Review: The Legend of Hercules


That sub-header isn’t a pithy remark about it only being a week into 2014. It will be incredibly challenging for any wide release film in the upcoming year to be worse than The Legend of Hercules. I am now staking my claim that despite the fact that I have seen no other 2014 movies, none of them will be worse than this. 

Films based on young adult novels trying to be Twilight? They will be better than this. Comedies whose entire comedic value rest in poorly executed fart jokes? They will be better than this. Other action films that feature action so dull they’re almost dramas? They will be better than this? Melodramatic dramas that don’t actually seem to understand human emotion? They will be better than this. Cheaply made children’s movies with big name star voices to pull in unsuspecting crowds? They will be better than this.

Every film that arrives in theaters this year will be better than The Legend of Hercules

THE LEGEND OF HERCULES - man. god. hero. Final Theatrical TRAILER [HD] - 2014

The Legend of Hercules
Director: Renny Harlin
Rated: PG-13
Release Date: January 10, 2014

The concept for The Legend of Hercules must have been something like lets take a demi-Greek god, put him in the plot of a young adult novel (because those are so hot right now) and then make it look like 300 (because that’s still cool) and play out like Gladiator (still cool?) even if that means we make all the Greeks actually look and act like Romans (no one can tell those two apart). This is actually what is present on the screen and it is an abomination to the eyeballs. Completely tossing out the myth of Hercules, the film instead makes him the step-son of an evil king, gifted to his mother by Zeus and his godly sperm as a way to put an end to the evil king’s rule.

Jump forward a few years and Hercules has turned into a hulky Kellan Lutz, in love with the princess Hebe. But Hercules’ step-father has different plans for Hebe (Gaia Weiss); he’s planning to marry her off to his first son Iphicles. Hercules, unaware of his godly lineage, is sent off to die along with fellow soldier Sotiris (Liam McIntyre). However, the pair fight their way back to Greece where Hercules must come to terms with being the son of a god and use his insane powers to overthrow his step-father… but only when he wants to or else it would be too easy and there wouldn’t be a final fight.

We can pretty much jump over the historical inconsistencies because I don’t think any of us was really expecting that from a myth, but it should be said that when a Disney film is more historically accurate than yours you’ve got problems. The film’s plot is also replete with holes, which could be somewhat expected, but it feels like entire sections of the movie were cut out. Maybe this was done because they made even less sense than the scenes that are in the film or maybe folks who saw the full cut were clawing their eyes out if the movie ran any longer. Whatever the reason the film explains nothing, jumps from one random plot point to another and has tonal shifts so abrupt its no wonder Lutz’s abs are constantly flexed.

A lot of this blame should probably fall on director Renny Harlin, who appears to have ditched what little talent he showed off in the 80s in order to copy Zack Snyder. The problem is he doesn’t have the eye or the budget to pull of Snyder’s slow-motion bombast. The action set pieces feel forced, and the fighting looks like its out of an episode of Kevin Sorbo’s portrayal not a big screen movie. Harlin clearly has no clue how to pace his fights and the action is so clearly rushed that any moments that could have been cool are squandered by poor fighting and bad directing.

And then there’s the special effects. The opening shot is a push shot up between two boats and over a beach as an invading army attacks a city. It’s obviously meant to be a cool 3D view, but what it actually is is a giant welcome card shouting that the film had no budget and you’re about to experience CGI no better than what you’d find at a high school computer art class. Fine for a low-budget action film that doesn’t rely on this stuff, but The Legend of Herculesi is entirely CGI. I mean entirely. Most of the scenes are done in front of a green screen with the worst CGI background you’ve ever seen and the majority of the battles involve digital effects that are only a slight step up from an FMV off of a PlayStation 1 game.

Then we come to the “acting.” Lutz is about as charming as a Grecian urn, and often seems entirely out of place within the scenes he’s in. I’m not sure who Weiss is, but if I never see her in another movie I’ll be absolutely fine with that. The romance between these two, which plays out like the filmmakers really wanted Lutz’s Twilight followers to watch this movie, is more wooden and hollow than a Trojan horse (that’s a historically accurate reference, by the way). The actors are given lines that maybe, kind-of, sorta are supposed to sound old fashioned, but they’re delivered so poorly that almost every one pulls a laugh. There’s a few actors here and there who aren’t painful to watch, like McIntyre, but they aren’t good to watch either thanks to the film being terrible. 

I don’t think anyone expected The Legend of Hercules to be good, but it fails at sucking as well. A film of this caliber that didn’t take itself so seriously could have been fun to watch. The bad special effects blown off as charming and the wooden acting something to laugh with instead of at. Instead the movie plays it straight, like it’s an actual blockbuster with striking visuals and original ideas. It’s not, and they shouldn’t pretend it is to bilk people out of money who think they’re at least getting an entertaining 300 knock-off. 

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.