Friday, June 3, 2016

Hercules


   I was floored to find out Hercules was a Brett Ratner film. Aside from one or two gems/guilty pleasures in his directorial filmography, he's mostly done... crap. And, if not crap, obscure and uninteresting stuff. He's the guy responsible for the absolute worst X-Men movie. Yet, despite my disinterest in his movies, I found Hercules to be an interesting and fun flick. It's not great, but it's slick, well made, and entertaining. From the trailers, I had expected this to be a big mindless CGI fest, but it really wasn't. I mean, there's a lot of hate for the movie online, but I think audiences these days are in auto-dislike mode. Nothing satisfies anyone anymore.

   I have my gripes about the movie for sure. Specifically, they angled the story to reveal that the legends about Hercules were tall tales crafted by Hercules and his squad of mercenaries to basically build brand recognition. That's really interesting to me, and I like how they handled it. Yet... this was a movie that had a built-in hall pass to be a big mindless CGI action fest. I wanted to see him go up against the hydra, and the Nemean Lion. I wanted all of that stuff. And, I mean, you get it... but it's a tease. We see these amazing things, and then get the rug pulled out from under our feet within the first five minutes of the movie.

   I get it... but I'm not sure I like it. The movie proceeds to try and have it's cake and eat it too, because while the majority of the movie angles Hercules as just... a freakishly strong mortal, he ends up (spoilers?) pulling off some insanely superhuman feats in the story. I don't mean 'adrenaline high, lift a car' crap. I mean... he's clearly half god. So then what the flying frick? What's his origin then? The movie specifically states he's an orphan. So... what? It case it wasn't clear already, this is not the Hercules everyone is familiar with. This is a re-imagining in the extreme. Admittedly, on it's own terms, it works. It's well crafted. There's a good story here unlike most movies it probably gets lumped in with automatically.

   I read a bunch of opinions of the movie online, and there was an overwhelming amount of negativity about it. But, most of the complaints could easily be divided into two categories. One, they wanted the tried and true Hercules legend, and they didn't get it. Fair. Totally fair. Two, people seem to think that the acting was bad? Or that "they acted dumb", and that the plot was easy to figure out? These people are the ones in auto-dislike mode. I didn't see any bad acting in the movie. Occasionally weak? Sure. But bad? Enough to rage about it? No. Not even a little bit. Moreover, the plot wasn't trying to be some big mystery? So what if you figured it out? It's not a 'twist' movie. The only thing it keeps tucked away for a third act reveal is a crucial piece of Hercules' past.

   I don't even know what they meant by "acted dumb". I found Hercules' merc squad to be pretty cool actually. They were fun and interesting characters who I genuinely enjoyed watching. I mean, it friggin' helps that they're played by Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, and Askel Hennie. The only actor in the squad I wasn't familiar with is an actress named Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, but she did a damn good job and held her own in the cast.  Did I mention John Hurt and Joseph Fiennes are also in the movie? Well, they are. They all seem to be having a blast, but none more so than Herc himself, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He's clearly just enjoying the hell out of his role, and I can respect that. This must've been a fun movie to make.

   Anyways, the movie is rated PG-13 but I saw an extended, unrated cut. It's battle scenes are greatly improved, with lots of R rated violence and action. Slashing, killing, blood spray. Great stuff. There's a total of 3 and a half minutes added to the extended cut, and every second is absolutely worth it. The big battle scenes are creative and intense, and the added footage only makes it even more enjoyable- doing the movie a massive favor as a whole. The movie has excellent production value, some great moments, and a handful of stunning visuals. You could do worse than Hercules for a simple time killer. It's not great, even calling it 'good' is kinda toeing a line, but it's very enjoyable.

   This one almost didn't make it as a fantasy/adventure, sword & sorcery flick. Came super close to not counting at all. Whew.

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