The Legend of Hercules – Christian Movie Review!
The origin story of Hercules, the son of Greek god Zeus, is brought to the big screen in The Legend of Hercules. In this unconvincing mash-up of Gladiator, pagan mythology, and Romeo and Juliet, Hercules, played by Kellan Lutz (Twilight), finds himself betrayed, exiled, and sold into slavery — straight up Russel Crowe style — after he steals the heart of the princess Hebe (Gaia Weiss, Mary Queen of Scots) who is betrothed to the wicked king’s son. It’s a classic case of a demigod having a forbidden love affair with a tenderhearted princess who can’t bear the thought of marrying the wicked king’s son who is conniving and cowardly and has a haircut from the early 1990s for some reason. I genuinely felt bad for the actor. We’ll get to the bad haircuts in a moment.
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content: Ugh. This is painful to write because it means I have to recall a scene I wish I could erase from my memory. In the opening scenes of the film, Zeus has sex with a woman so that she will give birth to Hercules. There is no nudity and Zeus is invisible, but the woman makes all the movements and sounds as if she were with a real person; and we’re forced to watch the whole thing. Zeus is heard making odd sounds in the sky. It’s weird, creepy, and just plain disturbing. And Zeus sounds more like a growling escaped dinosaur from Jurassic Park than a Greek god. There is a second implied sex scene in the movie between Hercules and Hebe that shows kissing and embracing — but no nudity other than the bare chest of Hercules. The bizarre and creepy scene with Zeus is reason enough to skip this movie.
Violence/Gore: There are innumerable sword deaths, slashes, arrow wounds, knife stabbings, punching, wrestling, choking, and — wait for it — electrocutions, but the film is PG-13 because the camera cuts away and rarely shows any gore or wounds. The violence is more stylistic than anything else, but there’s plenty of it. It’s a Greek war/gladiator movie.
Language: None. These ancient Greeks don’t use our swear words except when they’re using the d-word to curse someone to Hades.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: None.
Frightening/Intense Content: Besides the violence and the weird Zeus-impregnating-a-girl-while-sounding-like-a-distant-T-Rex-with-an-upset-stomach thing, there is a creepy scene where the spirit of a Greek goddess possesses a soothsayer, turns the soothsayer’s eyes white (because giving the poor girl cataracts is always necessary when possessing a mortal) and delivers a message.
Entertainment Value and Film Craft
I did not enjoy the way they told this story. I checked my watch twice to see how close it was to being finished. The casting, costumes, and hair were not quite right for many of the characters. It looked as if they had swiped excessively beautiful people from the reality show The Bachelor — the kind of people with perfect teeth and never a hair out of place as if hairdressers followed them everywhere — and threw sandals and Grecian clothing on them. Everything felt contrived and overly polished. Just about everyone looked like shampoo models.
I’ll be honest, I am saying these negative things with reluctance. I’m not the kind of critic who is quick to trash someone’s hard work. Whether a movie is terrible or great, it still takes an insane amount of work to produce a feature film — usually 15-hour days for the crew for weeks on end if not longer, not to mention all the time in pre-production and post-production. People’s blood, sweat, and tears go into the making of a full-length movie. This film certainly has its moments. A few of the action scenes are worthy of the big screen. The cinematography is well done and even beautiful in some scenes. I especially liked the scenes in the boats on sea, though they were very brief.
However, everything felt like a parody of 300, complete with the requisite slow motion action shot where a character freezes in mid-air with his sword over his head as raindrops float past his face in slow-mo, and then resumes full speed as he comes crashing down on his enemy. This happened approximately 42,783 times in this film. The director was pressing the big red shiny “slow motion” button on his editing computer feverishly as if he were playing an old school shoot-em-up Nintendo game.
In general, I feel obliged to do whatever is necessary to dissuade you from paying $10 for a movie ticket to see this movie. If you’re a diehard fan of Greek mythology film adaptations, then just wait for it to come out on Netflix.
To be fair, I do not believe the film fails because of the actors. Granted, they looked silly in many scenes that were meant to be serious; but I’m convinced it was not because the actors were incompetent. If you look at the credits of many of these actors, these professionals have been in Oscar-winning films like Zero Dark Thirty and critically acclaimed action movies like The Bourne Ultimatum. I’ve seen many of these actors in other films, and they were fantastic. Unfortunately, they were victims of a script that translated awkwardly to the big screen. Much of the dialogue made me cringe. Some of it was so bad that I felt embarrassed for the filmmakers. They probably didn’t think that the harrowing, chest-pounding speeches were going to look as silly as they did on-screen. There were also some amateurish mistakes. For example, a soldier is shot in the chest with an arrow, somewhere near his heart. The moment the arrow strikes him, he collapses and stares blankly off into space as if the arrow had accidentally struck his off switch. I’m no doctor, but even a fatal arrow wound in the general area of the chest does not instantly render you in a catatonic state of unconsciousness. It looked similar to when boys pretend sword fight and when one of them is struck — no matter where they are hit — they immediately fall to the ground motionless. And then there were the haircuts. I think I should stop there though. I don’t want to dog pile too much on the movie.
You get the idea.
When you compare this film to masterpieces like Gladiator or 300, this film feels like a pale imitation. Although it does have a few nice moments visually, overall the film falls short of just about every other movie in this classic mythology genre. In addition to that, it has one particularly unsavory and disturbing scene depicting a pagan god impregnating a mortal. Ugh. No, thanks. Please do not go see this movie. If you must see a fantasy film this weekend, go see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Even if you’ve already seen it, you will have a better experience than seeing The Legend of Hercules.
Or, better yet, go read a book. If you’re interested in modern adaptations of classic mythology, read Til We Have Faces, an unforgettable novel from the mind of Christian scholar and author C.S. Lewis that re-tells the myth of Cupid and Psyche.
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