‘Hercules’ Review

Published 9 months ago by , Updated October 7th, 2014 at 1:10 am,

hercules movie 2014 review Hercules Review

Basically, if the phrase Brett Ratner’s Hercules starring The Rock sounds like a fun movie to you, then you’ll get your money’s worth from the film.

In Hercules, the eponymous super-strong warrior (Dwayne Johnson) has become a legend for (supposedly) being the son of Zeus and having performed his twelve labors; nowadays, though, he and his loyal band of fellow mercenaries now spend their time working to earn gold – and not much else. Herc and his buddies are then approached by Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson), the daughter of Cotys, King of Thrace (John Hurt), who offers a substantial payment. The job? Hercules and his crew will train the King’s army to do battle with a dangerous – and possibly supernatural – warlord named Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann).

However, even as he transforms the Thracian peasants into the deadliest of fighters imaginable, Hercules finds that he cannot escape a tragedy from his past that has come to define him – nor can he ignore his troubled conscience, once he realizes just how far he has fallen from his days of heroism. When a chance for redemption presents itself, it’s left up to Herc to rally his comrades, save the day, and prove once and for all that Hercules the Mighty Hero is more than just a legend.

Hercules is the second Hollywood studio-backed film released in 2014 to feature the titular demigod, arriving on the scene less than seven months after director Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules (starring Kellan Lutz as a young Herc). Johnson’s vehicle, by comparison, never really comes close to being a remarkable re-imagining of the Hercules mythos, but it does a better job of providing charmingly hammy entertainment – thanks primarily to its charismatic leading man and a screenplay that generally knows not to take itself too seriously.

hercules dwayne johnson1 Hercules Review

Herc (Dwayne Johnson) in battle in ‘Hercules’

Based loosely on Steve Moore and Cris Bolsin’s graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian War, the script for Hercules was penned by Ryan J. Condal (The Sixth Gun) and Evan Spiliotopoulos (Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, Cinderella III: A Twist in Time). As such, this film ends up often feeling akin to a mashup of ancient mythology with comparatively more contemporary B-movie tropes (cheesy one-liners, action-driven storytelling, and so on), plus a rogues’ gallery of colorful supporting characters and personalities that you might expect to find in a PG-13 Rated Disney feature. Unlike the Mouse House’s Hercules animated musical, however, this movie tries to deconstruct the centuries-old superhero’s legacy and examine larger ideas about how legends are formed and what true heroism means – but has very limited success doing so.

In part, that’s because Hercules – like a handful of other notable Summer 2014 blockbusters – feels as though it has been heavily edited and chopped down, with moments of meaningful character and/or thematic development having been stripped away (but the action sequences maintained), in order to keep a tighter running time. The other major problem is director Brett Ratner (the Rush Hour trilogy, X-Men: The Last Stand), who to his credit, makes sure the film delivers on its promise of epic battle scenarios – as each act of the film contains at least one major fight sequence – but does so with little sense of style or creativity, from a technical perspective.

hercules dwayne johnson cast Hercules Review

Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Dwayne Johnson, and Reece Ritchie in ‘Hercules’

Ratner and his frequent collaborator, director of photography Dante Spinotti, stage all the sword-clashing, arrow-flying, action in Hercules in a visually clean fashion (read: no handheld camerawork for heightened “realism”), though it often feels as though the film is just marking off items on a checklist from an Epic Moviemaking 101 book (see: Lord of the Rings-esque swooping helicopter shots of the landscapes in Budapest where it was shot) – which is to say, Ratner’s direction is barely passable. On a related note: Hercules was clearly not designed with 3D in mind; save for a handful of pop-out visual gimmicks, there’s not much to be gained from watching the movie in 3D instead of 2D. (You don’t lose anything either, so it really depends on your preferences, when it comes to which format you ought to choose.)

