Brett Ratner’s approach to Hercules translates the vibe of Steve Moore’s graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars to a tee by focusing on the action without much subplot or filler in between.
Ratner’s take is set in Thrace where Hercules (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) has become the leader of a band of mercenaries for hire made up of Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), Iolaus, and the mute, Tydeus (Aksel Hennie). They’re approached by Princess Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) to help her father King Cotys (John Hurt), whose kingdom of Thrace finds itself at war with the powerful sorcerer Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann). Accepting the challenge, Hercules is faced with the task of turning the male farmers of Thrace into a powerful army that represents the myth of being undefeatable.
Wasting no time in refreshing those familiar with Greek Mythology on Hercules’ life before and during his Twelve Labors, he effortlessly accomplishes each and every task, seemingly without any harm to himself. The audience is lead to a setup that answers two questions: Is the story of Hercules true? And is Hercules a man or the demigod son of Zeus?
Using dream sequences to show Hercules’ weakness, visions of his family tragedy point to the film protagonist’s Achilles heel. Clocking in at just under 100 minutes, which is relatively short for an “action-adventure” movie, the snappish pace of Hercules still moves the film along.
Although exciting and detailed, two of the three main battle sequences in the film are redundant featuring with clubbing deaths, arrows shot to vanquish the enemy, and enemies meeting their end by the sword. With a supporting cast providing moments of humor whether joking about manhood or escaping death, the film’s climax comes when the true villains are surprisingly revealed 20 minutes before the end of the movie. Resolving this conflict way too quickly, those familiar with the legend of Hercules will see a somewhat ironic and symbolic message.
Entertaining and exciting, although somewhat rushed, The Shadow League gives Hercules a B.