It isn't often living in the times that we do, ones of mountains of computerized special effects and massive studio oversight, that you wind up seeing a theatrical release that seriously looks like it does not belong in a movie theater. The world has always had its B-movies, but generally over the decades they've been pushed out into grindhouse theaters and eventually straight-to-video, or worse, the Syfy channel. With special effects as cheap and as sophisticated as they currently are, even amazingly cheap movies like "Skyline" can manage to have a visual spectacle on par with a movie with ten times the budget. "The Legend of Hercules" is the equivalent of a major gaming studio releasing a game that is truly unplayable on current gen consoles. You just never see that kind of thing anymore.
Awww... how adorable, "The Legend of Hercules", you thought you were a real movie. I'm going to be up front right now, this movie is atrociously bad. But its so incompetent, so clearly cheap, so badly made on every single level without a single sense of irony, its almost charming in a very stupid masochistic kind of way. Me reviewing this movie with the same standards that I would give say, "The Hobbit", is like a major theatrical critic giving a brutal review to a sixth grade production of "The Tempest". Come on, guy, they're just kids, they can barely read William Shakespeare, give them a break. And here I am too: come on, Blue, they're just idiots, they had to film this movie in some horrible shithole in Eastern Europe, for a leading man they had to get a minor character from Twilight, give them a break. However, on the other hand, it is a movie that gets just about everything wrong, and how much good will can I extend? I'm not a saint, I'm a blogger, and when I smell shit, I see shit, I know I have a shit movies on my hands. Please get me a napkin or something, its gross.
The tragic part is that this movie is directed by Renny Harlin, a decent enough director of Nineties action nonsense, behind such movies as "Die Hard 2", "A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master", "The Long Kiss Goodnight", and of course, the movie were Samuel Jackson got eaten by a shark, "Deep Blue Sea". You'd think a man who has been working in the film industry for very nearly thirty years now, would be able to put some kind of competency behind the camera. But its simply not here, "The Legend of Hercules" looks and feels like a movie made by amateurs, filled with a virtually unknown cast, and a script so bad it ranks as one of mankind's most awful crimes.
I feel like a child on Christmas morning. There's so many wonders before me, I don't know which present to open first! There's so much wrong, so many individual parts of this movie that simply do not work on any level, I feel like a mechanic trying to give an estimate on repairs for a car that's flown through the Sun, where do I even begin?
Let's begin with how cheap this movie is. One gets the impression that this was a movie that was believed in by nobody. In fact, there was so little faith in this movie that its had virtually no marketing, and my local movie theater has only aired it once a day, probably out of contractual obligation. But it only gets worse on the screen. The cast is made up entirely of unknowns, and are generally all equally rubbish. The movie begins with a shockingly inspiring panning shot over a major ancient battlefield, which is the visual highlight of the entire movie. Harlin right after that one flourish stops trying altogether and directs this movie mostly by ripping off Zack Snyder's patented slow-down and speed-up technique from "300".
Every battle afterwards involves no more than thirty people, maybe half of which are computer generated. Oh yes, look at brave Hercules with his army of... thirty dudes. Oh well. This is a movie that features many sea travels, but every time they're using the exact same boat set, with some amazingly bad composite shots. There is some greenscreen work that is so bad it looks like the actors are standing in front of a 1950s painted backdrop. Somehow a set of a campfire at night looks so bad that it appears to be an exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. There is only a single battle against one of Hercules' recognizable classic monsters, the Nemean Lion, and it looks awful. All they did was CG in a totally normal-sized and regular-looking lion, and have the actors feebly try to stab at this effect. The rest of the movie, Hercules is fighting humans in various fights.
But don't say the creators of this movie didn't have a sense of variety and creative flair: sometimes the fight scenes are stolen from "300", sometimes they're stolen from "Gladiator".
Out of all fairness, the regular one-on-one fights between two greased-up muscular slabs of manmeat are actually decently exciting, at least until Renny Harlin tries to be Zack Snyder, and ruins the flow. If you want a movie with huge, thick-armed, beefcake, muscle-bound men, you're going to have one. If you want a good movie, don't bother.
