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Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/4/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/12/2014
We've often discussed the notion that it's tough to come up with an original idea these days. You don't have to look far to find a trend in Hollywood or a group of movies which are suspiciously similar. But, here's the kicker -- No one wants to admit that their idea isn't unique. Everyone wants to believe that they are putting a new spin on an old story. This even applies to those who are tackling a story which is literally thousands of years old and reviving it. The last thing that we needed was another re-telling of the Hercules myth, but that's exactly we get with Dwayne Johnson's latest movie.
Hercules opens with a fairly traditional re-telling of the classic myth. Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) was born from the pairing of Zeus and a mortal woman. Hated by Hera, Zeus' wife, Hercules was tasked with a series of labors to prove his might. Having done that, Hercules is now a mercenary for hire, roaming the land with his companions -- Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), and Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). He's approached by Ergenia (Rebecca Feguson), who asks that Hercules and his band come to Thrace to help save the land from Rhesus (Tobias Santlemann), a tyrant who has killed thousands. Hercules agrees, as the price is right, and they travel to Thrace. There, he meets Lord Cotys (John Hurt) and his second in command, Sitacles (Peter Mullan). Hercules begin to train Cotys men and leads them into battle. But, it becomes clear that the stories of Rhesus tyranny have been exaggerated.
Hercules is based on a comic book series created by Steve Moore. The conceit here is that the stories about Hercules have been exaggerated and that he may or may not be the son of a god. The term "con artist" may be a bit too much, but Hercules and his group, especially Iolaus, who spins yarns about the hero, do whatever they can to perpetuate the legend. This helps to maintain their work as mercenaries. Hercules goal is to make enough money to retire by the Black Sea. However, he's also running from a blighted past which contains a very dark secret.
OK, so this Hercules actually does do something a little different. The problem is that this difference actually robs the movie of any magic (no pun intended). If Hercules doesn't have any god-like powers, isn't he just another big, strong guy? The answer to that is yes. So, the movie simply becomes yet another "sword 'n sandal" movie. In the extra features on this Blu-ray Disc, Director Brett Ratner stated that he's always wanted to make a movie in this genre and that he wanted to give a new generation their Hercules, so I guess he succeeded in doing that.
But, there is nothing special about this movie. If you bleeped out the name Hercules and showed this to an audience, they would probably assume that it was a new Conan the Barbarian or something of that ilk. We meet Hercules and his group, there are some battles, and that's about it. Are the battles big, epic, and well-staged? Sure, but they also look like things which we've seen in many other movies and Ratner resorts to using the very cliched skip-frame effect during the fights. In the second half of the movie, the plot decides to arrive and there aren't any surprises here. Ratner has a reputation for making lackluster movies, but between him and Johnson, you would think that one of them would want to make something with a little personality.
When Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson first came onto the scene, I had no interest due to a lifelong hatred of all things "rasslin'". But, I've come to appreciate Johnson and I've liked him in a few things. However, he's just a big muscular guy in this and it could have been played by anyone. The fact that the movie wanted to steer away from the typical Mt. Olympus mythology themes is admirable, but it also robs the movie of anything to set it apart from any other action movie. Hercules may hit hard, but the movie doesn't pack a punch.
Hercules will cause you to quickly grow tired of the phrase "shield wall" on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, although there aren't many bold tones here, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good, as we can make out every line on the actor's faces and the image is never soft. Even in this 2D version, the depth is good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely done, as they alert us to sounds coming from off-screen. The surround sound effects are abundant during the action sequences and there are some nicely isolated specific sounds. The subwoofer is constantly present, adding rumble to the punches and horse hoofs. This 3-Disc set also includes a Blu-ray 3D. The image is once again letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an MVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at 29/15 Mbps. The image shows a very impressive amount of depth and the layering here is notable. The actors clearly stand out from the backgrounds and we get at least three layers of objects in the frame. The "coming at you" effects aren't quite as good, as they get a bit blurry. On the plus side, the image is not dark. The audio is the same on this Disc.
The Hercules Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Brett Ratner and Producer Beau Flynn. "Brett Ratner and Dwayne Johnson: An Introduction" (6 minutes) has the actor and director talking about their love of the Hercules character and what drew them to this project. This also includes a nice amount of on-set footage. "Hercules and His Mercenaries" (11 minutes) introduces us to the characters -- and the actors who play them -- who surround Hercules. We get interviews with each of the actors. "Weapons!" (5 minutes) examines how Hercules and each of his band have unique weapons and fighting styles. We got behind the scenes to see the design of each weapon. "The Bessi Battle" (12 minutes) takes us on location to see the planning and staging of the first big fight in the film. "The Effects of Hercules" (12 minutes) shows how the visual effects were layered onto real locations and stuntwork. The Disc contains fourteen DELETED/EXTENDED SCENES which run about 15 minutes. This includes an "Alternate Ending", which is just a longer coda.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long