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, all 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 – dare I say the likes of Ridley Scott (so long as Lindelhof’s nowhere near him) – this kind of grounding-in-reality approach may have led to epic entertainment (or at least a decent Director’s Cut somewhere down the line) but Ratner’s just a bit too lightweight for these kind of Herculean trials, all too often taking the easy way out, and only all too briefly engaging audiences with inspired moments of super-sized carnage.Even there we’ve gotten the short straw, with the UK version cut by several minutes – both in terms of story and, arguably more important, bloody action – and this censored theatrical version simply lacks impact. Dwayne Johnson comes full circle – from mythical Scorpion King to mythical Greek warrior – but has lost a lot of steam along the way; he just doesn’t seem as invested in the material as he normally is (it’s not as if the Fast and Furious franchise is highbrow, but at least he still appears to be having a blast) and he frankly deserves a whole lot better. Still, the likes of John Hurt, Ian McShane and even Ingrid Bolso Berdal 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 – although only the finale has any real consequence – 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 shouldn’t have ended up being such a Herculean misfire.
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