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The MGM and Paramount feature Hercules, with Dwayne Johnson is an impressive retelling of the legendary myth of a stupendously strong hero in an alternative story of a demigod. While many will automatically think of the actor Kevin Sorbo and his small screen portrayal of the “half God” hero, this film’s different slant on the strongman should put Johnson in a league all his own.
The film has a very impressive cast list on top of its 3D imagery. John Hurt, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell and Joseph Fiennes round out the well known stars in the movie. Outside of the “name” actors, jobbing character actor Peter Mullan turns in a great performance as a nasty general. Norwegian actress Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, who looks so much like more muscular Nicole Kidman it is startling, is wonderful as the Amazonian warrior on Hercules’ team.
Director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour 1,2 and 3; X-Men: The Last Stand) works this retelling of the Hercules myth almost like an ensemble piece. Although not quite, Johnson’s character is the focus here but the story shows the importance of his colleagues almost every step of the way. Each member of this team of mercenary good guys, and gal, have their own part to play and each one shows their personalized support.
Kudos have to be given to Ian McShane as the “seer” who uses “herbs” to foretell the outcome of battles and what may lay over the next hill. He also has some pretty splendid comical moments as well. However, the former leading-man actor has a scene or two which are quite impressive and not the least funny. Brett Ratner’s alternative story of the demigod Hercules, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the mythical hero entertains in a more old fashioned sense of the meaning. There is no explicit sex and for a film with so much sword play, not that much gore either.
The story is that Hercules and his group of supporters are all mercenaries who help those who can pay them. His “legend” is spread by the Storyteller Iolaus, played with great comic enthusiasm by Reece Ritchie (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Lovely Bones). This “demigod” is portrayed, by his “publicist” as the hero who slays the creatures assigned to him by the Gods in order to gain his reward.
This film is based upon the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars. In the movie, Johnson and his cohorts first aid and then fight the King of Thracia. A plot thread of the hero’s wife and children being murdered by the king of Athens gives Hercules a more tortured persona and helps to give him a greater depth than just a muscle bound “sword for hire.” It is also interesting to see John Hurt in a role where he is one nasty bit of work.
Johnson has come a long way as an actor. His character portrayals just keep getting better and better. Although to be perfectly honest, his work in early films like the 2003 film The Rundown, aka Welcome to the Jungle was pretty polished for a performer who was just making the transition to lead roles in movies.
One thing that “The Rock” has in all his roles is a feel of earnestness, honesty and a genuine performance. His Hercules feels right in this alternative story of a “demigod.” Dwayne Johnson brings realism and a relaxed, although tortured, sort of command to the role. In that instance he is the big screen version of Kevin Sorbo’s more relaxed hero, although Sorbo had a lot more humor and lot less angst in his Hercules. Brett Ratner’s film is entertaining as well as amusing where it needs to be and has enough action to keep the most hardcore sword and sandal fan satisfied. Hercules is airing at cinemas across the country. The film has incredible feats of strength, epic sword fights and a pretty decent plot. What more does a mythological film need?
By Michael Smith
AMC Rainbow Promenade 10