Johnson, as such, is responsible for carrying much of the film on his shoulders – which he does, yak hair beard and all. The Rock’s Hercules isn’t exactly what you would call complex – basically, a disillusioned superhero who’s never gone that dark since his fall from grace – but he is compelling enough and easy to root for. Similarly, Herc’s family of warriors – including the sardonic Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), stern Amazonian warrior Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), and the animalistic Tydeus (Aksel Hennie) – are all pretty much two-dimensional, but the cast members’ likable performances help to make up the difference.

hercules movie 2014 ian mcshane Hercules Review

Amphiaraus (Ian McShane) in ‘Hercules’

Ian McShane as Amphiaraus, a member of Herc’s band whose seer abilities are rather questionable, ably handles the task of providing both comic relief and necessary exposition/narration, while Reece Ritchie as Herc’s young “cousin” Iolaus, who yearns to be a great warrior, is the only actor outside of Johnson whose character really has an arc in the story. The remainder of the cast is stuck portraying stock archetypes – Rebecca Ferguson’s Ergenia is a damsel in distress, Joseph Fiennes as King Eurystheus (a character from Herc’s past) gives the appearance of a benevolent ruler, and so on – whose motivations are dictated by the demands of the script’s narrative, above all else.

At the end of the day, though, Hercules is mostly geared towards providing the sort of tongue in cheek, lunkheaded summer blockbuster entertainment as, say, Johnson’s previous swords and sandals genre vehicle, The Scorpion King – as well as the Mummy movie franchise that spawned that film – and in that sense, it’s more success than failure. Basically, if the phrase “Brett Ratner’s Hercules starring The Rock” sounds like a fun movie to you, then you’ll get your money’s worth from the film.


Hercules is now playing in 2D and 3D theaters. It is 100 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for epic battle sequences, violence, suggestive comments, brief strong language and partial nudity.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

Follow Sandy Schaefer on Twitter @feynmanguy
TAGS: Hercules
Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. Expected

    • +1
      From the second I watched the trailer, nope… scratch that, from the second Johnson said he’s doing the movie, I have ZERO interest for the movie. And this is coming from someone who has been a fan of Greek myth. Was thinking Kellan Lutz fits the part better, but then the movie went off the roof into a quicksand. Sad that Hollywood never get HerAKLES correct… (Hercules is the Roman name)

      • Well…in the common english world, most people don’t know anything abourt Heracles

  2. +1

    I wasn’t gonna fall for this one.

    Being between Dawn of the Plante of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy was always going to be tough. Will it flop at the box office? We’ll see.

  3. That sense that there was more story here that got cut to appease the gods of “Run-Time” sounds like a turn off for me, but I do love your closer:

    “…if the phrase ‘Brett Ratner’s Hercules starring The Rock’ sounds like a fun movie to you, then you’ll get your money’s worth from the film.”

    That’s like a perfect one-sentence review summary!

  4. Zero to hero in no time flat.

    • Hi-oh!

    • I completely agree with u :) It’s like the reviewer was late for the movie’s start and skipped the middle to go to the toilet, so he missed the refreshing parts and only saw the crappy blockbuster parts.

      • I actually have to agree. I likes Edge of Tomorrow and Planet of the Apes more, but this movie was actually a nice surprise for me It was actually quite the opposite of how the reviewer is describing it, and was actually the opposite of how the trailer portrayed it. It’s not often that they are able to market a film that really doesn’t give anything away from the film. But they managed to do so for this movie. So for me, I went in expecting a Kevin Sorbo cheesy Hercules movie and actually got a pretty “grounded” Hercules movies instead. So it was definitely a good surprise for me, especially considering the director…

  5. I had so much fun in this movie. The audience was loving it too, they applauded several big moments.

    It wasn’t more that a 3 star movie, but it played with those 3 stars VERY well.

    • I need to go to one of those theaters where the audience actually reacts. Indianapolis, Austin, Los Angeles, all relatively stoic movie-goers.

      • Here in Britain, we’re all stoic. Then again, we like to appreciate what we’re watching and take everything in so other people making any kind of noise irritates us. We generally tend to go to the movies to enjoy a film, not to randomly shout “Hell yeah!” at certain moments of glory in a film.

        • Yah man, those dirty rotten different people…

          • Haha, yeah, right?

            At Apes last week, most of the audience applauded, which is the first time I’ve ever heard a British audience applaud a film and one guy behind me even asked his companion, “Why is everyone clapping?”.

            I’ve mentioned my disdain for others making noise during a film before though. Even my family get annoyed with me sometimes because they’d come to visit while I’m watching a show and I’ll have it paused for over an hour if I have to until they leave so I can continue watching in peace because I hate missing out on a possibly important plot point due to someone talking.

