I imagine that if I was eight years old, Renny Harlin’s The Legend Of Hercules would be a film that I could endlessly watch and re-watch. It’s filled with action, amazing feats and heroes and villains who are straight down the line. It all fits snuggly into a running time that is well under two hours, meaning that it never outstays its welcome as it moves from set-piece to set-piece. However, I’m much older than that and I’m fully aware that the film has many, many flaws – but I can’t say that it’s a total write-off.
Retelling the oft-told story that follows the son of Greek god Zeus, Harlin’s film sees Kellan Lutz play the title character who was born following a weird immaculate conception between the mighty god and Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee). Alcmene keeps her son’s lineage secret from her husband, the evil and violent King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins). Amphitryon has no love for Hercules, sending him off to certain death so that his half-bother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) can marry his sweetheart Hebe (Gaia Weiss). Hercules survives and begins making his way back home to stop the wedding and take revenge on those who wronged him.
Scripted by by Harlin, along with Daniel Giat, Giulio Steve, and Sean Hood, The Legend Of Hercules feels like it was concocted following a marathon DVD session that saw the quartet take-in Spartacus, Gladiator, Ben-Hur and 300. The problem is most of those films had the running time that could cope with intricate tales of betrayal, revenge rebellion and war. Harlin’s film covers a lot of ground in a very short space of time and because of this you never really believe that central relationships that make it all happen. They also had strong leading men who were able to carry their respective films on their broad shoulders. Kellan Lutz however looks like a 21st Century jock playing dress-up. He might have the muscles, but he doesn’t have the charisma to lead a film like this.
Renny Harlin often gets a lot of hate from the critics, but how can you hate the man who gave you Die Hard 2: Die Harder; Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Deep Blue Sea? The simple answer is – you cannot. The man knows how to direct an action sequence and The Legend of Hercules features a few good action beats. However these are sadly hindered by ridiculous slo-mo freeze frame moments that are so over-used that they verge on the pornographic. On a visual level the film looks quite good. It may not have the budget to compete with the 300s of this world, but there are some impressive effects which help raise it to the higher echelons of the B-movie sword and sandal league. In a way, The Legend of Hercules is much like the Italian sword and sandal movies of the 1960s – movies which tried to compete with the massive Hollywood spectacles. Like those low budget adventures, Harlin’s film never manages to punch above its weight – but it has a valiant effort at doing so.
The Legend Of Hercules isn’t a very good movie, but it has a certain charm and earnestness that makes me feel that everyone involved went into it for the right reasons.
The Legend Of Hercules comes with a feature that covers the production with interviews from the cast and crew. Like the film, it’s short but strangely enjoyable.