Dwayne Johnson makes a charismatic 'son of Zeus' in an unashamedly entertaining take on the myth
Having already established himself as the king of trashy blockbusters, thanks to films like the Rush Hour series and Tower Heist, Brett Ratner steps things up to epic levels for his daft but watchable take on Hercules.
Inspired by the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars rather than being wedded to Greek mythology, this finds Dwayne Johnson as the eponymous hero. Here he's someone who is content to trade on the legend surrounding him – with the help of a bunch of mercenaries – using trickery and the power of suggestion to enhance his reputation.
When called upon to defend the city of Thrace from a ruthless warlord and his possibly supernatural army, however, Hercules finds his status put to the test in a battle that will ultimately clear up some of the mysteries surrounding him and exorcise the demons caused by the deaths of his wife and children.
Ratner’s film wisely opts to keep things light and has a lot of fun toying with the demi-god status of its hero, whose ‘son of Zeus’ label is employed to instil fear into his enemies, rather than being based on truth. It also drops in some decent action sequences and lavishly mounted spectacle, while borrowing as much from The Magnificent Seven and Robin Hood as it does from Clash of the Titans or 300.
The cast, too, are an amiable presence, with Johnson displaying more of his winning charisma – and a suitably over-sized physique – and the likes of John Hurt, Headhunters’ Aksel Hennie, Rufus Sewell and Ian McShane adding solid support.
But while the knowing humour might grate with those expecting a more brutal showcase, it actually helps to paper over the cracks, which include a lack of any real emotional depth or character complexity. Essentially, Hercules is a fun ride while it lasts.