            • Fall in line or else!

      • I don’t really disagree with any of the details of Sandy’s review. I would probably give it 2.5-3 stars, but I just found it really fun.

        It was a movie that didn’t take itself too seriously at all, which allowed me to also not take it seriously and have fun.

      • @Pirate

        Eh, I haven’t agreed with Screen Rant’s scores in quite some time. I actually agree with your summary of this year’s movies…

    • Same here in Australia. Nobody claps of cheers anything. Just sit, laugh, and exit.

      • Sounds like a blast…

        I fully understand not being disruptive, but there are definitely moments in movies that were meant to elicit a verbal response. It’s why they generally give some time afterwards before dialogue resumes. And there was definitely one scene in this movie (that really “cheesy” speech from the first trailer that was actually really good once it was put into context) that deserved cheering.

        • I dunno, for me, if you laugh at something that’s meant to be funny, I don’t mind that, I just don’t like when people yell during big action pieces and I’m not alone.

          I remember one screening, I forget which film but a massive chase happened and the hero killed one of the henchmen at the end of it and one guy down in front yelled “Hell yeah!” and another on the other side of the room yelled back “Shut the f*** up, idi0t!”, which raised applause from people who were annoyed by the first guy.

          • You guys sound like a blast to be around, really… Let’s applaud someone for insulting someone he/she doesn’t know. Not to mention, 7 syllables definitely disrupted the movie more than 2, and then the applause. So basically, disrupting a movie is ok if it was antagonistic toward someone, but being genuinely excited, now that’s just wrong… smh

  6. another ‘sunday matinee movie starring the rock’ (tooth fairy, the game plan)

  7. Not that I buy into creator boycotts, but this sounds awful. The original story is about Hercules creating an evil army and them conquering everything before he has to stop them. It is complex and enthralling. I rarely read comics because I don’t like them. I read this mini series though, and it was fantastic.

    I also refuse to go to Brett Ratner movies. They are so lacking in soul. I always feel empty afterwards.


      That’s exactly what happens. Trains an army, realises he misjudged the reasons for it, fights against them.

      Apologies if that ruined the film for anyone but honestly, that’s what happens and the mythological stuff (the hydra scene, the lion, etc) were all in the opening montage so the trailer deceived us all on that count.

      Saying that, did I think it was a bad movie? Not really but it’s not a good movie either. It seemed to zip by, which is refreshing considering some movies tend to drag on but when the end credits come up, it’s a case of “Oh, that’s it then?”.

  8. why is the word “supposedly” in the first sentence? It based on a myth.

    Also, the first paragraph is a giant run on sentence.

    • I would assume that they’re talking within the movie itself – i.e. “Hercules is *said* to be the son of Zeus” being the phrase passed around among citizens of whatever town he’s coming to.

    • Not having seen this movie yet, I imagine “supposedly” emphasizes the attitude many people around the fallen hero currently hold about the veracity of his demigodhood.

      As for the first first paragraph being a run-on sentence…NO. It is just composed of two complete (reeeally long) sentences.

      • Oops…only ONE “first”.


    • What are you talking about? There are four clear sentences in that first paragraph.

      • Yes…two long ones, one relatively normal one, and one two-word question…I had forgotten the two shorter sentences. My comment to crippler_p still stands, otherwise.


    • It’s written because it’s a plot point.

  9. Even though I know they’re bad, I really do enjoy the first 2 mummy movies so I’ll Probably like this. Im probably just gonna rent it, though. I’ll go see Lucy this weekend instead.

    • Don’t do that. Believe me, you’ll regret it.

  10. Surprisingly, no complaints that the Amazonian woman was the same body shape as Gal Gadot, who is playing the most famous Amazonian in comic books. I guess the fact that the Amazon in this film was such a badass alongside her male counterparts would allow people to ignore that (I’d hope) but should be interesting to see the reactions of those who think Amazonian women should be played by 6’3 female bodybuilders rather than being shown to be tough, strong women regardless of height and shape.

  11. I don’t like Hercules the character (Love the other Greek & Roman myths and heroes), I don’t like Rock the wrestler (like him as an actor), and I don’t like Ratner the Director, so I was hoping for a 1-star review, and so I’m disappointed.

