A Herculean disaster
The Legend of Hercules is a 2014 fantasy action film directed by Renny Harlin and stars Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, and Scott Adkins.
Bad movies come in all shapes and sizes. Some mean well but instead come off as flat-footed and poorly executed. Others have few to no redeeming qualities whatsoever and make you feel bad for investing some of your precious time into watching them. Every once in a great while, though, there comes along a bad movie that is so preposterous and fails so hard at everything that it attempts that you cannot help but stare at the screen in utter amazement at the astonishing and often hilarious badness that is unfolding before you. Renny Harlin's The Legend of Hercules is one of those once in a great while bad movies. It does not matter what angle you look at the film at nor does it matter what course of action you take in trying to dissect this film. Every path leads to the same conclusion of how to best describe The Legend of Hercules: a hot mess of an origin story that grows increasingly ludicrous by the second.
The most ideal place to start carving into this turkey is in director Renny Harlin, who most people might know as the director of Die Hard 2. Harlin has also been the director behind other bad movies like Cutthroat Island and 12 Rounds and has earned the dubious distinction of being a five time nominee for the Worst Director Razzie. If you thought any of Harlin's previous directorial features were bad, then The Legend of Hercules will make those said films look like Best Picture nominees. Harlin's lazy directing is evident in how inept that the film is with every necessary line of work involved with making movies and with how the prominent cheapness of select scenes was able to slip into the final product. I cannot help but think that Harlin's top incentive for this production was to collect a paycheck.
I don't know all of the ins and outs of Hercules in Greek mythology, so I will refrain from calling out parts of the story as made-up bull crap. The story begins with the Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee), who prays to the wife of Zeus, Hera, for guidance in dealing with her tyrannical husband, the king Amphitryon (Scott Adkins). Hera responds to Alcmene that Zeus will impregnate her with a son who will grow up to become a savior of the people. Amphitryon finds out about Alcmene's pregnancy and declares the son to be named Alcides. Alcmene, however, has give the son the name of Hercules. Twenty years pass and Hercules (Kellan Lutz) has grown up and fallen in love with Princess Hebe of Crete (Gaia Weiss). However, Hercules' older brother, Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), is arranged to marry Princess Hebe while Hercules is sent away and sold into slavery.
Here we have a version of Hercules being portrayed by lunkhead Kellan Lutz, who you might know as one of the vampires in the Twilight film series. Lutz has the bod, but he is definitely no god. The only thing that Lutz has going for himself in this film is how he fits the part strictly from a physical standpoint with his bulking biceps and ripped abs. His acting is atrocious, and my favorite example of how so is in a pre-battle speech that Hercules gives near the end of the film. Lutz delivers his lines so forcefully and so without charisma, that I claim it is one of the most hilarious pre-battle speeches that I have ever heard. It's a big splash in a movie that is an ocean of unintentional hilarity.
- An exceptionally bad movie can only redeem itself by falling backwards into the so-bad-it's good territory which The Legend of Hercules definitely does. The film is better watched as an unintentional comedy rather than a serious-minded action fantasy film. The male characters, especially King Amphitryon, are constantly frothing at the mouth with testosterone while shouting and making stern faces as if everyone is secretly trying out for a WWE championship match. The fight scenes are equally funny with Renny Harlin deciding to borrow from Zack Snyder and 300 by utilizing Snyder's concept of slow-motion and speed-up while fighters are flying through the air and swinging their weapons. The slow-motion is overused to the point where the fighting is bereft of any legitimate excitement yet brimming with silliness. You might get annoyed by the first few times that the slow-mo happens, but you'll eventually come to accept it and begin to enjoy it for pure laughs. The movie as a whole is a lot funnier than many recent comedy films, which is actually kind of a sad truth.
- The Legend of Hercules looks as if it was made on a $300 budget. The costumes appear as if they were purchased from a rundown mythological thrift store, and there are some blatant moments that violate cinema's fourth wall. Hercules, Iphicles, and King Amphitryon sport sleeveless shirts throughout the film which would make sense because of how the male characters only care about acting as masculine as possible. Hercules and Iphicles run into a lion early on in the film, and it is a laughably fake-looking CGI lion. There is also a moment where Hercules has a tag team match with one of his friends, and Hercules stabs one of his opponents with a spear. You will notice that the spear is tucked under the guy's arm while he is falling to the ground. There are also moments of awful green screen such as a shot of Princess Hebe looking behind her while riding a horse. I am stunned to think that a movie with a 70 million dollar budget settled for some of the lowest forms of cinematic cheapness. It also doesn't help that the violence is so sanitized that characters can get whacked with spears, swords, and fists and have little to no blood be visible.
If you ever need evidence of the fiery wrath of the dreaded cinematic month of January, then you need to look no further than The Legend of Hercules. It is horribly acted and lazily constructed, but it is also entertainingly bad enough so as to be perfectly watchable. There is only so much one can do when your central star is vampire turned demi-god Kellan Lutz who lacks the charisma to be a quality action hero. Of all the cinematic crimes that the film commits, none may be worse than the ridiculous cheapness of far too many of its scenes. The story devolves into a ripoff of Gladiator, and the slow motion effects from 300 get used so much and in such an incompetent fashion that they become laugh-out-loud bad rather quickly. There is not a single thing about the action and fighting that is worth complementing, and the romance between Hercules and Hebe has no flare or emotional appeal. Everything amounts to The Legend of Hercules being one of the biggest January misfires in recent memory and arguably the final nail in the coffin for Renny Harlin and his time as an action director. I loved every minute of it, but for reasons that Renny Harlin was definitely not intending for.
Recommend? Only if you like so-bad-it's-good movies, which is exactly the kind of movie that The Legend of Hercules is
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