The (not a) fan-favorite director Brett Ratner is gearing up to begin shooting the comic book adaptation Hercules, a (dare we use the words) darker and grittier take on Greek mythology that casts Dwayne Johnson as the titular warrior - who, in this version, is not the son of Zeus, but instead a disillusioned mortal who leads a band of mercenaries for hire (some 3,000 years in the past).
Hercules was inspired by the graphic novel "Hercules: The Thracian Wars" created by Steve Moore and Admira Wijaya. The screenplay for Ratner's movie was penned by Ryan Condal - who co-wrote Alex Proyas' defunct Paradise Lost movie - and got a subsequent rewrite from Evan Spiliotopoulos, a former direct-to-video Disney animated sequel screenwriter (he also did uncredited work on Snow White and the Huntsman and the Asteroids video game movie adaptation).
We learned earlier this week that Rufus Sewell (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) has joined the Hercules cast, but a fresher casting update from THR reveals that Deadwood fan-favorite Ian McShane (who is currently starring on the big screen in Jack the Giant Slayer) has boarded the project, claiming the role of Hercules' counselor Amphiarus.
Meanwhile, Joseph Fiennes - whose character suffered greatly at the hands of the psychotic "Santa Claus" that McShane memorably played in American Horror Story: Asylum - has also hopped on the Hercules train. Rounding out the cast are such people as John Hurt (Immortals), Aksel Hennie (Headhunters) and British singer-sonwriter Rebecca Ferguson.
Ratner's films, as indicated before, usually have little to no problem selling tickets at the box office, even when the professional critics and fans are mostly unified in their not-so-pleasant feelings about his work (see: X-Men: The Last Stand, Rush Hour 3). As noted by some of our readers, a grounded take on the Hercules legend could make for a historical blockbuster that genuinely deserves the label "epic," in terms of emotional content and spectacle alike. With Ratner at the helm, though, it's probably best to expect something of similar quality to Wrath of the Titans.
Of course, a dunder-headed swords-and-sandals romp starring "The Rock" is what many audience members will expect, nay want, to sit down and watch in a comfort of an air-conditioned theater during the middle of summer. Besides, going by the casting alone, this has the potential to be one of Ratner's better offerings (a la Red Dragon).
Hercules opens in theaters on July 25th, 2014.