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on March 19, 2014
Hercules has always been a popular subject for movies. So after Greek mythology-themed fantasy movies like "300," "Immortals" and "Clash of the Titans," it's not surprising that Hollywood would dredge him up again.
Unfortunately, they cast the meathead from "Twilight" as Hercules. And the terrible casting is only one of the problems in "The Legend of Hercules" -- it feels like a cheap TV movie version of an actual blockbuster movie, with claustrophobic sets, random eruptions of slow-mo and uber-cheesy dialogue. Even worse, it cribs from the earlier Grecian myth movies while lacking even a shred of their style.
Repelled by her power-hungry husband King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) makes a deal with the goddess Hera: Zeus will have sex with her, and she will have a son named Hercules who will destroy Amphitryon. Yeah, because Hera was always okay with her husband boinking human women. Amphitryon, suspecting the baby isn't his, names him Alcides.
Two decades later, Alcides/Hercules (Kellan Lutz) is in love with Princess Hebe (Gaia Weiss), but she's betrothed to his wimpy brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan). They try and fail to run away together, and Amphitryon punishes Alcides/Hercules by sending him off on an undermanned mission.
Of course, the undermanned mission gets slaughtered, except for Hercules and his buddy Captain Sotiris (Liam McIntyre), and they are quickly sold into slavery as gladiators... because yeah, they had LOTS of those in ancient pre-Romanic Egypt. Hercules' superhuman strength allows him to free himself and Sotiris, but he must somehow seize his father's kingdom before his brother weds Hebe... or something like that.
"The Legend of Hercules" really feels like a TV movie knockoff of a blockbuster movie, or maybe a halfhearted TV pilot. It certainly doesn't feel like a movie with seventy million dollars behind it -- everything feels very cheap and lackluster, especially since they apparently have no sets larger than my living room, and the special effects are mostly confined to bad lightning flashes.
Of course, director Renny Harlin doesn't help matters. After all, this is the guy who gave us movies like "The Covenant," "A Nightmare on Elm Street 4," "Cutthroat Island" and "Exorcist: The Beginning," so he directs like an amateur who has just figured out the mechanics of film.
For instance, the movie has random bursts of slow-motion -- not the climactic parts of fights, but horses leaping over logs or Hercules tossing a dead body away. It's like Harlin keeps dozing off and accidentally pushing the "slo-mo" button. He also rather blatantly copies the defiant-demigod-who-doesn't-believe-in-the-gods-because-they're-mean-until-he-totally-needs-their-help dynamic that was forefront in "Clash of the Titans" and "Immortals," which comes across as hollow and simplistic.
Admittedly some of the "Gladiator"-lite action scenes are decent, but the movie falls into lurching lethargy as soon as they stop. Both fights and romantic scenes are wooden enough to give you splinters, and the dialogue is the sort of tin-eared kitschy cheez that you would expect of... well, whatever the ancient Greeks had instead of chick-flicks ("In my mind's eye, where your face has been etched since the first day I saw you").
And Kellan Lutz... oh, Kellan Lutz. He speaks with the charisma of a dead seal and the intensity of a constipation victim. He looks like he's straining his acting talents whenever he's forced to speak more than five words in a row, and you can practically hear the wind whistling between his ears when he tries to be righteously outraged. This role needed a Chris Hemsworth, and instead we got an Emmett Cullen.
Most of the other actors are either blandly generic (Weiss), two-dimensional (Garrigan) or engaging in frothing scenery-chewing (Adkins, who seems to be channeling Nicolas Cage). The mighty and passionate goddess Hera is turned into a whining, crying wimp. The only person who gives a semi-decent performance is Liam McIntyre, who easily outshines Lutz.
"The Legend of Hercules" leaves you pining for Kevin Sorbo or longing for The Rock -- a cheap-looking, inept disaster of a film that fails in basically every way. Only watch it if you've already bought the Rifftrax.