It is unlikely that Hercules will be included in a Best of 2014 list by any reputable film critic (or me, come to that), but nor would I include it my Worst of. As these things go (think Pompeii, Immortals or 300) this isn't that bad, and above all, it neither takes itself too seriously nor goes on too long.
Despite locating the action rather oddly in 350 BC (over 100 years after the Spartans held the Persians at Thermopylae), the storyline initially adheres to the myth of Hercules. He completes 12 impossible tasks, kills his wife and children in a rage brought on by act of treachery, and is an outcast. However in this latest Hollywood outing, he also has a posse; a wise man (Ian McShane), a warrior and cynic (Rufus Sewell); a rather pale and scrawny Amazon, and a silent berserker. Plus a nephew who bigs him up by telling tall tales, but never actually gets to fight.
Hercules and his gang are mercenaries for hire, and are invited by scruffy Lord Cotys (John Hurt) to fight for him against some nasty people who are persecuting his country. This requires Hercules and his troop to go all Seven Samurai and train the farmers to stand in line and do what they're told. Followed by numerous not very bloody 12 certificate CGI battles which mainly consist of a lot of editing and chopping noises. You may not be surprised to hear that there's a beautiful single woman involved, and a helpless boy (her son), and also that someone is double crossing Hercs, and that Joseph Fiennes is no better an actor (as the evil villain) than he was when we last saw him (whenever that was).
But of course the advantage of low expectations is that you can be pleasantly surprised, and although I wouldn't go so far as to say I enjoyed the film, I endured it with less suffering than I had anticipated, and was thrilled that it clocked in at only just over 90 minutes. And let's face it, if ever an actor (or whatever he is) was born to play Hercules, then that actor (or ex-WWE champ) is The Rock. He's got the pecs, the abs, the 60 pack and everything else a classical superman should have. Because Hercules is, when you get right down to it, the very first superhero.
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