24th Jul2014

‘The Legend of Hercules’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Kellan Lutz, Scott Adkins, Gaia Weiss, Roxanne McKee, Liam Garrigan, Liam McIntyre, Rade Serbedzija, Johnathon Schaech, Luke Newberry, Kenneth Cranham, Mariah Gale, Sarai Givaty | Written by Sean Hood, Daniel Giat | Directed by Renny Harlin


One of THREE films released this year (the other two films surprisingly both star former WWE wrestlers) based on the classic character from Greek mythology, The Legend of Hercules stars Kellan Lutz as the titular hero Hercules, in an epic origin story from iconic action director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Long Kiss Goodnight) and writer Sean Hood – who co-wrote the recent Conan the Barbarian remake as well as penning the original story for a personal horror favourite of mine, Midnight Movie.

In Ancient Greece 1200 B.C., a queen succumbs to the lust of Zeus to bear a son promised to overthrow the tyrannical rule of the king (played by the always awesome Scott Adkins). Borne of god and mortal, Herculesis betrayed by his stepfather, the very tyrant King he’s foretold to overthrow, and sold into slavery. He must then embark on a legendary odyssey using his extraordinary strength to overthrow the king and restore peace to a land in hardship… Of course featuring a Twilight cast member as the lead of your film means you also need one more thing – a love story. In this case it’s a love triangle between the titular hero and Hebe – Princess of Crete – who just so happens to have been promised Hercules’ own brother!

The usual Herculean plot then?

The Legend of Hercules is definitely a film that wears its influences, at least visually, on it’s sleeve. From the opening sequence which looks like its stepped straight out of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, to the battles which mix copious amounts of CGI with over the top action a la Zack Snyder’s 300. The film also has shades of Clash of the Titans about it too – especially when it comes to the more sinister aspects of the film such as soothsayers and the “monsters” Hercules faces. Well I say monsters, but the only true monster Hercules faces in this particular iteration is a badly rendered, almost comical, CGI/animatronic lion! The rest of the film sees Hercules spend his time battling gladiators and soldiers.

Lensed in Bulgaria and featuring an international cast, including a number of familiar British faces, The Legend of Hercules is actually less a sword and sandal epic and more of a love story come family drama – and one that seems to have pinched most of the costumes and sets from the well-received Starz TV series Spartacus.

It’s not all bad though. Despite my reservations surrounding the copious use of CGI in the large-scale battles such as the films opening, there are some stunning action set pieces buried within the film – especially the gladiatorial battles Hercules partakes in, which use good old stunt work and CG to superb effect. It’s just a shame then when Hercules isn’t kicking ass the film slows down to a (dare I say it) snore-inducing snail’s pace. But the films biggest crime? Not going all out on the blood and violence.

Audiences have come to expect – thanks to the aforementioned Spartacus – historical epics to be packed with over the top violence and plenty of bloody combat. However for some inexplicable reason director Renny Harlin, he who pushed the boundaries of action movie violence in both Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger (two films which were heavily censored on their original release here in the UK), has targeted this film at a teen audience. Again, just because you have a Twilight star in your cast does not mean you need to cater for the niche tween audience which will follow…

Not nearly the worst Hercules adaptation to ever grace the screen (have you seen some of the 50s & 60s Italian Peplum flicks?), yet still decidedly average, The Legend of Hercules is released on DVD and Blu-ray on August 4th courtesy of Lionsgate UK.

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