Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes
As a young man, Hercules (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) rises to legendary status as a member of the Athenian army. He and his small band of soldiers are often given missions that appear to be impossible, but emerge victorious time after time. Beloved of the people, Hercules is thought of as a demigod and hailed as the son of Zeus until the morning that he awakens next to the bodies of his murdered wife and children, covered in their blood. Forced to flee Athens, Hercules and his loyal friends live as mercenaries hoping that one day they will have enough money to leave Greece and the memories that haunt each of them, for good.
When Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson), daughter of the King of Thrace (John Hurt) pleads with Hercules to help her father defeat a warlord leading a demonic army, the reward she offers is more than enough to guarantee the retirement that he craves. But in Thrace they find that the army has been decimated by the prolonged fighting and that they must get farmers and craftsmen ready to protect their homeland, or they will be overrun by the twisted and dark forces amassed against them.
While Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is perfectly cast as Hercules, the movie only takes advantage of some of the qualities he brings to the screen. There are some small moments of levity and humor, but The Rock has charisma to burn and it seems like he is dying to flash his smile and start gleefully cracking skulls instead of moping around. The battle scenes are very good though, and the strength of the movie is the camaraderie between Hercules and his crew. Ian McShane, Aksel Hennie, Rufus Sewell (as a hero for once), Reece Ritchieand Ingrid Bolsø Berdal all lend, swagger, charm and sorely needed wit into the film. Ingrid Bolsø Berdalplays the Amazonian warrior Atalanta and is the breakout star of the movie. She is strong, dynamic and beautiful and I can only hope this is the first of many times we get to see her stateside in movies.
Hercules would have done itself a favor by embracing the legendary nature of the character. Hercules is a classic hero because while he has a God’s strength he uses is it to be a good man. Making him merely mortal only gives us half of the character's appeal. Also, the montage of the 12 labors was too short, and for a movie that barely scratched an hour and a half they could have easily given us 15 more minutes of action. The film also bogs down whenever it dwells on Hercules’ personal tragedies, which the audience knows the truth of from the very beginning even though the characters never even attempt to figure it out. You will like The Rock and his crew and you will like the action, but they missed the chance to make us love it. B-