'Hercules' Review Roundup: Dwayne Johnson Epic Gets Mixed Notices
Hercules stars Dwayne Johnson as the titular mythic hero – a being more man than immortal that catapults himself to a position of renown and respect via tales that tell of his godlike prowess on the battlefield.
Directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand), this iteration of the Hercules story closely follows Steve Moore’s five-issue Radical Comics series Hercules: The Thracian Wars – replacing the idea of gods with the idea of a shrewd spin doctor and biographer Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). For every feat of Hercules the god, a new reality is depicted: the multi-headed hydra becomes a small army of men donning masks bearing the resemblance of a serpent.
This latest iteration of the Hercules story dares not take itself too seriously, peppering Americanisms and jokey asides throughout the epic feature, much to many critics’ pleasant surprise. Hercules also has the benefit of Johnson as its leading man and a short and sweet runtime of 90 minutes. Hercules’ detractors found the film trite and unfocused, another blockbuster without a brain and without enough brawn to make it a worthwhile trip to the theater.
"Putting Greek gods on the big screen can be a Herculean task. You've got the funny getups, stilted language and the whole immortal thing that makes suspense nearly impossible. So credit Dwayne Johnson and director Brett Ratner, of all people, for accomplishing the near-mighty in Hercules: They've made a sword-and-sandal spectacle that entertains. And though it's not the second coming of 300, this Hercules proves surprisingly knowing of the legend — and surprisingly willing to tweak it.” – Scott Bowles, USA Today
"Strap on your swordbelt, buckle your sandals and oil up your rippling six-pack, because here comes yet another interminable, CGI-drenched mythic mish-mash with far more money than brain cells. Given that its director is the widely derided Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand), it’s no great surprise that Hercules is a complete mess: the plot barely hangs together, the characters are meagerly sketched and the 3D digital effects are plasticky, indistinct and wearying to look at." – Tom Huddleston, Time Out
“The happy surprise is that Ratner’s Hercules is more than a mere improvement on its predecessor. It’s a grandly staged, solidly entertaining, old-fashioned adventure movie that does something no other Hercules movie has quite done before: It cuts the mythical son of Zeus down to human size (or as human as you can get while still being played by Dwayne Johnson). The result is a far classier pic than Paramount’s frenetic trailer — and decision to hide the film from reviewers until the 11th hour — foretold.” – Scott Foundas, Variety
"This movie has a sense of proportion. Running just over 90 minutes, the movie is often clunky, but at least it's fast and unpretentious. And its likable star, Dwayne Johnson, manages to murder legions without ever seeming sadistic.
Most important, the pacing is snappy. It may sound like a backhanded compliment to praise this sometimes cheesy movie for never taking itself too seriously, but in a summer of bloated spectacles, this modesty should not be underestimated." – Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter.
Hercules, rated PG-13, is currently in wide release.