If you can forgive the fact that Director Brett Ratner completely knocks off the Kevin Sorbo “Hercules” series by presenting a lighter more satirical tone behind the myth of Hercules, his treatment of the character isn’t a complete loss of time. In actuality, “Hercules” is a solid action comedy that takes the wind out of the Greek Myths, in favor of a more grounded tale of the warrior Hercules, whose entire legacy is built around fantastic tales and illusion. Much like Sorbo’s Hercules, Dwayne Johnson plays the character with a tongue in cheek and self awareness all the while thrust in to fantastic situations that require he actually step up to play the hero.
Johnson is humongous as the hulking Hercules, whose stories of being born by Zeus and transforming in to an anti-hero have scattered across the land. The problem is that Hercules is only as strong as his team of skilled warriors, all of whom consist of an Amazonian archer, a feral soldier, a skilled knife thrower, and an expert spear fighter. Not to mention his very own sidekick who is a master of hyping his hero. Hercules is depicted as something of a celebrity rather than a warrior whose own reputation has preceded him a thousand times over. Though Hercules does have the strength to combat many men alone, he’s also very much a mortal who’s convinced many that he is invulnerable in battle.
Hercules and his team are approached by Ergenia, on by way of her father, Lord Cotys, who calls upon Hercules and his men to train his kingdom in to a solid army. They’re anxious to defend themselves against vicious barbarians and their ruler Rheseus. After months of training through trial and error, Hercules and his band defeat the barbarians, but bad omens and blood soaked nightmares begin to speak otherwise. Learning of ulterior motives behind the mission for Lord Cotys, Hercules and his band discover that their mission not as valiant as they initially assumed it would be. Soon enough Hercules and his group begin to have crises of conscience, prompting Hercules to set aside his greed in exchange for a nobler goal.
Though Ratner’s film suffers from a tonal shift mid-way in the narrative, “Hercules” remains surprisingly light hearted with very engaging and sweeping moments of action, all the while pitting the focus on star Johnson. And though the movie is primarily his vehicle, his co-stars garner some wonderful moments of characterization including Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, and Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, whose own ability to hold her own in the massive action mid-way warrants her her own movie, alone. “Hercules” may be a more tongue in cheek approach to the legend and anti-hero, but it works well as a breezy action adventure with a slight comic bent. While most Hercules movies are silly anyway, Ratner seems to take that caveat and transform the mythos in to a welcomed meta-action film. You can’t hate a movie too much that features a man throwing a horse.