This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Dwayne Johnson in a scene from 'Hercules'. Photo:Paramount Pictures, Kerry Brown


DIRECTOR: Brett Ratner

CAST: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Reece Ritchie, Joseph Fiennes, Rebecca Ferguson


RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)

Theresa Smith

ANYONE sold on the trailer featuring the Rock yelling “I am Her-cuuu-leeeesss” is going to lap this movie up and beg for more.

A preview stuffed with people, including unfamiliar faces with terrible cinema etiquette, is a good indication of just how popular a film is going to be on circuit – this one was packed and included people who talked their way through the film and answered their cellphones. So, a pretty normal experience then.

The masses will pitch up for Brett Ratner’s film and they will not be disappointed because this version is better than the recent Legend of Hercules.

What makes it better is stronger CGI and art direction, a sense of story (in fact, the creation of the myth of Hercules forms a big part of the plot) and also better acting, of all things.

Do not be fooled, though; do not expect the intensity and political intrigue of Gladiator or visual excitement of the first 300. It is just that, in comparison to other recent swords and sandals offerings, this is not an utterly pointless exercise.

Based on the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars, this film emphasises the look and action, relying on a narrator to point the audience down the appropriate emotional and story channel.

At this point in his ostensible history Hercules has become a mercenary, hardened by countless battles and surrounded by a formidable crew who help him create the myth that paints him as the son of Zeus.

Hired by Lord Cotys (Hurt) to train his soldiers, they fight in his army’s vanguard and turn the Thracians into a lean, mean, fighting machine.

The gorgeously rendered end credits and beautifully evocative way the enemy’s army is portrayed are almost out of keeping with the rest of the film.

They are suggestive of a plot so much more epic than what we get.

Johnson has proven again and again that he has excellent comic timing and strong charisma, but that is not what is foregrounded here.

Instead, his impressive physique is emphasised (okay, we don’t mind that too much because he totally rocks the loincloth) but the actor, the story and pretty much everything is only given the surface treatment, with the sequence of events spoon-fed to the audience in easily digestible soundbytes.

While he may have the acting chops to emotionally engage an audience, Johnson is never given the material to make that happen – despite the story mentioning the dead wife and children and hinting at all of his friends having their own demons plaguing them.

Instead director Brett Ratner (X-Men: Last Stand, Rush Hour) keeps the action coming thick and fast and of the spectacular variety. Horses get thrown (yes), Ingrid Bolso Berdal does her best Legolas imitation and Joseph Fiennes tries to outdo his brother but comes up with a smarmy cross between Voldemort and Hades. Albeit with better hair.

The suggestion is that this is a revisionist film, the humanising of the Hercules character, but he remains a character in a film. Still, some people only want well staged battles in a big budget film which raises no questions and isn’t open to interpretation in any way.

And, pointing out that actually Hercules was the son of Jupiter in Roman myth and Herakles was the son of Zeus is rather a moot geek point at this stage in the game.

If you liked 300 or Wrath of the Titans you will like this.


To celebrate the nationwide release of Hercules 3D, Tonight is giving five lucky readers a Hercules hamper. Each hamper consists of a Hercules fitness kit, a Scorpion King DVD, a Fast Five DVD and a Pain and Gain DVD. To stand a chance of winning this prize, all you need to do is answer this easy question:

Who plays Hercules?

Send your answer, as well as your contact details, to [email protected] Please put Hercules competition in the subject bar. The competition closes on Wednesday, August 13, at midnight. Only the winners will be contacted.