The Blu-ray's picture and sound pass their trials but the film is a Herculean misfire
Somewhere in this Brett Ratner mess there are some nice ideas and a hint of a decent reworking of the Legend of Hercules but it's all too little, too late.Summing up the twelve trials of Hercules in an abbreviated folk-tale vision, and only alluding to the reality behind the fantasy, Ratner’s reworking takes some almighty missteps in the wrong direction right from the get-go. Bringing Hercules down to earth, and reinventing him as a mere mercenary mortal might have seemed good on paper, but to then head him up in a larger-than-life tale of warring armies, familial disputes, treachery and betrayal – all the while forgetting the mythical battles that forged him – only insults the legend from which he was born. In better hands this kind of grounding-in-reality approach may have led to epic entertainment but Ratner all too often takes the easy way out, only intermittently engaging audiences with inspired moments of super-sized carnage.Even there, though, we’ve gotten the short straw, with the UK version cut by several minutes and thus losing some much needed bloody action. Dwayne Johnson just doesn’t seem as invested in the material as he normally is and he frankly deserves a whole lot better. Still, the likes of John Hurt, Ian McShane and even Ingrid Bolso Berdal (aka warrior Nicole Kidman) are having a lot of fun, whilst Peter Cullan and Joseph Fiennes look like they’re wondering why this isn’t Gladiator 2. Ratner gives us some sporadic, decent action but there’s nothing here ever worth revisiting. A missed opportunity, when you think that The Rock has spent so long treading in Arnie’s Conan-sized footsteps that taking this role really shouldn’t have ended up being such a Herculean misfire.
Blu-ray Picture QualityOffered up in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen, the 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition rendition is yet another near-perfect presentation to add to a year of releases boasting – if nothing else – striking AV quality. Detail is outstanding, blending CG and live action seamlessly and allowing us pinpoint precision; weathered skin textures, battered armour and frayed clothing weaves all look perfectly authentic. Facial close-ups excel, background texturing is impressive and longer shots marvel in the finer touches. The scenery positively comes to life around the characters.
Hercules looks stunning on Blu-ray, still dazzling with the same impressive picture that adorned the US counterpart.
Clarity comes with no expense spared too; there are no signs of any digital defects – no excessive edge enhancement, no banding, blocking or other frustrating visual issue to distract from your visual enjoyment of the proceedings. The colour scheme is largely designed to reflect the classical period setting, bathed in browns and earthy hues; but this is of course still a comic book rendition in many respects and so any opportunity for brighter, more vibrant tones or splashes is certainly embraced. Black levels are strong and deep, allowing for decent night sequences and pleasing shadow detail and overall this is another outstanding blockbuster video presentation.
Blu-ray Sound QualityAfforded a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 presentation, the audio is both bombastic and well-nuanced, bringing the more atmospheric moments to life with as much passion as the more action-based sequences. Dialogue is raised above the rest of the proceedings and given precedence over them where necessary, coming across as never less than clear and coherent throughout, and dominating the fronts and centre channels as needed. Effects are clinically disseminated across the array, with impressive attention to surround delivery and LFE input, and excellent dynamics. Both the quieter scenes and the battle sequences prevail in this outstanding offering which is prepared to offer the best of both worlds.
The audio accompaniment is just as impressive as the video, with a stomping track that it both bold and expansive.
Blu-ray ExtrasAlthough, frustratingly, it does not sport the one additional offering which fans would have actually appreciated – the more violent, uncut, extended version – most of the other extras are available, including the Audio Commentary by Director Brett Ratner and Producer Beau Flynn; the short Introduction by Ratner and Dwayne Johnson; the quartet of Featurettes – Hercules and His Mercenaries, Weapons, The Bessi Battle and The Effects of Hercules; and almost a quarter of an hour of Deleted and Extended Scenes.
Hercules Blu-ray VerdictRatner strikes again, taking down the towering Dwayne Johnson in the process who, despite his impressive physique and undeniable screen presence, simply can't quite commit to this shallow reinterpretation of the mythical Greek warrior. Aside for a few inspired skirmishes, this is a case of all too little, too late; another wasted opportunity and the second Herculean misfire in one year, no less. That must be a record, even for Hollywood.
Skimming over everything important about the mythical warrior, Hercules hints at interesting reinvention but never even comes close.
Irrespective of the film's faults, it's hard to fault the Blu-ray presentation - outstanding video and audio leaves this a demo disc. Unfortunately, once again, this release falls down in terms of lacking the bloodier unrated cut (or, rather, the uncut version as opposed to the cut version we got in the UK) and so it's hard to argue with the notion of importing the superior edition over this one.
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