CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE LEGEND OF HERCULES

Hercules_(2014_film)_posterHere’s my CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review of THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (2014) which went up this weekend at cinemaknifefight.com. Remember, if you like to read about movies, check out cinemaknifefight.com where you’ll find new movie content posted every day by L.L. Soares, myself, and a very talented staff of writers.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (2014)
Review by Michael Arruda

(THE SCENE: An amphitheater in Ancient Greece filled to capacity with a roaring raucous crowd. Six muscular athletes enter the stadium bringing the crowd’s roar to a fever pitch. A Master of Ceremonies holding a microphone quiets the crowd.

MASTER OF CEREMONIES: Welcome everyone to today’s main event. The bout you’ve been waiting for. When six of the strongest men in Greece take on two insane—er, brave challengers.

(A gate opens and a single solitary man enters. It is MICHAEL ARRUDA.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Excuse me, but they didn’t have microphones in Ancient Greece.

MASTER OF CEREMONIES: We didn’t have athletes as sad looking as you either.

MA: Touche. A little CGI help will take care of that. (MA’s head suddenly appears on a muscular body.) Yikes! I look like a Wii creation. I’ll keep my normal appearance, thank you very much. (Body returns to normal).

MASTER OF CEREMONIES: Ladies and Gentlemen, today’s bout has become even more interesting. Today you shall see our six strongest men challenged by only one man! The amazing, incredible, unstoppable Hercules!!! But since he’s booked at a previous engagement, our athletes will be challenged by— him. (points to MA.)

(One person in audience claps.)

MA: L.L. Soares would decide to take this weekend off. Now I have to face these guys alone. Anyway, this is exactly what Hercules had to do in today’s movie, THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (2014), an origin story which explains how Hercules came to be and just what all the hullabaloo was about concerning this ancient hero from classic literature.

I hope to review this movie today, but I’m afraid I’ll have to do it while contending with these six mastodons in the arena with me. Hey, you guys wouldn’t be interested in reviewing today’s movie with me, would you?

(The athletes growl.)

Do you guys even know what a movie is?

(They growl again.)

Looks like I’m not going to get any help from them. (Suddenly points behind the six men) Look! It’s Jessica Alba in a bikini! (The men turn around and look.) That’s my cue.

(MA starts running, and as soon as the athletes see they have been duped, they start chasing him. The crowd cheers.

MA (while running): So, as I was saying, today I’m reviewing THE LEGEND OF HERCULES, the new film about the ancient hero by director Renny Harlin, the man who gave us A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988), DIE HARD 2 (1990), and EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING (2004) to name just a few.

In THE LEGEND OF HERCULES, we meet the evil King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins) who rules his kingdom with an iron fist. This does not sit well with his religious wife Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) who prays to the gods for help. She receives an answer from Zeus that he will give her a son who will one day liberate the land. She accepts, and why not? The invisible Zeus gets to sneak into her bed and the two of them have as wild a time as a PG-13 movie allows. Now we know why Zeus came up with this particular answer! That naughty god!

The son is Hercules (Kellan Lutz) who as a young man lives in the shadow of his older brother Tarak (Johnathon Schaech) because his father the king suspects that Hercules is not his son, which is hard to believe, since Hercules is muscular and strong like the king, and Tarak is whiny and weak.

Hercules falls in love with the beautiful Hebe (Gaia Weiss), but Tarak also has the hots for her, and so the king announces that Tarak will become the next king and will take Hebe as his queen. When Hercules objects, they banish him to a faraway land, hoping he will die there.

Of course, Hercules has other ideas and fights his way back where he hopes to defeat his father and brother and win back his love, Hebe.

Okay, I have to stop running and catch my breath.

(The six athletes catch up to him and surround him. MA pulls out a deck of cards.)

MA: Pick a card, any card. (Each man picks a card.) Okay, anyone have the Ace of Spades? No? That’s too bad, because that’s the magic death card, sanctioned by Zeus. The holder of that card can never die. Hmm, it must still be in this deck somewhere. May the best man win. (Tosses the deck of cards into the air, and as the cards fall to the ground, the six athletes begin to fight each other, as they search for the Ace of Spades.)

MA: That should keep them busy for a while.

I had zero expectations for THE LEGEND OF HERCULES, and while this movie might not have been as bad as I feared, it’s still not all that good.

As a cinematic adventure, it’s all very average. Thankfully, it’s not one of those movies where it’s just one action scene after another. This one definitely has a story to tell, and I was grateful for that, and it’s one of the reasons I didn’t hate this film.

But as stories go, it’s not the most exciting or dramatic. Hercules has to fight his way back to his homeland to oust the evil king and win back his love. I never thought for a minute that he would fail in this endeavor. It’s Hercules, after all. And so, the drama here was nil.

None of the action sequences wowed me. I’ve seen better, and I’ve seen worse. I was thankful that these average fight scenes didn’t go on forever, as they do in some other movies. The scene where Hercules has to fight the six athletes, for example, was okay, but it was hardly exciting. This scene would have worked better had we known who he was fighting, but his opponents only show up for this one scene to be quickly defeated, and we don’t know anything about them.

