Dr. Donna Copeland’s
The movie, The Legend of Hercules, only loosely resembles the mythical figure of classical literature. In both, he is the son of Zeus, and his mother was married to King Amphytryon, and he did kill a lion. In this version of the story, the king is enraged when he finds out for sure that Hercules is not actually his son, although he suspects it from the beginning. His son is Iphicles, and he openly favors him over his brother.
In the film, Queen Alcmena (Roxanne McKee) is disturbed by her aggressive, endlessly warring, brutal husband, Amphytryon (Scott Adkins), and prays to Hera for her help. Hera listens, and offers to have her husband Zeus impregnate Alcmena. (In mythology, Hercules is the older son by one day; in the film, Iphicles is older, and the king has made him heir to the throne.) Amphytryon suspects something, and tries valiantly to find Alcmena’s lover, but he fails. In the meantime, the boys grow up, and although Amphytryon does his best to mold Iphicles in his image, the man is weak and fearful, never coming close to matching the self-confidence, strength and bravery of Hercules, played by Kellan Lutz. Nor does he form the strong attachments to others that motivates Hercules to protect them at all costs and earn their loyalty.
A great rivalry develops between the brothers for the hand of Hebe (Gaia Weiss). She and Hercules have formed a bond, but King Amphytryon makes a trading deal with her father, the King of Crete, and included in it is the marriage of Hebe to Iphicles. Amphytron plots to get Hercules out of the picture, and he thinks he has done it, but lo and behold, he finds that Hercules has survived and vows to return for Hebe. Bloody battles ensue that include significant deaths.
Much of the film is one battle after another. It starts with Amphytryon conquering Argos, and thereafter, there is little plot beyond fighting on an individual level or with great armies. The cinematography (Sam McCurdy) is noteworthy for the 3D filming of these encounters, with slow motion used occasionally, along with fantastic special effects. There are brief quiet moments between Hercules and Hebe, but the film goer should be aware of and enjoy ferocious hand-to-hand combat and battles between armies.
Kellan Lutz as Hercules is admirably buff and has a soft, patient side that is missing in the mythical figure; this Hercules is more like his ancient counterpart, Theseus, who was “bravest of all” and strong, intelligent, and compassionate besides. He is largely convincing, as is the supporting cast: Gaia Weiss, Roxanne McKee, Scott Adkins, Liam Garrigan, and Liam McIntyre. Renny Harlin, the director and co-writer has created a production that—if one likes this kind of film—hits its mark. Since the title includes the word “legend”, I think it should have adhered more closely to the classical mythological tales.
By: Donna R. Copeland
THE LEGEND OF HERCULES
Director Renny Harlin holds the dubious title of having the biggest box office flop of all time. Of course, that was directing his then wife Geena Davis in Cutthroat Island (1995). Harlin hasn’t been trusted with big budget films again until now. The first of two films in 2014 about Hercules, this one will test the star power of model turned vampire, and now wanna-be hero Lutz (Twilight). It should come as no surprise that the 3D Legend of Hercules looks as cheap as the written dialogue sounds. Pledging and vowing love all over the place, tedious amounts of growling (usually while flying through the air) and mystical love making all reduce this predisposition January failure to laughter and embarrassment.
Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) makes a deal with the gods to carry Zeus’s child in order to restore the order in Argos that has been corrupted by her husband and now King, Amphitryon (Scott Adkins). Named Hercules by the gods but known by the mortal name Heracles, he Is sent away to die by the King. Hercules returns as a savior to the people who have been robbed of land and what little money they have. Now the kings army are starting to rebel and begin to follow this new returned warrior and great fighter. Hercules fights for his love Hebe (Gaia Weiss), who is now being forced to marry his brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), heir to the throne.
Maybe this would work if Harlin had set out to reinvent the Grecian warrior film we see each year at this time, or create a new stylish presentation, or even offer up some great new part of the mythology we hadn’t seen on film again and again. Instead Harlin borrows the stop motion fighting styles seen in 300, has Hercules nearly killed only to escape and be forced to fight in an arena for his freedom (just like in Gladiator), and then, like we saw in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, he comes back to his kingdom not as prince but the man who will stand against their government. No, there is nothing new or interesting about The Legend of Hercules.
Nearly 75% of the film takes place at night or in darkness and the obvious reason for that is to hide or conceal the lack of detail in the production value. Almost the entire film is shot on green screen and it doesn’t take a clever eye to notice the less than WETA-esque visual effects being presented; the opening sequence being the most amateur of all. Lutz flexes his pectoral muscles more than he speaks, but when he does it’s a very concentrated growl; he must think he is Batman. Lutz likely can’t act, but he is never given a chance as he is hidden by his extremely tan, sculpted body, and we can barely even see his face.
Final Thought – No legends here, just a Twilight actor flexing his oiled up body and borrowing scenes from superior films.
Grade D By: Dustin Chase