(out of 5)
The man of legend, venerated in Greek mythology and the subject of many an animated series, gladiator movie and even a Disney film has returned to the big screen and the truth will be revealed. Is Hercules the demigod that his storytelling nephew tells everyone he is, or just a mercenary warrior who gets top-paying jobs thanks to good press? Dwayne Johnson appears in the title role, appealing both as performer and beefcake, leading a loyal group of skilled fighters into a lucrative assignment for the king of Thrace. The Greek kingdom is being threatened by rebel fighters and the monarch (played with great vigor by John Hurt) needs the Hercules crew to put them down. They do, but that isn’t the end of the story when the man’s noble sense of right and wrong is pitted against the ambitions of greedy men. Then there’s the issue of the hero’s own dark, controversial past and the possibility that he is neither as pure nor as supernaturally upsized as he claims to be. Terrific action sequences, appealing production design and committed performances make for a thoroughly fun night at the movies, hopefully one that will lead to very welcome sequels. Given the silliness of most of the battle scenes, making a pragmatic version of a fantasy-laden myth is an unnecessary bow to modern skepticism, there really is room for Zeus and Company to be genuinely present even if the Clash Of The Titans reboot was garbage and maligned that legacy; thankfully, director Brett Ratner treats the proceedings with the same light touch that he would have wisely applied to a more fanciful version of the tale, and at some points the film gets downright corny, but with a self-aware charm that only makes it that much more enjoyable to behold.
Directed by Brett Ratner
Cinematography by Dante Spinotti
Production Design by Jean-Vincent Puzos
Costume Design by Jany Temime