Hollywood's 2014 movie roster will include dueling copycat projects, as there are two different takes on the Hercules set to arrive next year. The better known project is simply titled Hercules - and is based on the popular "Hercules: The Thracian Wars" comic book - while the other is known as Hercules 3D, and has existed in some form dating back to 2007.
Brett Ratner (Rush Hour 1-3, X-Men: The Last Stand) is directing Hercules, which has Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson headlining and character actors like Ian McShane, Joseph Fiennes and John Hurt rounding out the supporting cast. Meanwhile, Hercules 3D is coming together under the supervision of Renny Harlin, who made a living by churning out pop action movies in the 1990s (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight) but dropped off most people's radar after a decade of making more obscure titles (12 Rounds) and directing television shows (Burn Notice).
Heat Vision has the exclusive scoop on Nu Image/Millennium and Harlin casting Kellan Lutz as the lead in Hercules 3D. For those who don't recognize the name, Lutz played the hunk vampire Emmett Cullen in all five Twilight movies released to date, in addition to appearing on the Generation Kill TV mini-series, the 90210 TV show and the Nightmare on Elm Street remake; he also has experience in the area of modern sword and sandals/mythology tentpoles, having portrayed the god Poseidon in director Tarsem Singh's Immortals.
Hercules is based on a screenplay from prospective up and coming screenwriter Ryan Condal - who co-scripted Alex Proyas' canceled Paradise Lost adaptation - and revisions provided by Evan Spiliotopoulos, the first writer hired to pen Wanted 2 and the developing Asteroids video game movie. By comparison, the Hercules 3D script credit is shared by Harlin, Sean Hood (Conan the Barbarian (2011)) and lesser-known Giulio Steve.
While I give Hercules the edge over its 3D counterpart for having the better proven and charismatic star (to mention nothing of Johnson's more appropriate physique) as well as cast in general and screenwriting talent, it's hard to shake off the feeling that neither of these projects will come anywhere near to capturing the thematic poetry and grandeur emotion of classic mythology. Stories like Hercules' are, after all, the basis for Shakespearean drama and modern-day superheroes; hence, there is no good reason why a contemporary film adaptation cannot have, say, the visual style of Ridley Scott period fare (Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Robin Hood) mixed with the raw intensity and relevance of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.
Instead, we get stuff like Clash of the Titans and Immortals, which basically amount to corny fun, but empty popcorn entertainment. Maybe one of these upcoming Hercules flicks will manage to buck that trend, but color me doubtful for the time being.
Hercules opens in theaters on July 25th, 2014.
Hercules 3D begins filming this May in Bulgaria, for a release in 2014.