The Legend of Hercules 3D review

I suppose it was inevitable that the public’s thirst for comic superheroes would lead to filmmakers once again raiding the world of myths and legends to find new muscle-bound protagonists.

50 years ago Italian cinema that cornered the market on sword and sandal epics, with the adventures of Hercules, Ulysses, Perseus, Goliath and Samson. The majority of these movies were badly acted and atrociously dubbed. One time Mr Universe, Steve Reeves, was the regular star whose acting was as wooden as the sets. But somehow they were still amazingly entertaining, with a cast of thousands, splendid battle scenes and giant monsters created without the aid of CGI.

Sadly the same can’t be said for the recent spate of big screen myths and legends. Not even copious amounts of CGI and 3D could save diabolical outings such as Wrath of the Titans - and now it’s the turn of Hercules once again, whether played for laughs as one of the co-stars in the recent BBC TV series Atlantis, or in movies like director Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules.

28 year-old actor and former model Kellan Lutz (The Expendables 3) is the eponymous hero in this rather disappointing entry in the ancient gods saga. Writers Daniel Giat and Sean Hood have opted for a rather mundane storyline, which ignores all the stories classic ingredients such as the famous labours of Hercules (fighting the hydra, the Cretan bull, the Erymathian Boar, etc.) to relate a simple tale of imprisonment and gladiatorial spectacle. It reminds you of a similar plot in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator or Paul Anderson’s recent Pompeii. There is a nod to the original story however when Hercules slays the Nemean Lion, but most of the time he fails to display any of the super strength that he’s renowned for until the denouement.

English actor Scott Adkins (The Expendables 2) is obviously having more fun than Lutz with his larger-than-life portrayal of the villainous King Amphitryon, while pretty Gaia Weiss (Vikings) provides the love interest, Princess Hebe. Unfortunately for Hercules she is betrothed to his evil half-brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) in a sub plot that appears to have been lifted straight out of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments.

Finnish director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) handles the whole affair without a great deal of effort, perhaps hoping that 3D will save the day. Fortunately, it does, because the plot is non-existent and the script suffers from the usual modernisms that plague so many ‘period’ movies.

Picture: The 2.40:1-framed images are bright with good flesh tones and detail, while the 3D effect works really well, particularly in the scenes when Hercules, like Samson, brings the city walls tumbling down on his enemies (Chapter 9) or the gladiator fight in the coliseum (Chapter 7). In 2D the images are just as crystal clear with an excellent colour palette. Night scenes (of which there are many dotted throughout the movie) are also well presented with sharp delineation between hordes of torch bearing soldiers and dark uniforms. Only scenes such as the fight with the lion (Chapter 2) look a little phoney.
Picture rating: 3.5/5

Audio: The sound mix offers two versions in either DTS-HD Master Audio x.1 or 2.0. and rest assured your surround speakers will reverberate with the sounds of battle as well as the crashing symbals of Tuomas Kantelinen’s stirring musical score. Not that the effects and music swamp the dialogue, which is always crisp and clear above the gut-thumping soundtrack.
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: Harlin and actor Lutz provide an audio commentary, which is okay if you can be bothered to tune in. There’s a good camaraderie between director and star and they obviously enjoyed working together, which comes across in the reminiscences. But the 15 minute Making of... featurette is the usual fodder with a selection of cast interviews as well as the secrets behind the green screen effects, costumes and stunts.
Extras rating: 1.5/5

We say: Entertaining and mercifully short - although the comic strip violence and tired plotting will certainly test your attention span.

The Legend of Hercules 3D, Lionsgate, Region B BD, £25 Approx