The new Hercules movie premiered this weekend to better than expected numbers, although it was bested by Lucy in the weekend box office. The movie is based on the graphic novels Hercules: The Thracian Wars and takes a unique approach to the story of Hercules that I hadn’t heard before. Hercules (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) has a legend surrounding him that claims he is the son of a mortal woman and the god Zeus, making Hercules a demi-god. Hera, wife of Zeus, is so angered by his existence and her inability to kill him that she tests him with twelve labors. Each labor is more grand and difficult than the last which cement the reputation of Hercules with the average person. The twist here is that the legend of Hercules is in fact a myth. Each monster that Hercules fights is shown to not be otherworldly but instead, a run of the mill, Scooby Doo style villian in a mask.
As this introductory story is heard we are introduced to the people that make the myth of Hercules possible. His band of merry men (and women) if you will, includes, Autolycus (Thief), Tydeus (Warrior), Atalanta (Amazonian Archer), Iolaus (Storyteller), and Amphiarus (Prohet). This team, while holding up Hercules as a part of the plot also holds up the film. Amphiarus is a welcome piece of comedic relief, often cutting through more dramatic scenes in ways that made me laugh out loud. Autolycus and Atalanta each have their moments throughout the story but are largely unexplored as a part of the plot. Tydeus is given more story but not by much. Iolaus, the storyteller, also happens to be Hercules nephew, perpetuates the myth of Hercules where ever they go. Simultaneously, striking fear into the enemy and creating awe among the people. His story was one of the more disjointed that was in the movie. Hercules is very protective of him and unwilling to let him become a warrior but there is no deeper moment between them. The storyline feels primed for it which left me wondering if a scene had been cut that would have better explained the progression of this part of the story. This team does bring the element of family and offers the only true “feel good” moment in the movie.
The Rock as Hercules definitely looks the part. The movie tells the story of Hercules as a man and the styling of the Rock’s costumes and look reinforce this. He has muscles on top of muscles but is not overly made up and he doesn’t look photoshopped the way a hero in a Marvel movie would look. I think The Rock sells it as Hercules. There are moments where the acting seems overdone but the movie is fun. It gives a good balance of humor and head bashing. What it does lack, is a genuine amount of feel good power. They had the opportunity with the stories of Iolaus, Tydeus, and the mother and son that are saved by Hercules and his team. The conclusion of each of these story lines left me saying eh instead of awe. The movie would have benefited from focusing on a truly feel good moment in any of those plotlines.
If you are a fan of The Rock, which I am, this movie is worth a watch.