Based on the mythical Greek hero, The Legend of Hercules is another addition to the list of movies on the son of Zeus, half-god, half-man. Renny Harlin could have adopted a different angle, but an idealisation of the legend, almost like a compilation of glimpses from various movies and video-game inspired battle scenes, makes this action fantasy a tedious watch.
From what appears to be a royal soap opera, the movie begins with Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKeene) becoming impregnated by the seed-planting spirit of Zeus amidst thunder and billowing curtains. Her husband, the treacherous King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), rightfully suspects he is not his child and vows to make his life miserable which sets the plot for the rest of the film.
Born as Aclides (Hercules), his mother tries to shield him from the King by hiding his true identity but that does not protect him from the wrath of his suspicious and envious father. His brother, Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), is jealous of his strength and love affair with the Cretan princess, Hebe (Gaia Weiss), the woman who was promised to him. As a result, Hercules played by Kellan Lutz is exiled and sent to Egypt to fight a war that he cannot win.
What follows are scenes reminiscent of the Gladiator. In a dramatic sequence, Hercules solely takes down the Egyptian army but is captured with his commander Sotiris. The two are sold as slaves and the enslavement is only redeemable in the arena. Video-game inspired death matches trivialise these battles and devoid the audience of any and all emotion towards the hero. Letting down the movie even further is the actor Emmett Cullen, best known for his role in the Twilight saga, who may have the body to fill his armour but lacks the acting skills to move the audience into sympathising with the hero. His power of invincibility, which involves single-handedly taking down six people at a time in slow-motion action sequences, further intensifies his disconnect with the audience.
As a result, even if Hercules sustains injuries they merely appear as a scratch on the surface, rendering battle scenes unexciting, forced and artificial. This is further worsened by the choice of making the movie in 3D. The historical legend increasingly appears unreal; quite like one of the initial scenes in the movie in which Hercules fights a lion and escapes unscathed. The lion and the fight are a mock-up of such epic proportions that it could easily qualify as a scene from a cartoon.
The real tragedy of the movie is that Harlin does not show the more commonly known aspects of the mythology of Hercules, such as the ‘Twelve labours of Hercules’ where he had to fulfill the tasks assigned by King Eurystheus for penance. Hercules capturing the Cretan Bull, slaying the nine-headed Hydra and obtaining the cattle of the monster Geryon would have made for an interesting watch. Harlin could have captured Hercules carrying out his labours bringing out the man and God in him simultaneously.
Overall, The Legend of the Hercules is a mediocre, animated film rather than the anticipated live action movie. Had it been in 2D, it might have made for a more serious watch. With action scenes and costumes inspired by earlier films based on the same idea, there was nothing new to be seen. Better fit as a soap opera or a cartoon show, this movie did not cut the mark.
Sundar Waqar is a subeditor on The Express Tribune Magazine desk. She tweets @sundar_waqar
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, March 2nd, 2014.