The Rock, IN SANDALS
Hercules is a fun, frivolous romp through mythical Greece, saved by a likable performance from Dwayne Johnson, writes Gayle Edmunds
Hercules (UIP) Director: Brett Ratner Featuring: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Joseph Fiennes, Rufus Sewell, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal and Rebecca Ferguson
The trouble with Hercules stories is that you are somewhat limited to hiring wrestlers or body builders to act in them because of the sheer size of the mythical demigod. For example, in 1969 Arnold Schwarzenegger was the big guy who came to earth in New York and “started a promising career in body building”.
In 1983, Lou Ferrigno (better known for being mean and green as the Hulk) did it, and now the wrestler formerly known as The Rock is picking up the Greek sandals. Dwayne Johnson is really, really hard to dislike – he can’t act to save his leather skirt, but he’s got a lovely smile and he always looks like he’s having a good time.
In this Brett Ratner version, the Greek gods are as good as imaginary, and the legend of Hercules has been carefully cultivated by the big guy’s nephew and personal PR agent, Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). Before Hercules and his team turn up to save the day, Iolaus has laid the groundwork of myth and wonder with fantastical tales of Hercules’ labours. This story, derived from a comic book series, revolves around Hercules and his team of mercenaries when they are hired to quell a rebellion. All is not as it seems and the swords for hire must decide whether to be the heroes they supposedly are. Based on the Radical comic book series by Steve Moore, there’s a lot of humour in this film, which is what saves it from being a bust. Ian McShane is the seer of the team who is always quick to tell everyone that his time hasn’t come, but he doesn’t know about theirs. There is also an Amazonian woman, Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), who wears less than Xena: Warrior Princess did into battle, but then she is a comic book heroine and all of them are lucky if they get just the idea of a skirt from their creators.
Take Wonder Woman, for example. The poor woman’s always wearing her knickers, which is what you get when you are dreamed up by men who draw comics. John Hurt plays the crusty, crafty old Thracian king who hires Hercules, and Joseph Fiennes must have had a job keeping a straight face in front of the mirror in his Grecian robes and blond ringlet get-up as one of the other kings. Both these award winners, like the rest of the cast, look like they haven’t had this much fun since they read comics as teenagers.
Ratner can do comedy and action, and he pulls this off easily with the help of Johnson. If you are a Hercules fan, see this one, but don’t mistake it for the other one that was released this year with the sulky Kellan Lutz. That one was a disaster.