Hollywood loves rights-free content. It saves them the trouble of having an actual living writer say, “Hey, why are you ruining my story??” Plus, they can then throw a couple of scribes (old-timey word for an old-timey epic) at the subject material who treat it as a j-o-b, working only 9-5, what a way to make a living. The people who cared most about this film were probably working in the costume department, and only because they like to work with leather.
Finally, cast a veritable Rock of an actor, ideally aided by HGH (if he’s not, wowsers, he should have been, if only to cut out the middle man of “dying in the gym”). Throw it at an audience, see if it sticks, and laugh all the way to the cash for gold store. To call this “disposable” is to insult razors. This is something deeper in the American psyche going on here, something ugly, the ho-hum dread of drooling existence, the thing you turn to on a Friday night when there’s nothing left, and no one else. You’ve burned all your bridges – now ‘Hercules’ is going to burn you.
The plot is what you’d come up with if you only had lunches at Wendy’s to prepare. Hercules is a hero, shrouded in myth, helping out the little man. Only he’s to start as a mercenary, so he can go through the transition. That way you’ll be soooooooooooo impressed and moved. Amazingly though, only four seconds in, the film wants to have it both ways. Behold, and actual line of dialogue from ‘Hercules,’ or at least as much a line as my addled brain can come up with: Note: voiceover, four seconds into the movie, because whatever, right?
This is the story of Hercules, the son of Zeus. That’s the Zeus, the God Zeus.
Oh, you mean THE Zeus? Well paddle my fanny, I thought you meant some pimp down on 75th street who calls himself “Zeus”, or perhaps the WWE (it was WWF then, the pandas had yet to strike back) wrestler from the ’90s. I mean, what the hell guys? Is the audience so goddamn dumb here that we need to spell out what a “Zeus” is? But there’s my central point, he starts as baby boy god before being a hero then becoming a mercenary before then becoming a hero (again). You can’t have a guy be a mercenary who is also an awesome “people first” legend. It is, for lack of a better word, stupidterrible.
As for Hercules, played by the incomparable Dwayne “Los Rock” Johnson, he stalks around this movie like a Key Deer (endangered species, pour out liquor). This guy lumbers on screen, he’s more full of muscles than a Pacific Northwest shoal. As I mentioned, Hercules is a mercenary, a son of God killin’ dude for booty, though not bootie, they speak of him in hushed whispers. Why doesn’t he kill for bootie, oh why oh why is the love of a good woman not something he can emotionally handle? Guess once, and rhyme it with “Schmadiator”. Yep. Mysterious dead people in his past. That will probably never come up again, with a villain in the third act.
Hercules also has the help of a team of noble warriors, one of whom is a leggy lady Legolas. Another one is animal from The Muppets, he’s so emotionally damaged he can’t even talk. There’s also a seer, for LOLZ, and a storyteller, I have no idea why they couldn’t combine those two characters. There wasn’t all that much job specialization back in the day. Finally, there’s the Herc partner who just kills people, I can’t remember his name and I’m not going to put up with the IMDB Hercules ads to find it. Really, all these characters should have been named “guy”, including the woman, so that Hercules could shout out, “GUY, I need some help over here! No, not you, the OTHER guy! The one closest to me! (kills bad guy) C’mon Guys, let’s get it together!”
The most disconcerting thing here, if you care to look into an ocean of water to find a single drop, is the plot arc itself. Hercules is summoned, for gold, to help a kingdom on the precipice of a buncha jerks taking over. There’s a damsel in distress, and she’s got a son who knows all of Hercules stats by rote memory. Hercules once batted .406 against a nittany lion!
Hercules and his band of merry GUYS will help the populace, score some sweet dubbins, and head about their merry way. But not so fast! Gotta montage train an army of misfit farmers. Then gotta get ambushed, and maybe fight off some bad guys. But here’s the galling part, and I plan on spoiling the hell out of this movie, and bully to you if you actually care: it turns out the King was the bad guy all along! Twisto facto! So then, SO THEN, Herc’u’les has to fight the exact same army he trained. That’s amazing. By then, of course, he’s not in it for the gold anymore, he’s in it to help the people he just hurt, but by accident.
I want to list mode for a moment, it’s my claim to fame.
1) Herc trains peasants to fight off “invading army”.
2) Herc & Co (“Quality carpet cleaning since 1987!”) then kill zillions of the “invading army”.
3) “Invading army” were the good guys. Whoops.
4) Herc kills zillions of peasant army, now bad people.
Here’s what I have to say about that – the armies on both sides were innocent the whole time! Hercules was maiming and murdering in the name of a despot, and then maiming and murdering the folks who took orders, probably under pain of death, from a despot. The worst guy in all of this was Hercules. Without him, oodles of people, normal people like you and me, are still living their lives. Under the yoke of oppression, sure, but at least they weren’t actively getting shot in the head with an arrow from six inches away by a lady dressed in red dominatrix leather. And allow me to replicate a zing heard throughout the Internet’s entire life cycle, where did she get/hold/store fourteen hundred arrows? There is no detail work anywhere in this movie except for the small detail of making you see it in IMAX 3-D, for optimum horse tranquilizer screwing.
What can be said of director Brett Ratner? Not much. There’s nothing which indicates anyone directed the film, no flourish, no life, nothing past the glassy-eyed stare of commerce. Brett Ratner is the pubic hair of modern directors. We all keep meaning to cut him off, but we’re simply too lazy. This movie could have been directed by a guy off the street, yawning and breaking for lunch even when it was breakfast time. He’s the opposite of what an auteur director is. He’s a farteur.
In the end, Hercules is over before it even starts, forgotten before the credits even roll. You’d think that would be comforting, because much in the way of “Conan” (Momoa edition), the film will not have one molecule of staying power. But I can’t help but notice it’s out there right now, on our front doorstep, and that’s disheartening. It’s going to ensnare some hapless victims this weekend. They’re going to check their brains at the door, and they may not get that back. Hercules is coming for you, and he’s got a giant hammer and a team of imbeciles behind him, both in front and behind the camera.