Movie Review: “The Legend of Hercules”

Starring
Kellan Lutz, Scott Adkins, Gaia Weiss, Liam McIntyre, Liam Garrigan, Roxanne McKee, Rade Serbedzija
Director
Renny Harlin

As if people needed any more reason to lament the lack of originality in Hollywood, it seems like every year there are at least two dueling movies about the exact same thing. Last year, it was terrorist attacks on the White House, and two years ago, it was Snow White. The trend continues in 2014 with Hercules, pitting Renny Harlin’s brawn-over-brains film about the Greek hero against the Dwayne Johnson summer vehicle directed by Brett Ratner. Though Ratner’s involvement will no doubt irk film geeks who’ve made it their life mission to attack the director-for-hire any chance they get, it’s hard to imagine that his movie will be even remotely as terrible as “The Legend of Hercules,” although that’s not much of a challenge.

For starters, this rendition – a sort of origin story about Greek mythology’s most famous demigod – stars the emotionless Kellan Lutz as the title character. Raised by King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins) as his own son despite suspicions that he was sired by someone else, Hercules is in fact the product of an unintentionally hilarious one night stand between Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) and Zeus. When Hercules’ true love, Princess Hebe (Gaia Weiss), is arranged to marry his weaker and whinier older brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), Amphitryon sends Hercules off to war in the hopes that he’ll be killed. But despite being captured and sold into slavery, Hercules uses his skills in the gladiator ring to win back his freedom and return to Greece, where he leads an army against Amphitryon to reclaim the kingdom.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to January

january

Over the past few years, January hasn’t been quite as disastrous for new films as its reputation would suggest, but it’s hard to find much to be positive about this time around. Unless you like low budget horror movies (of which there are several to choose from, including the latest “Paranormal Activity”), the January release slate has very little to offer, save for a delayed Christmas blockbuster and failed Oscar bait from the usually reliable Jason Reitman.

“THE LEGEND OF HERCULES”

Who: Kellan Lutz, Scott Adkins, Gaia Weiss and Liam McIntyre
What: Betrayed by his stepfather, the King, and sold into slavery because of a forbidden love, Hercules must use his formidable powers to fight his way back to his kingdom.
When: January 10th
Why: The first of two Hercules films being released this year (and most likely the worst of the pair), Renny Harlin’s origin story of the Greek hero looks every bit the cheesy B-movie that you’d expect from the director of “The Covenant” and “Mindhunters.” Kellan Lutz has already proven himself to be a really terrible actor with the “Twilight” films, and not much seems to have changed in that department, but whoever started the rumor linking the actor with America’s favorite media obsession (Miley Cyrus) only weeks before the movie’s release was a brilliant marketing ploy. Unfortunately, no amount of publicity changes the fact that “The Legend of Hercules” promises to be even worse than the recent “Conan the Barbarian” reboot (another January dud), and that’s certainly saying something.

“JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT”

Who: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Costner
What: Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.
When: January 17th
Why: It’s another reboot of a popular movie character, although one that, unlike James Bond and Batman, wasn’t exactly in high demand. Originally scheduled for Christmas before Paramount pushed it back to make room for “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the studio is apparently so unconvinced that moviegoers even know who Jack Ryan is that they had to include his name in the title. While my lack of excitement may be obvious, “Shadow Recruit” does have a few things going for it, including Kenneth Branagh in the director’s chair (as well as playing the Russian baddie), and Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner in supporting roles. I wish the same could be said about Chris Pine, but after already reviving one pop culture icon with Captain Kirk, his casting as Ryan is uninspired to say the least.

“RIDE ALONG”

Who: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Tika Sumpter and John Leguizamo
What: Fast-talking security guard Ben joins his cop brother-in-law James on a 24-hour patrol of Atlanta in order to prove himself worthy of marrying James’ sister.
When: January 17th
Why: There always seems to be at least one urban comedy released during the doldrums of January, and this year’s lucky winner is the latest movie from Tim Story, which reteams the director with Ice Cube (“Barbershop”) and Kevin Hart (“Think Like a Man”) for what Universal Pictures is no doubt hoping will be the studio’s first hit of 2014. (They have to start recouping that “47 Ronin” budget somewhere). These movies are usually made for pretty cheap and have strong opening weekends, but while “Ride Along” should find success with its target audience, that doesn’t mean it will be any good. The pairing of Ice Cube and rising star Hart is definitely encouraging, but between its paint-by-numbers plot and the surprising lack of laughs in the trailer, you might want to wait for this on Blu-ray.

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