Upon its release during the cinematic dumping ground of January, critics were merciless and audiences generally stayed away. This type of effects-heavy action picture is easy to get snarky about (especially as unconvincing as much of the CGI is), but ultimately it delivers pretty much what is expected of it. The storytelling is muddled, the acting is generally passable (given the rote dialogue the cast is provided), and its emotional impact is non-existent. But it’s relatively short (98 minutes) and has a suitable number of action set pieces. Conceived during a supernaturally-charged one-night-stand between the unseen Greek god Zeus and the mortal Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee, Doreah on Game of Thrones), Hercules (Lutz) is a demi-god among men. Alcmene’s husband, King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), can’t accept this and directs his fury at the adult Hercules.
The screenplay, by a four-man team that includes Harlin, plays pretty fast and loose with the standard Hercules mythology. Hercules begins participating in forced competitions, fighting in gladiatorial matchups. He strives to uphold the honor of love interest Hebe (Gaia Weiss) and befriends Sotiris (Liam McIntyre). Relentlessly pursued by the psychopathic Amphitryon, the action steadily moves toward a climactic blowout between Hercules and the king. Considering the filmmakers must’ve known they weren’t crafting an Oscar contender, it’s unfortunate that they didn’t embrace the cheesiness and bring a little fun to the proceedings. As it is, everything is so workmanlike that it never gels into anything more than a time-passer at best (and time-waster at worst).
Lionsgate has done a terrific job presenting The Legend of Hercules on Blu-ray. While the CG-effects are rather artificial, the live-action digital cinematography (by Sam McCurdy, who also shot the recent release Knights of Badassdom) is quiet filmic and natural looking. The 3D is surprisingly decent, perhaps coming off stronger due to my having heard reports that the effects didn’t play so well in theaters. You could say some of the staging is hokey, what with blades and arrows flying directly toward the viewer, but they’re exactly what are needed for this type of film. As for the soundtrack, the DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix thunders and roars as it should. Whatever one might say about the film itself, it offers a rocking audio experience. Tuomas Kantelinen’s score, while not especially memorable, emanates from all channels quite aggressively.
I guess the choice between 2D or 3D is special feature enough for The Legend of Hercules, because there’s not much else here in terms of supplements. The 15-minute EPK is typical fluff. More interesting is the audio commentary by director Renny Harlin and star Kellan Lutz. I’ve heard complaints that Harlin is too dry, technical, and humorless in his commentaries, but to my ears he is usually fairly engaging. That’s the case here, cracking the occasional joke and making a case for his craftsmanship (somewhat defensively at times). The package includes an UltraViolet digital copy.