Images courtesy of Paramount Home Media
Brett Ratner’s Hercules got mixed reviews from moviegoers and critics alike. It's a pleasant surprise, therefore, to find that Paramount Home Media has given it a Blu-ray release that is relatively strong.
In addition to including the version of the film that was shown in theaters, the Blu-ray Combo Pack that was issued on November 4 includes an extended cut and a respectable set of special features. Despite the packaging’s promise of "exciting action not shown in theaters," however, the extended cut isn’t much to get pumped up about as it only adds about four minutes to the running time.
A far more satisfying extra is the audio commentary featuring Ratner and producer Beau Flynn. This can be played across the theatrical cut of the film and both contributors come across as committed and knowledgeable. Together, they give an enlightening account of many aspects of the production.
To back up the commentary there are five featurettes that provide interesting insights into the characters, special effects and action sequences. "The Effects of Hercules" reveals how CGI was used to make 300 actors look like 3000 and to create the ferocious beasts that the titular character encounters. "The Bessi Battle," meanwhile, shows the work that went into staging one of the movie’s biggest combat sequences. Challenges the crew faced include choreographing complex hand-to-hand fighting, applying hours of make-up to the actors playing Bessi warriors and the construction of an actual village. Both this and the FX featurette are a decent length at around 12 minutes each.
The other featurettes are shorter but worth watching for bits of bonus information. "Hercules and his Mercenaries" and an introduction to the film by Ratner and star Dwayne Johnson mostly consist of the actors and director talking about what attracted them to the story and to their characters. Then it's over to the prop tent for "Weapons!" which outlines why different versions of each character’s weapon of choice were made. One surprising fact this brief featurette lets slip is that no real arrows were fired in the entire film. Topping these extras off are a bunch of deleted scenes.
Hercules wasn’t one of this year’s outstanding blockbusters but as Disney’s simultaneously released Blu-ray for Maleficent shows, a successful film is no guarantee of good bonus content. Plaudits to Paramount then for making this Blu-ray something fans of Hercules and its leading man will want to smack down cash for.
The Blu-ray release reviewed here is the Canadian version and comes in a Combo Pack that includes the original and extended versions of the film on 2D Blu-ray, as well as the theatrical version on DVD and in Digital HD format for watching on iTunes.