The cast is dreadful, but its not like the script is doing the actors much favors either. The scenes between Hercules and his main love interest, Hebe, are some of the worst goddamn cinema I have ever seen. Most of the plot involves Hercules fighting to get his girlfriend back, and they have no chemistry, their love scenes are so bad you'll want to jump into Jeff Goldblum's telepad and fuse with a Fly so that you can genetically separate yourself from the biological species that would dare write scenes this terrible.
"DURR... HERCULES LIKE LADY."
Nobody really seems to understand what kind of movie they're in, ultimately playing their roles too small, when what this movie needed was loud, hammy, massively overstated performances.
Steve Reeves, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Kevin Sorbo, and... Kellan Lutz? Lutz (more like "Lulz") is as dreadful in this movie as you would expect from a Twilight alum. Did those movies have the worst fucking casting of all time, or am I crazy? Every single actor in those movie sucked, and their later careers have been a wave of repeating cataclysm radiating outward throughout the entire movie industry*. Hercules in this movie, I guess fits his mythical sense of stupid earnestness, but there really is no depth here. Every other actor in the movie is generally other shades of bad, from love interest to villain. Particularly bad is Hercules' half-brother Iphicles, who creates a persona that's trying to be Loki from the "Thor" movies, but really comes across more like Draco Malfoy. The only actor who somehow manages to come away looking competent in this film is Liam McIntyre, TV's Spartacus, who brings an earnest and compelling performance... somehow. They should had him play Hercules, it would have made for a better movie.
Now here is where I would begin complaining about the plot, and how it completely mangles the great epic life of Heracles, greatest of Greek heroes. But here's the sick part: "The Legend of Hercules" might be the most accurate Hercules movie ever made. It doesn't cover Hercules' more famous adventures, but it does actually pretty-much cover his early life and first battles exactly how the Greeks believed it happened. Its even set in the correct time period, before the Trojan War, though for some reason there are gladiators a thousand years before they existed. Hercules was really known as "Alcides" as a child, and he really killed his adopted human father, Amphitryon, in battle. Maybe it wasn't over a romantic battle with his evil half-brother, but it did happen. Though it does make me giggle at the end of this movie when everything has ended so nicely for everybody, that in a few years Hercules is going to go mad and murder his wife and his children**. Yeah, the movie has its problems, but it is more accurate than "Hercules in New York" or "Hercules Against the Moon Men".
I assure you, this really exists.
"The Legend of Hercules" is a bizarre movie. I'm not sure what audience this movie was made for, but it definitely wasn't an American one. Maybe some Indonesian children out there will look at this movie and feel really inspired and excited. God bless 'em, I guess. But this movie is terrible, there's no way to look around it. You might find yourself charmed by just how amazingly stupid it is, but really you can't overlook how it gets everything wrong. The story is pointless, the characters barely exist, the acting and script are so bad, it is unforgivable. Its hard to believe that a movie like "The Legend of Hercules" even exists. Did I really go to the movies last night? Was this all some kind of weird hallucination? I have no idea.
But what I do know is that this will not be the last tango I'll have with Heracles in 2014...
* Let's review: Ashley Greene was in "The Apparition", one of the lamest motherfucking horror movies I've ever seen. Kristin Stewart was in "Snow White and the Huntsman", where she wasn't allowed to speak (and was humping the director off-camera). Robert Pattison starred in the incomprehensible David Cronenberg misfire "Cosmopolis". Taylor Launter was in "Grown Ups 2". Cam Gigandet went on to be in "Priest", a vampire movie that might have even been worse than Twilight. Jamie Campbell Bower starred in "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones", a completely still-born Twilight rip-off. Dakota Fanning's career was completely wiped out. Anna Kendrick hasn't made anything of note since. I love Billy Burke, but the man was in "Red Riding Hood". The only person who seems to have come away stronger than ever is Michael Sheen, who mostly laughed his way through those movies and now stars in a well-regarded Showtime series.
** Yeah, you know Megara, the wise-cracking love interest who had the best song from the 1997 Disney movie? Hercules fucking butchers her, and then goes Jack Torrance on all of their children. It was technically Hera's fault, but it still kinda ruins the family-friendly element of that movie, doesn't it? That's why he had to embark on those Twelve Labors of legend, as punishment for these crimes.