Robin Hood: Prince of Gladiators
In the wake of dreadful ancient history action mythology movies like Clash of the Titans and 300: Rise of an Empire comes The Legend of Hercules washing up onto the tired and formulaic shore of disappointment. Advance warning – this is awful. Hercules is a hell of a hero, with at least twelve great adventures to retell. This version briefly covers only the least fun of them: choking a lion in a dubious WWF hold. The rest of the film is the bafflingly dull tale of how Hercules is conceived (a hilarious windy wank in a storm), betrayed by his dad and boring brother, briefly becomes a super-low rent Gladiator and then returns to take the kingdom from his father, apparently by being Robin Hood. Oh, and also get the princess.
A Snore of Swords
Kellan Lutz occupies the eponymous role with his huge man-tits. It’s probably not a good sign that most of the pre-release press was occupied with how much he’s bulked up since the Twilight finally faded away. His pectoral skills are pretty much his only feature. Certainly the script gives him no opportunity to say anything interesting but he’s completely immobile anyway, possibly the muscle has filled his skull. His relationship with Princess Hebe (Gaia Weiss) is just silly, she’s only given the opportunity to be doe-eyed a bit weepy. That said, there is an amusing scene late in the film where they get it on in a conveniently knocked up forest boudoir, complete with string of sea shells. They also get to swim together.
No one else in the cast gets a chance to do anything either. Partly it’s the appalling screen play with its reliance on clenched jaw dialogue and merciless rehashing of cliches, but it doesn’t look like anyone’s bothering to make an effort either. That all rather reinforces the feeling that this film is far worse than even the ropiest episode of Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules series. That at least was fun, and had some decent action scenes. The fights here are slow, with frequent pauses and gratuitous slow motion sequences (the opening scens offers thrilling snatches of hoofs slapping into mud). Apparently for a laugh they make Hercules and his captain into gladiators where go chest-bump to cheek with a pair of rejects from Mad Max – Beyond Thunderdome, “Humbaba and Half-Face” (I kid ye not). It’s all pulled punches, straining faces and no blood.
When the film finally crawls into its climactic action scenes (sorry to give stuff away if you’re still planning to see it), Hercules spins some polystyrene boulders around and gets a lovely lightning-whip from his real dad, Zeus. Yup, he gets the weapon Mickey Rourke has in Iron Man 2 and it knocks people over, but doesn’t electrocute them. I don’t know why, he’s the demi-god. Then he beats up his brother’s dad. Oh yeah, and Hebe stabs herself and the wicked brother, but you can’t possibly give a toss other than to be slightly surprised that she survives.
At no time have there been any monsters, nor gods except for a briefly white-eyed oracle of Hera and the previously mentioned stormy toss. Herc is just quite strong, though he can only really get his action bulges on once someone’s been killed.
Putting The ‘End’ In Legend
Renny ‘studio killer’ Harlin has previously delivered two films I really enjoy – The Long Kiss Goodnight and Deep Blue Sea. They’re very different films and while they’ve got their own hints of so-bad-it’s-good (more so for the Parkinsons’ healing giant mutant sharks) they’ve also got a great balance of characters, action and drama. It seems that gift has utterly deserted Harlin. Hercules is devoid of character, action, interest and appeal. It’s amazing to so completely avoid making a story about Hercules so terrible, this looks worse than a BBC Robin Hood show and has all the style of a school play. I’m pretty sure you could make it entirely out of discarded footage from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Gladiator, which might offer more diversion than suffering through it at the cinema. It’s possible that Renny Harlin has just killed the mytho-buster. I hope not, I still believe someone will make a decent Ancient Greek film one day.
Don’t watch it – it’s a very long way from ‘so bad it’s good’. Watch Xena instead.
In rather more cheering news, looks like someone’s tossing a few real coins at Hercules later in the year. Plus it’s got The Rock looking a bit more like one of my favourite incarnations of Herc – the old Hercules from Jason and The Argonauts.