I like bad movies so that is probably why I enjoyed watching Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules.
Now, as a film, there is not much to say about this film; really, if you want a thorough review, then you can go on to any number of rating agglomeration sites and find plenty of criticisms. So, I won’t be offering a detailed review, just a short one.
Production wise, Harlin’s film is aggressively average. Decent, nothing to write home about acting, meets the expected musical score, while goofy special effects chill on the couch next to decent writing. Honestly, I think the best thing to say about this movie is that the fight scenes are well choreographed. Other than that, the next best thing to say about the film is the necklace motif, and only that was merely well executed, nothing more.
Yeah, to pile on more: the plot was dry and predictable, the romance forced and melodramatic (as well as eye-rollingly heteronormative), and the narrative bland. Seriously, if this film was a meal, it would be one of those cheap microwavable children’s meal. Needless to say, one will not be getting much nutritional value out of this greasy hunk.
But, all of that is to be expected from a low-to-mid tier Hollywood production. This particular rendition of the Hercules legend, after all, wasn’t exactly a high-strung affair. It was merely another film to quickly pump out and make a quick buck. To me, what the more grievous insult is the lack of the actual legend.
Now, I am not someone who has studied the Hercules legend in any detail. I want to study it at some point, but right now, I am just your average enthusiast. The most that I can remember about the legend is that Hercules must complete a series (maybe thirteen?) tasks before he can claim his godhood; I also think golden apples were involved somehow? In any case, those quests are important and damn near impossible to complete. But, like the man we all know and mythologize, Hercules did it and lived as happily ever after as someone in Greek mythology could.
To its credit, the film does retain one or two aspects from the legend– such as Zeus impregnating a mortal woman– but other than that, everything else has been ditched in favor of a painfully average narrative about ‘fighting against tyranny’ and ‘fulfilling your destiny’ (whatever that means).
At this point is where that heteronormativity arrives; gone are those special quests Hercules must complete. Instead, Hercules desires a woman, gets captured after a failed military expedition, and must fight his way back home and ultimately overthrow his father. That is about it for the plot; the narrative doesn’t do any better with it consisting of a string of short fight scenes. Of course, the hero prevails and lives happily ever after, but it is an ending which suits the de-mythologized nature of the film.
The only times supernatural elements arrive is at the very end when Hercules calls upon Zeus so he can smack some fools down. Other than that, the narrative could be set in really any time period and change little. At its core, this film is about buffy dudes fighting other buffy dudes in one hell of a homoerotic display (complete with mud wrestling!). There is no monsters, no magic or spells, no godly cameos… nothing. Change around a few things and this film could be, as I said, set in any period.
Quite possibly, this project may have started as something else entirely. Maybe some generic ancient or medieval oriented action piece that got changed last minute to a Hercules make. Who knows. All I know is that so little of the legend remains, that if you told me this was a film about the siege of Troy, then I would probably believe it well until the first quarter of the film. Seeing as how this is only a ninety-eight-minute film, that is saying something.
Obviously, then, this is not a film that lovers of the Hercules legend will enjoy watching (not unless your study is a specific niche). You may get some kick out of it if you enjoy bad movies or like drooling over hunky men, but lacking those, this popcorn flick won’t give you much. As I said, I enjoy cruddy films, but that is because I’m a bit of a masochist and because I wanted to review it for this blog as part of my small excursion into the ancient period. If I lacked this desire, then I probably would have never watched it. Regardless, though, in the end, this is just an average film with not much to say outside of generic violence. If that is your thing, then have at it.