The Legend of Hercules
(99 minutes, Rated PG-13)
Every once in a while, the public gets to enjoy ‘a pissing contest’ between two studios fighting to release their interpretation of the same intellectual property. This common practice is the result of the studios using stories that are available in the public domain: for instance, two separate adaptations of Truman Capote’s life was made with the critically acclaimed Capote and the ill-fated Infamous. Now, when this happens, both studios attempt to get their product out first to maximize the box office revenue; and the latest character to be given this treatment is the half-god half-man Hercules.
In the end, The Legend of Hercules starring Kellan Lutz and directed by the ‘washed up’ Renny Harlin beat the Dwayne Johnson and Brett Ratner Hercules by nearly six months; however, the need to be first results in a rushed treatment of a great character: which minimizes the complex Hercules into a ‘Twilight-like’ figure. And now, the audience is left with a bonafide mess, which at times feels so bad that it is fun to watch; yet even with the euphoria of schadenfreude, the Kellan Lutz vehicle justifies its 3% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Now, one of the worst parts of The Legend of Hercules is its uninspired look; they attempt to copy 300,but forget to use a stylized color, which is what made the Spartan movie stand out. Instead the audience is left with a dull and bland color palette that uses so much dark grey that it looks like someone rubbed dirt on the screen. On top of this, when one attempts a 300-like movie, the abundance of CGI requires it to be top notch. However, a lot like the recently released 300 sequel/prequel, this version of Hercules has some of the worst CGI in recent memory. Where did the $70 million budget go? It certainly was not the actors because the biggest name in the picture is Scott Adkins.
And it was not wasted on set design because they are so poorly built and shot that it makes this supposed ‘epic story’ look like it was filmed on a sound stage. Every time the movie goes to a town where there are supposed to be hundreds of extras, Renny Harlin shoots the scene with such a limited scope that it feels like the town is inhabited by just a few people. On top of that, when the movie builds up to the big action set pieces, the action is so contained that it limits the impact of the battle; even the ‘final battle scene’ results in a one on one fight between Hercules and the antagonist. This would be fine if the backdrop was the huge battle waging between both sides; however, the one on one battle takes place in an enclosed room with a few variables thrown in for good measure. And to make matters worse, the former ‘action director’ cannot properly shoot an action sequence; the matrix like qualities mixed with the bland choreography and fast edits, which has become a horrible staple in the genre, result in a mish-mash of poorly executed ideas.
Yet, somehow certain elements of the picture maintain a distinct charm that almost makes me feel bad for bashing it: it is like when a child hands you a terrible drawing, yet you do not want to criticize him or her for trying. In the case of the director Renny Harlin, he certainly phoned this one in for a paycheck; but the actors were genuinely trying, which results in them spewing terrible dialogue with horrid line delivery that equates to ‘The Room.’ However, the little enjoyment I got out of its laughably bad scenes does not make this worth wasting 99 minutes of your life.
And the main problem is the leading man, Kellan Lutz, who is in ‘way over his head:’ between his terrible accent and emotionless face, one can tell that he is really trying despite his limitations. And instead of aiding his performance with editing, it seems the editor gave up on this picture halfway through the process. There are certain scenes that feel like footage from before the director yelled ‘action:’ which further hinders Lutz’s horrendous acting. But I truly feel bad for Roxanne Mckee, Liam McIntrye, and Scott Adkins who would all shine in a better flick; it also helps that their accents are the least ridiculous. Their valiant efforts are under-appreciated in a movie that has some of the worst acting in recent years.
With that said, the fun I had at the beginning slowly waned as the picture continued; any good will from the laughably bad ‘air sex scene’ or Hercules’ neck breaking fight with the horribly CGI Lion is lost when the action sequences become interminable. And instead of ‘turning my brain off at the door’ fun, I am left baffled by the decisions of all those involved. This product sits on the same level as Uwe Boll’s work: for those who do not know, Uwe Boll is this generation’s Ed Wood, but with less charisma and tenacity. Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules could still be bad and I am sure it will be better than The Legend of Hercules. This movie fails on all levels, yet I am not surprised that the studio’s greed precedes the need to make a good movie.