Wow, it’s only January and I can already say we officially have the funniest movie of 2014 – The Legend Of Hercules. Honestly, I was in stitches the whole time, busting some sweet belly laughs! Wait, you’re telling me Renny Harlin’s Hercules film was supposed to be a serious, engaging, dramatic adventure meant to exploit the romance and heartbreaking Greek tragedy of Hercules’ story? Oh, um, well, that’s awkward. In that case, Harlin’s January blockbuster is a monumental failure on all accounts, presenting a visually disgraceful film that makes Clash Of The Titans look like a 3D masterpiece. In all honesty, this Herculean tale is nothing short of an embarrassment, and although I’m a Twilight hater, Kellan Lutz avoids my wrath (for the most part) – consider yourself lucky, six-pack.
The film pits Lutz as the titular hero, son of Zeus, birthed with the purpose of bringing an end to King Amphitryon’s (Scott Adkins) tyrannical rule after Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) lives through her own version of “The Immaculate Conception.” Knowing Hercules isn’t his blood son, King Amphitryon raises his first born Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) as his sole heir to the throne, with Hercules playing the role of the bastard child. In an effort to increase relations with Crete, King Amphitryon arranges a marriage between Iphicles and the Princess of Crete, Hebe (Gaia Weiss) – who happens to be in love with Hercules. Here is where the Greek drama kicks in, as Hercules is sent away as to not interfere with Iphicles’ wedding, but he refuses to be separated from his one true love. It’s a journey fueled by passion and motivated by treachery, as we follow Hercules on his adventure home to save his adoring princess.
Admittedly, I was turned off almost instantaneously by the poorly rendered 3D conversion of The Legend Of Hercules. Each scene was a cluttered, unfocused mess of blurred lines and dizzying darkness, as if Harlin took 300 and threw it in a blender, creating hectic visuals that literally offended my eyes. Sprawling shots of Grecian coliseums, stone-built bridges, dimly-lit castles – these are architectural sights that Harlin’s 3D should highlight, leaving our jaws on the floor in awe. Instead, there’s absolutely no blending of backgrounds and focal objects, creating splotches and paper-thin layers that come together like a bunch of clip-art pictures laid over one another. Do you even Photoshop, bro?
Honestly, I’ve seen some pretty shoddy craftsmanship before, but The Legend Of Hercules sets a discouragingly new rock-bottom low point for set design. One particular scene will forever be ingrained in my mind, showing Hercules and Hebe taking a break for a midnight embrace, stopping their horses in an open field complete with fake fog layered over a dirty path. Typical romantic positioning, as Kellan and Gaia glisten beautifully under the moonlight, right? Well, it would be, except the distracting sky around them visually represents painted stars and clouds, with set production similar to what you might see staging your yearly high school play. Someone seriously dropped the ball visually, attempting to pass off laughably deplorable production design for IMAX grade technology, but how Renny Harlin gave a thumbs up to such utter garbage scares me concerning the future of 3D movies. If I paid money for The Legend Of Hercules in 3D, I’d demand a full refund – it’s that simple.
Ignoring amateur hour effects, The Legend Of Hercules does absolutely nothing to make such a mighty demigod the least bit unique. Lutz’s emphatic over-acting coupled with Harlin’s sappy focus on Hebe’s love story is only softened by these strange repetitions found throughout numerous scenes. Apparently drama can only be meaningful if curtains are blowing around the room chaotically, or whenever something victorious happens, inexcusably bad flower petals have to invade the screen like blocky, pixelated snowflakes.
On a positive(?) note, Twihards can certainly get their rocks off as Lutz appears allergic to any clothing from the torso up, or maybe he just had a contractual obligation where those perky, hypnotic nips of his had to have a certain amount of screen time. In any case, there’s never been a weaker, more emotionless, overly-dramatized, lazily plotted out “legend” crafted for Hercules, embodying the essence of a Greek daytime soap opera.
Harlin certainly provides momentary excitement via mythological battles infused with God-like powers, but the disgraceful presentation once again detracts from the epicness of muscle-bound men flailing swords and flying through the air like gladiator versions of Spider-Man. All the tropes are there – random slow motion to emphasize 3D beauty, one-on-one feats of strength, swordplay – yet trying to clearly make out this disgraceful tornado of flashy color tones poses quite the frustrating challenge. Not to mention, Hercules’ strength was only emphasized by pitting him against mostly bumbling henchman, letting him bodyslam his way to glory. Just like the real Hercules. There’s something jovial about Lutz’s Hercules, but there’s also something blandly unappealing about such a smarmy demigod.
The Legend Of Hercules aggravates on levels previously unbeknownst to me. Script problems, poor settings, and a tonally abysmal atmosphere aside, the visuals alone were inexcusably appalling, and downright insulting. If I wasn’t shaking my head at every blatantly obvious miscue on screen, I might have been able to enjoy Renny Harlin’s personal take on such a legendary character, but as it stands, avoid this movie at all costs. Brett Ratner has his own Hercules movie coming July 25th, starring a modern-day demigod in Dwayne Johnson, and while I can’t comment on the film’s quality just yet, it’d take a Herculean effort for Ratner’s film to be worse than The Legend Of Hercules.
With an unbalanced story and an even worse 3D conversion, The Legend Of Hercules is an abysmal production that feels hours longer than it should - like an undesirable chore.