A lot of people are venting their hatred towards Brett Ratner’s latest insult to cinema, the Dwayne Johnson helmed Hercules epic. It’s truly awful. On the plus side, The Legend of Hercules is released on Blu-ray and DVD this week; this year’s other Hercules movie. Like the latest version of the Greek hero story, it won’t win any Oscars, but it’s extremely enjoyable. Best of all, it has the courage to take itself seriously and is all the better for it.
A certain suspension of cynicism is required here. This is a very cleverly put together piece of work that at one point would have been destined to the straight-to-DVD shelves.
Now, through the intelligent streamlining of production from Avi Lerner’s Millennium Films, this kind of thing is now finding its way to cinemas. This is good news for lovers of swords and sandals silliness, and this is spectacularly well crafted swords and sandals silliness.
Kellan Lutz steps into the role of Hercules with his usual brand of boyish charm and new masculinity. He wisely chooses not to overplay some of the more over-the-top dialogue, though to be fair on the script, it’s kept surprisingly tight. Director Renny Harlin steers the viewer towards the sense of spectacle whilst retaining an emotional core.
The visuals are truly gorgeous; this must be one of the best looking films of the year. Everything is sumptuously shot on the Red Epic digital camera by cinematographer Sam McCurdy who, until recently, has worked mainly on TV shows such as Fresh Meat and Last Tango in Halifax.
The slight nag I had was how strangely chaste everything felt. Ever since the BBC/HBO series Rome, this type of thing feels duty bound to provide some graphic nudity and groaning sex scenes.
Starz has supplied such content of late with their Spartacus series; an action romp mixed with softcore porn. It feels odd watching something with the clear potential for bed bouncing from Mr Lutz that deliberately sidesteps anything of the kind. There is a very tame post-coital scene of him and a young woman under a blanket, but such a moment makes Twilight look hardcore. I imagine it has something to do with Lionsgate’s desire to achieve a 12A certificate.
There will be those who jump to label this as garbage. However, in a world where a lot of entertainment – from The Wire, to Breaking Bad, to Richard Linklater’s overrated Boyhood – asks us to engage the more rigorous side of our brains, it is fun to have something like this as a bit of a diversion. We all need a break from time to time. You could do a lot worse than this.
A note on the disc: The gorgeous 4K cinematography captured on the RED Epic digital camera looks astonishingly good on Blu-ray. The transfer from Lionsgate UK is one of the best I have ever seen in the format.
The Legend of Hercules (2014), directed by Renny Harlin, is released on Blu-ray disc and DVD by Lionsgate, Certificate 12.
This review is published in association with The National Student.