Renny Harlin makes his bid for a comeback with THE LEGEND OF HERCULES, a film that reminds us all why Mr. Harlin is in need of making a comeback, and why all such notions should be nipped in the bud. This may be easier than it sounds in an industry that humors the likes of Michael Bay and Sylvester Stallone long after their earning power made them forces with which to be financially reckoned. It is worth noting that Mr. Harlin was forced to go Bulgaria in order to produce this effort. I dont know whether or not Bulgaria, like Waterloo, has a rich tradition of snuffing out dreams once and for all, but it could certainly stake a claim after assisting Mr. Harlin in hammering what we must all hope is the final nail in his professional coffin.
In a wise move, Mr. Harlin has chosen to hitch his failing wagon to the demi-god whose exploits have enthralled western civilization of three millennia or so. Hercules, son of the philandering king of the gods, Zeus and despised of Zeuss wife, Hera, as yet another instance of her otherwise divine spouses wandering gametes, gets a makeover. Rather than choosing from the robust number of stories that have been handed down to us, or even the revamped version that rumbled across international television for a decade or so, Mr. Harlin has made some radical changes designed to appeal to the fans of 300, though without the roguish storytelling, nor the compelling characters. Here Hercules (Kellan Lutz) comes into being with the >help< of Hera, and his only mission is to bring down his cruel and kingly step-father, (Scott Adkins). Why Zeus could not accomplish this with one well-aimed throw from his signature thunder bolts is never explained, and this is odd because the characters in this film spend a great deal of time shouting achingly obvious expository dialogue such as Hey, its the Nemean lion, a fact that everyone one screen already knows.
We are cheated of that defining moment in the non-Harlin legend, whereib the infant Hercules strangles serpents sent to kill him. Instead, we have a petulant step-father who is pretty sure hes not his younger sons father, and an older half-brother (Liam Garrigan) with both daddy and self-esteem issues. Naturally there is a princess (Gaia Weiss) over whom the brothers can squabble. And a foreign military entanglement to which the petulant step-father can send Hercules ib order to have him slaughtered without getting his hands dirty.
It all drags on for much too long, doing its low-rent versions of QUO VADIS, BEN-HUR, every sword-and-sandal non-epic of the last 50 years, and, unaccountably, Samson (of Samson and Delilah fame).. Lutz, a fine looking specimen of finely sculpted, muscular manhood was not cast for any acting ability. He may or may not be a fine thespian, but here he needs only to look good while hurling himself through the air in slow motion while screaming like a banshee. This he does very well. When not doing that, he is scowling woodenly at the bad guys and indulging in some prim nooky with his leading lady.
Working in a genre that accommodates pulling out all the stops, its odd that so few were pulled out here. The violence, unlike 300, is ludicrously sanitary, with arrow wounds barely provoking a few drops of blood from their target. The special effects are competent, but not compelling, even when Mr. Harlin finally gets around to using Zeus thunderbolts. As for the sexual content, the word oblique comes to mind, even when the obligatory female nipple makes its appearance.
Boldly unimaginative and ferociously derivative, THE LEGEND OF HERCULES is at least as challenging as one of the legendary 12 labors of its hero, that would be cleaning the Augean stables, which had not been mucked out in a very, very long time. Hercules diverted a local river in order to do the job. The Amazon, Nile, and Mississippi combined couldnt remove the stench, however, of this flick.