Hercules: Extended Cut (2014)

2016 #10
Brett Ratner | 102 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | USA / English

The answer to the question, “Hey, remember Brett Ratner? Whatever happened to him?”,* Hercules stars Dwayne Johnson in full The Rock mode as the eponymous demigod. In this comic book adaptation, we’re introduced to Hercules at a point in his life after the famous labours but before he’d passed into legend, when he’s just a mercenary… or maybe he’s always just been a mercenary, and the legends are a tall tale to help him and his band of warriors sell their wares. Their latest mission is to defend a kingdom from a vicious warlord, but all may not be as it seems…

A belated entry into the swords-and-sandals-and-epic-CG-action subgenre that Gladiator started, and which begot the likes of Troy and 300 a decade or more ago, Hercules is much closer to the latter than the former pair. It’s cheesy as heck, but passably exciting when the action kicks in, and also frequently funny (intentionally so, I should add), making it decently entertaining in a brain-off lazy-weekend-evening kind of way.

Johnson has the physique for Hercules, obviously, but the role as written doesn’t play to his real talents, which lie at the more comedic or knowing end of the action spectrum. It’s not his fault the part is the boring heroic lead and everyone else gets to have all the fun, though. Quality Brits like John Hurt, Ian McShane, Peter Mullan, and Rufus Sewell add not so much class as skill, knowing just how much to ham it up to sell their characters while maintaining the light-ish tone. Elsewhere, warrioress Ingrid Bolsø Berdal is the spitting image of (a younger) Nicole Kidman.

This extended cut wasn’t included on the UK Blu-ray, so no BBFC rating (it’s about a 15), but it is available on Netflix over here (it’s not listed as the extended cut, but it is). It’s no great shakes, though, adding only a couple of minutes. That’s made up of three short scenes, another half-a-dozen additional lines of dialogue, a couple of extra seconds of action, and some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it CG blood (full details here). An entire subplot about a traitorous scout was excised from the theatrical cut with the deletion of just three lines — a wise cut because, as the simplicity of its removal might suggest, it’s not so much half-arsed as sixteenth-arsed.

Hercules is not quite good enough to earn 4 stars, but if you’re in the mood for a fantasy-ish swords-and-sandals adventure which doesn’t offer anything challenging but is moderately entertaining and doesn’t outstay its welcome, you could do much worse.

3 out of 5

* You may recall that there were two competing Hercules movies released in 2014. The other, even-more-forgotten one is the answer to the question, “Hey, remember Renny Harlin? Whatever happened to him?” ^

Hercules’ New Groove

Hercules and The Emperor’s New Groove are connected by two things: firstly, they’re among the first Disney films I didn’t see because I’d Grown Up; secondly, I’m not sure I’d’ve wanted to see them anyway because I always thought they looked rubbish.

In truth, I think the second factor was more powerful than the first, because I’ve always liked the Disneys I liked — I don’t actually remember a time when I felt I’d grown out of them, just a time when I didn’t watch them.

Finally seeing this pair now, I find that my expectations were surprisingly flouted in one case, and sadly vindicated in another. But you’ll have to read on to see which is which…

2010 #99

“It suffers from songs that are at best unmemorable and at worst irritating. The gospel-styled Greek Chorus sing dreadful dialogue, while Hercule’s big song is like a wimpy first draft of Mulan’s… [The] love interest gets a passable song, not that I can remember it now… [but] it looks great in HD.” Read more…

2010 #102
The Emperor’s New Groove

“There are some good bits like the sequence at the diner, or a lot of Kronk’s stuff… The villains are a delight. It’s hard to hate them when they’re somewhat wronged and more pleasant to spend time with than the hero… [and it] again looked nice and crisp in HD.” Read more…

When I said “you’ll have to read on to see”, I meant the full reviews. These quotes may be (deliberately) misleading…