Hercules is a property that has been showing reduced strength, lately. The Legend of Hercules origin movie (starring Kellan Lutz) struck out big time at the start of 2014; as of now, Brett Ratner’s film about the later years of the Greek hero’s life has very little hype propelling it along – other than the fact that it stars Dwayne Johnson in the titular role. In fact, the first Hercules trailer did more to hurt the film than promote it, combining overly dramatic voice-over narration with a montage of silly looking CGI beasts, book-ended by a final shot of Johnson screaming his head off. Thankfully, this new trailer provides a bit more “sell.”
Based on the comic book series Hercules: Thracian Wars by industry icon Steve Moore, the film follows Hercules after his twelve labors of legend are completed, and his family is dead. Living as a broken man and sword-for-hire, Hercules has formed a clan with six other warriors, and they are hired by the King of Thrace to train the most ruthless army the world has ever known. However, in doing this dark task, Hercules and his clan must reconcile their new life as brutal mercenaries with their old lives as heroes of legend.
To be fair, neither of the trailers released for Hercules really showcase the character drama and moral quandary at the center of the film. Even with this newer, longer, preview, the film seems to sell an epic quest populated by mythical monsters; however, it is likely those moments are flashbacks to Hercules’ younger years completing the twelve labors.
As for the actual story at hand: we get flashes of actors we know (and some we really don’t), who all sport names that will be hard for almost anyone to remember. Beyond a female warrior (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and Ian McShane spouting vague rhetoric, there’s little in the trailer to help distinguish who the respective supporting characters are, and how they fit into the story. Nevertheless, this film has managed to attracted talent like Joseph Fiennes, John Hurt and Rufus Sewell, among others (like model Irina Shayk).
As it stands, the CGI creatures and big action moments in the trailer look more complete and presentable as summer blockbuster fare (read: better rendering) – but like Legend of Hercules, there is something about this project, in general, that feels on the “straight to DVD” level. Johnson has earned a lot of leading man clout – but this isn’t the way to use it. If there is more to this film than initially meets the eye, we’ll be just as surprised as anyone.
Hercules will be in theaters on July 25, 2014.