  12. Hercules was not bad at all. The story made sense and the dialogue was OK. I always expect sword and sandal movies to be filled with mostly British accents, unneeded sexy girls for no reason and bad acting. This really only had the British accent thing. The action was cool and The Rock’s acting was not horrible (it did remind me of the scorpion king a little bit though). Other than that, I liked it and it was basically worth the Imax ticket, that is if you watch it early and get the ticket for $13 :)
    Also I got chills when he gained his god strength, my favorite part.

  13. Saw this on Thursday.
    I didnt hate it, but was a little disappointed.
    Thought the cast was fantastic though!

  14. I saw it yesterday and it was a lot better than I expected. Of course, almost everything that the article explains is true… But at the end I wanted fun and I received fun. All the people in my theater liked it a lot too. I recommend this movie any time of the day. I don’t have the problem that some people do when they think they know a lot about movies and talk bad thing easily.

  15. This sounds just like the film to watch at my local theater’s $6 Tuesdays! Go in with a big tub of popcorn, some Snow Caps and it sounds like a fun time!

  16. Irina Shayk that is all

  17. God you really hate Brett Ralner don’t you. And what’s with people trying to get a three hour movie every time?

    Either way, I found Hercules delivers and unlike X-3, which is totally off the mark.

  18. Not surprised this came out better than the other Hercules film that was just released, but I do not know what people were expecting out of these projects. It is not like there is some long history of great Hercules films. Those old Hercules films from the 60’s make the original Conan look like a Masterpiece Theater production of a Shakespeare play.


    • Your keyboard must be malfunctioning. You typed “realalistick”.

  20. I enjoyed it. I had fun. I’ve always enjoyed the Hercules/Herakles myths and so I thought this was a fun deconstructive romp through them. I enjoyed the animations over the end credits reflecting the labors and how they were performed (although the hydra was an interesting ‘wait a minute’ one.)

    I like The Rock, dude sweats charisma. He even tried acting in this one. Couldn’t complain about it.

    It wasn’t perfect. And I do agree with Ratners Direction & whoever the DP and Cinematographers were. Average to TV quality.

    But the movie itself was a fun flick. I found myself really chuckling along with Ian McShane.

    Couldn’t help but wonder why there was a viking in the middle of the movie, but otherwise good popcorn flick. I got my bucket of popcorn. Enjoyed the hell out of it. And went about my day. Not a bad way to do it during record highs for July.

  21. I actually did see the movie (Who rants on movies they don’t see????? So bizarre….)

    I think that it is better than Dawn of the Apes. This movie is not too long, and does not plod along, the slow parts are not too long. Also, the character development, I think, actually better than Dawn of the Apes.

    The audience loved Ian McShane as Amphiaraus. Everyone laughed hilariously at his ridiculous scenes.

    Way better than 300: Rise of an Empire. I could actually connect with the limited (not quite epic) character development in this movie.

    The Battle Royale in the mud was not as good as the prison yard battle in The Raid 2.

    When I mentioned this movie to people, they all wanted to see The Rock. He was okay, but I prefer Kevin Sorbo of the TV series. Lame, I know. Otherwise, The Rock puts in a solid performance for the material that he’s given.

    If your development has arrested at the tenth grade level, then this movie would be an epic 5-star movie for you. For me, I give it three or four stars.

  22. so hollywood fcked another greek mythos…
    thank you america.

  23. Great review but do you know who sings the song that plays over the animated end credits showing the 12 labors as they were done??? It’s driving me crazy

  24. 3.5 stars from me. A fun heroic romp loosely informed by Greek mythology.

  25. Horrible movie, all the cool scenes in the preview where he is doing the 12 labors that’s the entire scene, all in brief flashbacks from story telling, I wish they would have let us know it wasn’t about myth and fantasy and just a realistic look and how an exaggerated legend could happen.

    Although not as terrible as the other Hercules this year

  26. Actually I think this was better than The Legend of Hercules. I don’t say I have not seen a better movie :) but it was better than the other Hercules.

  27. Hercules was the best, it just refreshing and real. Loved it! Best action, superhero movie ever! I just watched it, am still a bit excited!