Hercules review: Dwayne Johnson could be Hollywood's Singham

Deepanjana Pal

Jul 31, 2014 16:08:01 IST

There are some things in the world that make you question the existence of gods. Director Brett Ratner's new film Hercules, starring Dwayne Johnson as the ancient Greek hero, is one such thing. Because if there was a god and s/he care even a whit about keeping us mortals happy — and considering the recent world events, we could all do with a laugh — then instead of Singham Returns, the next big release to strike cinemas across the world would have been 'Hercules And Singham Take On The World'.

These two cine-heroes would be the perfect twosome. One's name means lion, the other wears a lion skin. Both are so beefy that it seems as though their shoulders, chests and arms are sporting individual pregnancy bulges that will soon hatch to release a new life form out of their swollen muscles. Both fight evil in their films. Both do insane stunts. Both roar.

 Hercules review: Dwayne Johnson could be Hollywoods Singham

Courtesy: Facebook

It's like they were made to unite the East and the West with the shining cord of idiotic action movies. Sort of like a Harold and Kumar film, but with more muscles and mayhem, some time travel and lots of roaring.

To be fair, there's no shortage of incoherent yelling in Hercules. For instance, early on in the film, there's a skirmish between a tribe known as the Bessi and Hercules who is leading the Thracian army. It begins with Hercules and the Thracian army eyeballing the Bessi. Then the Bessi roar. Hercules roars. The Thracian army roars. The Bessi roar back. The Thracian army roars some more. Hercules joins in. The Bessi roar, again.

The audience, meanwhile, is left wondering why these two armies aren't getting on with it and attacking each other with violent gusto. (They do manage this, eventually.)

The story of Hercules isn't really the point of the film, but to give the film its due, it does have an interesting plot, which Ratner flattens out of shape by bludgeoning it with explosions and stunts. The legend of Hercules precedes our hero who is an orphan, not the son of Zeus. Using his strength and his wits, he completes twelve labours, which with each retelling become a little more fantastical.

When we meet Hercules, it's been years since those labours. He's now a mercenary and with his band of five companions (one is a blue-eyed Amazon who looks vaguely like a Viking and, being a woman, wears scraps of leather as clothing). They go around Greece, fighting for a price and earning enough money with which to retire.

The King of Thrace offers them Hercules's weight in gold if Hercules and his companions will train the Thracian army well enough to counter a band of murderous rebels who are ravaging Thrace. But of course, there's more than what meets the eye. Soon enough, Hercules finds himself in an unenviable situation that requires him to topple over a mountainous, 60-foot statue made of solid stone in order to keep the army he had trained from killing him.

Hercules is not a long film — it's less than 98 minutes in duration — and looking at its cast and subject, you'd be forgiven for thinking the film would be entertaining. It has a set of solid actors, like John Hurt, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes and Ian McShane, playing the supporting roles. Add to this 'The Rock' wearing a beard reportedly made of yak testicle hair, and Hercules sounds like a winner.

Unfortunately, Ratner's decision to make a film that demystifies the ancient Greek demi-god only ends up raising more questions. Like, why would you dismiss the fantastically imaginative labours of Hercules, with their mythical monsters and magic, when you have the power of CGI and a staggering budget in favour of a bland war between mortals? Also, does Ratner have a single original idea in his head? Despite its charismatic cast and gripping source material, Hercules quickly turns out to be a montage of ideas and images from past blockbusters. For instance, the overhead shots following a marching army is too reminiscent of the cinematography in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The fight sequences themselves could be from the rejected footage of 300.

Everything, from screenplay to production design, seems half-baked. It's as though everyone began the film enthusiastically and then lost interest along the way. One fight merges with the next and the final reveal is a rare combination of predictable and senseless. Probably because no one knows why they're doing whatever it is they're doing, everyone roars incoherently at regular intervals, abandoning that passe device called dialogue and waking up whoever in the audience had dozed off.

While Hercules isn't unwatchable, it is disappointing because an action spectacle like this one has no business being boring. You're better off imagining what adventures could await Hercules and Singham if they did actually join biceps.

Updated Date: Jul 31, 2014 22:49:21 IST