy knows how to direct a buddy-cop action/comedy. And even though everyone gives him shit for X-Men: The Last Stand, that movie was not noticeably worse than the others in the series. With this film, though, I finally see it. I realize why everyone hates Ratner: he’s clueless. He brings the same buddy-cop action/comedy formula to everything he directs. This movie has the same lack of attention to detail, throwaway plot, cheesy humor, and focus on fight scenes that one of his Jackie Chan movies would have.

The realism is astounding.

Unfortunately, not even the fight scenes can save this movie. You would think a fantasy/adventure epic like this could at least be saved on the strength of its action sequences. But, no, they suck. Heracles punches generic bad guys across the sky, who are obviously hooked to wires. The enemies are completely interchangable, and are dressed as undead South Pacific warriors for some reason. The battles lack any real sense of tension. You never feel like Heracles and his Merry Men are in danger. This drains the life out of the action.

It’s dumb, too, because the battles don’t even attempt to be realistic. Hurt, a super-old king, stands around in the middle of a fucking battle instead of staying back where it is safe. None of Hurt’s people use horses. The chariots have hidden swords that pop out from their sides, which are impossibly long, and mow down bad guys left and right. Why do they save these for a surprise attack? Who are they trying to surprise? Why not just use this shit constantly from the beginning?

This is my serious face, you guys.

Token Hot Chick is a bow and arrow specialist. She uses her weapon in a mind-bogglingly stupid way. She uses it for short-range attacks. Oh, is there an undead South Pacific warrior in my face? I’d better shoot him with an arrow. They did this same stupid shit with Legolas in The Hobbit films. Why not just have them use a fucking knife or sword or something for close encounters?

The most annoying thing of all, as if there hasn’t already been a laundry list of annoying things, is the film’s insistence that Heracles is mortal and not a demi-god. The 12 labors happened, but were played up by rumor and legend. The Hydra just turned out to be some dude wearing a sea-serpant mask (this is never explained), and Cerberus (the famous three-headed hound of Hades) is actually just three dogs. The movie wants to be realistic, but it can’t be realistic with wire-fu battles, cheesy one-liners, and ancient Greeks being played by American and British actors.

Worse still, the movie can’t stick to its decision to stay with realism. MacShane’s fortune-teller character claims to be able to tell the future, and everyone fully believes him, including Heracles. His ability to predict the future is never called into question (although it turns out his big predict is wrong), even though all the Merry Men firmly know that Heracles is not a half-god. Worst of all, MacShane never calls anyone a “cocksucker,” not even once.

I’m surrounded by cocksuckers.

The bad guys are supposed to be Centaurs (half-man, half-horse), but just turn out to be humans riding on horses. Are you fucking kidding me? These ancient Greek warriors who saw them and claimed they were Centaurs had never seen anyone ride on a horse before? Wasn’t that the primary fucking mode of transportation in the ancient world?

There are a bunch of little things, too, like one of the bad guys using a vertebral column as a whip (*facepalm*), the aforementioned undead South Pacific warriors who buried themselves for days waiting for Hurt’s army to arrive, and the “armor of Heracles” (made from the Namean Lion) which is shown on screen to be impenetrable only one minute after dialogue tells us that Heracles’ armor is just a regular lion’s hide.

In the end, the movie decides to say, “Ah, fuck it” and makes Heracles magical anyway. He uses superhuman strength to push over a 50-ton statue and defeat Hurt’s army of evil. The closing dialogue reminds us that LOL HERACLES IS TOTALLY HUMAN YOU GUYS, HE ONLY DID ALL THIS CRAZY STUFF BECAUSE HE BELIEVED IN HIMSELF LOL DERP!

Heracles is a terrible film by a terrible director featuring a terrible script. Watching Johnson kill bad guys is fun, I guess, but not fun enough to make watching this piece of shit tolerable. I would actually welcome Johnson playing Heracles a second time, but only with a better script. One that features the 12 labors would be nice, and one that shows him in his full-on mythical, demi-god glory. Nobody wants to watch Heracles as a real guy, we want him to do god-like shit. That’s the fun of ancient mythology, the magic.

Verdict: Shitty

7 Responses to “It’s Heracles, Not Hercules”

  1. March 15, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    Awww, go on, this wasn’t that bad wa—- oh….. i see your points.

    And thanks for the history lesson at the start. I learned something today. 😉

  2. 4 lokifire
    March 16, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Brik, don’t tell Mrs. Brik, but I think you might be my long-lost soul mate. I break into pedantic explanations whenever anyone brings up Hercules, because HE SHOULD ABSOLUTELY BE CALLED HERACLES IF IT’S SET IN GREECE YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.

  3. March 18, 2015 at 2:47 am

    Haha – I was completely clueless on the fact that Brett Ratner directed this! Like you I don’t totally hate him, I think he actually directed my favourite scene in The Last Stand – with Phoenix going full on mental on Prof. X.

    But Hercules looks like the kind of beer and pizza film you watch when you’ve gone through all the other beer and pizza films and you’ve got nothing left – not even beer or pizza.

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March 2015


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