Review: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Prepares for Battle in ‘Hercules’

Ryan Smythe ‘15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Dwayne Johnson and Reece Ritchie in Hercules. Photo Credit: Kerry Brown/Paramount Pictures.
Dwayne Johnson and Reece Ritchie in Hercules. Photo Credit: Kerry Brown/Paramount Pictures.

Clocking in at a mere 98 minutes, Hercules very well may be the shortest action blockbuster of the summer. But, surprisingly, that only adds to its presentation. Director Brett Ratner, despite his previous tragic attempt to recreate a childhood classic (X-Men: The Last Stand), successfully adapted this classic Greek myth into a modern blockbuster. This time around, he received the help of screenwriters Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos and original comic (Hercules: The Thracian Wars) writer Steve Moore. There are several issues involving Moore, but details of that will come after the review section.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Hercules is perfect casting. Much like André the Giant portraying Fezzik in The Princess Bride, Johnson flexes his bulging muscles, and gives friendly advice to those close to him- all while standing head and shoulders above the rest of the cast and several of the horses. Hercules’ change from murderous jerk in the original tales to morally sound friend to those in need works very well here, giving a strong role model for the rest of the cast to grow around, as well as any impressionable audience members. His conflict with the potential darker side creates interesting growth in the character, preventing the hero from lapsing into boring, “I’m the good guy, so you should root for me but not think about it,” territory that so many movies fall into.

Dwayne Johnson in Hercules. Photo Credit: Kerry Brown/Paramount Pictures.
Dwayne Johnson in Hercules. Photo Credit: Kerry Brown/Paramount Pictures.

The supporting cast, while not spectacular or original, do their jobs effectively. Hercules’ crew are deadly in battle, perform their choreography flawlessly with the help of the stunt team and cinematographer Dante Spinotti, and don’t fumble over the handful of lines each are given to progress the plot. The writers do a good job hiding the weaker actors, giving the bulk of the lines to Johnson, his knife-throwing best friend Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), and the snarky fortune teller Amphiaraus (Ian McShane). The major scenes generally involve some combination of the three discussing plans, with McShane closing out the dialogue with some quip about the future. It’s a simple structure, but the occasional addition of Lord Cotys (John Hurt) keeps it fresh enough that it doesn’t feel too boring in between the fighting.

The action scenes, while not of the same scope as the Lord of the Rings franchise, utilize various camera angles to show off both the bloodcurdling ferocity of the warriors as well as the sheer size of the armies involved. In one scene in particular, the very first battle with Hercules as the leader of an army, opens at ground level. The troops lock in formation, while Hercules’ crew stands on the outside, showing off their lethality in battle. This gives the audience a clear image of what the soldiers would see, before pulling back for an aerial view. With the ground level context, this wide shot becomes exponentially more terrifying, because while the audience gets to see a fraction of the bloodshed, there were ten times the number of troops coming in from other angles.

Rufus Sewell in Hercules. Photo Credit: Kerry Brown/Paramount Pictures.
Rufus Sewell in Hercules. Photo Credit: Kerry Brown/Paramount Pictures.

Despite all of the positives to Hercules, the way Moore was treated leading up to the film and after his death does more than raise eyebrows. In an interview with Bleeding Cool, Moore’s longtime friend and fellow writer Alan Moore (no relation) called for a boycott of the film, stating that Moore received no compensation for the use of his creation, and his desire for his name to not be used in conjunction with the film was blatantly ignored after his death earlier this year.

The unfortunate, and contractually “legal” way this film’s marketing used Moore to drum up interest worked moderately well, netting $29.8 million on the opening weekend. It has a ways to go before it hits the $100 million budget mark, and with the release of Guardians of the Galaxy, it needs more than a little bit of muscle and posthumous marketing to hit its goal.

Overall Grade: B-

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