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This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Dwayne Johnson as Hercules in a scene from ‘Hercules’. (AP)
Does Dwayne movie rock or is it Ratner schlock? Johnson’s ‘Hercules’ never feels epic

A bore, a drag, an eyesore, a trifle: Brett Ratner’s ‘roid-brained “Hercules” is all of these, but most of all it’s a self-satisfied smirk drawn on a 64-ounce protein shake. It’s a supernatural epic that never feels quite colossal or consequential enough, as well as an utter waste of Dwayne Johnson’s unique dopey-flirty charm in a starring role that requires him only to open his mouth very wide when yelling and look unmistakably masculine while wearing nothing but a leather miniskirt and one of those animal-head hats popular with middle-school girls.
 
Adapted from the comic book by the recently deceased Steve Moore (who repotedly wanted his name removed from the film), this Hercules belongs to the Dark Knight school of gloomy antiheroes. Johnson’s comes with a ghastly backstory that would fell mere mortals: his entirely family was slaughtered while he was in the same room with them, and it’s rumored that he’s the culprit, since according to the New Comic-Book Hero Rules, behind every great man is a great woman who meets a violent death because of him.
(In the actual Greek myth, Hercules did kill his wife and child, which, yikes.)

Overlook
Befitting his status as half-man, half-deity, Hercules is also a celebrity — he may be said to have killed his wife and children, but his contemporaries are apparently willing to overlook the misdeeds of the hot and famous. (Ancient Greeks: they’re just like us!)
His reputation makes him and his merry brand of kill-happy friends highly sought swords-for-hire, especially for aging King Cotys of Thrace (John Hurt) and his daughter Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson).
Facing a rebellion that threatens to tear Thrace apart, Cotys enlists Hercules on a one-last-time-before-retirement gig to train his army and help fight the insurgent Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann). But Hercules gradually realizes that he may be fighting for the wrong side, and that his career as a soldier of fortune has resulted in one moral compromise too many. Consequently, the character’s inevitable journey toward righteousness proves genuinely rousing.
 
If only the rest of the film could compete with the compelling mystery behind the fate of Hercules’ family and the slippery royal intrigue at the Thracian court. Unfortunately, most of the film is devoted to repetitive battle scenes of scythes slashing necks and spears squishing into chests.
Occasionally the ever-gruff Ian McShane gets in a good joke. He plays the scarred seer Amphiaraus, who knows he won’t die for a long time, and so doesn’t mind standing in the middle of a battlefield with arms akimbo, daring a hail of fire-lit arrows to hit him. None do.
Thanks to his divine origins, Hercules seems similarly impervious, both to the arrows flying all around and the English accents of everyone else in the cast. (Johnson sticks to his American patois.) Even more distracting is the awful CG all around him, from the soldiers in wide shot to the sparely elegant palace and the surrounding busy village of Thrace.
The film’s best special effect is Johnson’s massive muscles, which leave him looking less like a person than a stony mountain. Too bad Hercules has the personality to match.
 
 
“Hercules,” the latest movie to send Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on a mission to wrestle bad guys on the big screen, is now playing in theaters and is being hailed as OK, at best.
The Paramount release directed by Brett Ratner (“Rush Hour”), a favorite target for critics, has garnered a 65 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, at the moment.
Based on Radical Comics’ “Hercules” by Steve Moore, the PG-13 action flick follows Johnson and a few fighting friends (Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Ingrid Bolsöi Berdal) on a mission to save a princess from a tyrannical warlord.
Despite the movie’s unique approach of flipping the popular legend on its head by making Hercules a mere mortal, TheWrap’s Inkoo Kang was not impressed.
According to TimeOut critic Tom Huddleston, no, it’s just “a complete mess.”
“Given that its director is the widely derided Brett Ratner (‘Rush Hour’, ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’), it’s no great surprise that ‘Hercules’ is a complete mess: the plot barely hangs together, the characters are meagrely sketched and the 3D digital effects are plasticky, indistinct and wearying to look at,” Huddleston wrote. “The script contains a handful of decent comic asides and there’s one great mid-battle moment where Herc throws a horse, but on the whole this is decidedly non-legendary.”

Shortcoming
Despite the movie’s shortcomings, which should be almost expected by anyone who has seen the trailer, USA Today critic Scott Bowles thinks “Hercules” accomplished what it set out to do: Entertain.
“Credit Dwayne Johnson and director Brett Ratner, of all people, for accomplishing the near-mighty in ‘Hercules’: They’ve made a sword-and-sandal spectacle that entertains,” Bowles wrote. “And though it’s not the second coming of 300, this ‘Hercules’ proves surprisingly knowing of the legend — and surprisingly willing to tweak it.”
Vulture critic Bilge Ebiri came to the same conclusion in a much less-flattering manner, and complimented the movie by saying it’s “fine for what it is — a fun, disposable trifle.”
“‘Hercules’ has no right to be as entertaining as it is. It’s dumb, choppy, cheap-looking, and it even somehow manages to waste the Rock ... but this big-budget jettisoning of the Greek myth, based on Steve Moore’s Radical comic, is also a million miles from the self-important grandiosity of the ‘300’ films,” Ebiri wrote. “It has a playful heart and spirited cast, and little else. But — and maybe this is just what George W. Bush called ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations’ speaking — that turns out to be (mostly) enough.”
 
Chances are, if moviegoers are excited for this movie, they’re excited for the kind of escapism entertainment action movies usually offer. If that’s you, then rest assured, because Empire critic Dan Jolin says the movie was plenty of it.
“This is brisk, brutal, silly (in a good way) pulp entertainment, whose clunky exposition and continuity errors can be easily forgiven,” Jolin wrote. “With ‘Hercules,’ Brett Ratner and Dwayne Johnson are out to entertain you — no more, no less. And that is just what they do.” (RTRS)
 
 By Inkoo Kang

By: Inkoo Kang

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