There’s also another fight scene with a very fake looking CGI created lion, which just might look worse than those awful wolves in the TWILIGHT movies.

CGI effects are really a mixed blessing in a movie like this. On the one hand, filmmakers can create mythical kingdoms and show us hundreds of warriors in a single scene, but if they look animated and not real, it simply takes away from the awe and wonder of it all. No longer are we looking at massive sets built for a particular movie or fantastic stunts by teams of stuntmen. We’re seeing images created on a computer, and while they may look good, they’re not as easy to believe, and as such, the film doesn’t resonate as it should.

The cast is okay, but no one really stood out.

Kellan Lutz is mediocre as Hercules. He’s sufficiently handsome and muscular, and he has his moments where’s likable as the hero, but for the most part he’s rather blah. He comes off as sort of a poor man’s Chris Hems worth. His Hercules is Hemsworth’s Thor without the charisma.

Speaking of Thor, Hercules’ brother Tarak as played by Johnathon Schaech is so whiny and pathetic he makes Thor’s brother Loki seem like a stand-up guy.

Gaia Weiss is acceptable as Hebe, but she doesn’t wow. The same can be said for Roxanne McKee as Hercules’ mother Queen Alcmene, who by the way doesn’t seem to age in this movie. She looks exactly the same in her early scenes before Hercules is born as she does later in the story when he’s an adult. In fact, in scenes she shares with Hebe, she looks to be about the same age as her future daughter-in-law.

Scott Adkins fares slightly better as the villainous King Amphitryon. At least he looks like a true meanie, even if we don’t see him do a lot of dastardly things. In terms of screen villains, he’s hardly a blip on the radar, which has less to do with his performance and more to do with the writers inability to create a three dimensional character.

I also enjoyed Liam McIntyre as Sotiris, the king’s ex-soldier who finds himself imprisoned with Hercules. The two men forge a friendship, and Sotiris is by Hercules’ side as they work their way back to the kingdom. In a cast which hardly had much oomph and charisma, McIntyre showed a little of both in this decent supporting role.

I saw THE LEGEND OF HERCULES in 3D, not by choice, but because it was the only version available. That being said, strangely, the 3D effects were my favorite part of this movie. The film looked terrific, and I found myself really admiring the 3D visuals in this one. Of course, one reason I was admiring them so much was because I was bored with the story, but I can’t deny that this film looked excellent in 3D.

THE LEGEND OF HERCULES could really have benefitted from a stronger story and some memorable dialogue. The screenplay by Daniel Giat, Renny Harlin, Sean Hood, Giulio Steve offers neither.

This particular story of Hercules lacks conflict. Everything comes so easily for Hercules it’s a bore after a while. When he says things like “I promise I will get you back home alive,” it’s not saying much because in this movie he fails at nothing, so of course he’s going to get his friend back home alive.

And the characters here have zero personalities. Hercules is a good guy, but you know what? He would have been more interesting had he had some flaws peppered onto him. He comes off as Superman in a loin cloth. Truth, justice, and the Greek way!

King Amphitryon is not much more than a cardboard villain. He’s a bad guy because he scowls and says evil things, and sure, he does get to kill a couple of people, but he’s as interesting as one of those CGI soldiers defending his kingdom.

THE LEGEND OF HERCULES is rated PG-13, which means the fight scenes are all neat and tidy and sanitized without any bloodshed, which makes the film even less convincing. Not that I need to see a bloodbath, but when people are stabbed with spears and they don’t bleed, that kinda cuts into the believability factor. I mean, what am I watching here? An adventure movie for adults or for children?

The final nail in the coffin is the film just doesn’t have any crowd pleasing moments. There weren’t any scenes where Hercules really connects with the audience, either through an exciting action sequence or with a dramatic or humorous line of dialogue. Speaking of humor, the film could have used some. It’s flat throughout.

While I certainly didn’t hate THE LEGEND OF HERCULES, I didn’t like it all that much either, and I certainly can’t recommend running out to the theater to see it, unless you have nothing better to do and have extra cash to spare on the cost of the 3D ticket, because the 3D effects do look good. But other than that, stay away.

I give it two knives. It gets this rating rather than just one knife because I did like those 3D effects. So, that’s that.

ATHLETE: Hey, I’ve killed everyone here, and gone through all the cards, and I still haven’t found the Ace of Spades!

MA (grins): That’s because I have it right here. (shows him the Ace of Spades.)

ATHLETE: Why you—!

MA: Don’t look now, but there’s a monstrous Cyclops coming up behind you.

ATHLETE: Yeah, right. Just like Jessica Alba in a bikini.

MA: Well, he’s not as good looking as Alba in a bikini, but—.

(CYCLOPS pulls off ATHLETE’S head and tosses it into the crowd.)

MA: Thanks. I owe you one.

CYCLOPS: You’ll put in a good word for me if they ever do a new Sinbad movie?

MA: You bet I will! (CYCLOPS smiles and exits.)

Okay, folks, that’s it for now. L.L. SOARES will be back with me next week, and we’ll be reviewing another new movie, right here at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.

—END—

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