Captain America, Spider-Man, and the X-Men are heading back to the big screen in the months ahead, prior to the return of another super-powered screen warrior, in the shape of Hercules – the son of Zeus and basis for the modern superhero archetype. We’ve already seen the character in theaters once this year, when Kellan Lutz headlined Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules in January (you’re forgiven if you’d already forgotten about that movie).

The upcoming Hercules is based on the Hercules: The Thracian Wars comic books – by Steve Moore and Admira Wijaya – and features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as an older (and disillusioned) version of the eponymous mythological figure, who has completed his arduous 12 Labors only to have settled into a jaded existence as a mercenary for hire.

Johnson kept his many Twitter followers updated on the film’s progress throughout production, but now we have some official photos of the actor in character (via USA Today), ahead of the official trailer launch this week.

As you can see below, The Rock got especially ripped for this role – which is saying something for the ex-wrestler – in addition to having endured a daily hours-long makeup process during shooting, which included having a beard made of actual yak hair (yep) attached to his face – so that Johnson might bear a stronger physical resemblance to the character as depicted in Moore and Wijaya’s source material. (Itself, a generally well-respected graphic novel re-interpretation of the centuries-old mythological story.)

Legend of Hercules was, in my opinion, a rather clunky misfire, which fell fare short of being an entertaining pop action movie treatment of the swords and sandals genre (using modern 3D technology) – or even a delightfully cheesy rendition of the story, a la the 1983 film starring Lou Ferrigno. Johnson’s Hercules movie is already an improvement in terms of casting; in addition to its charismatic leading man, the actor roster includes Ian McShane (Jack the Giant Slayer), John Hurt (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special), and Joseph Fiennes (American Horror Story: Asylum), among other revered character actors.

Less encouraging, however, is the name Brett Ratner, who directed the second Hercules film of 2014. This month’s 300: Rise of an Empire is not without its faults, but at least that swords and sandals flick draws from its comic book roots to create a stylishly romanticized vision of history – not really something you expect, from the director of the Rush Hour trilogy and X-Men: The Last Stand. Still, maybe Ratner will surprise us.

For more on that, check back on Screen Rant tomorrow, when the Hercules trailer is due to drop online!

Hercules opens in U.S. theaters on July 25th, 2014.

Source: USA Today