I can’t in good conscience call Hercules a good movie. It is not. It has many glaring faults. However, I can’t say that I did not greatly enjoy watching it. This film is much like its star. Dwayne Johnson is almost always entertaining; affable and watchable even when the material he is working with isn’t worth your time. Hercules is generally charming and enjoyable, but large parts of it are simply poorly made.
While the film tries to portray the overtly mythological elements of Hercules and his origins as too ridiculous to believe, merely legends created by his nephew Iolaus to scare his enemies, the feats it does show him complete are just as ridiculous. Plus, there is the fact that there is nothing that seems unbelievable with Dwayne Johnson in the title role. If the movie tells me he can wrestle a lion the size of an elephant, then I believe The Rock can do it. Johnson’s Hercules is great. He is larger than life; that perfect combination of heart and menace. The supporting cast is largely good as well. Hercules’s gang is given just enough characterization that they feel like a group of old friends.
It also features some very well constructed action scenes. They are patently ridiculous, but enjoyable. Sure, Herc spends a lot of time training some farmers to form a phalanx, but when battle comes, he and his friends stand outside and fight on their own. Still, the action is reasonably stylish and perfectly comprehensible. It is fun to watch. To go with the ridiculous nature of the fights, there is also a heaping dose of humor. Aside from Hercules himself, the rest of the characters seem to recognize the ridiculousness of the scenarios in which they find themselves. The humor mostly lands.
The big problems are numerous and obvious. There are instances of lack of continuity from shot to shot. In one scene Hercules enters without his weapon, a fearsome looking club, but a few shots later it is there. It makes no sense for it to be there unless Hercules brought it and the viewer clearly saw it didn’t. The premise of a late heel turn simply doesn’t work with what came before it. It isn’t surprising, you almost have to see it coming, and it is just nonsensical. There are plenty of twists like that heel turn, twists that are both obvious and unearned. Then there is the supposed mystery about whether or not Hercules killed his family, as in the actual myths. There is no way that anyone could believe the Hercules portrayed in this movie is at all capable of such a thing.
Hercules is fun to watch, easy to enjoy and severely flawed. You have to fight the urge to mock the more obvious and blatant head scratching moments. Still, despite staring right into these flaws, I found myself having a lot of fun. Anyone going to see this movie wants to see Dwayne Johnson perform legendary feats as Hercules, and that the film delivers. You see him kill a half-dozen men with one blow, Use one giant wolf to batter another giant wolf to death and throw a charging horse. It is amazing. I can’t say Hercules is good, I can’t even recommend anyone watch it at all, but I definitely enjoyed it.