A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hercules stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as an older and more experienced version of the legendary warrior. Directed by Brett Ratner and based on a comic book, the movie has lots of action/fantasy violence, a high body count (people are killed in battle, as well as by wolves and crushed by falling structures), and a scene in which a boy's life is threatened. There's also occasional but not frequent strong language (mostly "s--t," plus one "f--king") and brief flashbacks of Hercules' wife looking sultry, kissing or even disrobing (her behind is shown). People unfamiliar with the legend will learn about certain aspects of it -- like Hercules' "twelve labors," including fighting the Nemean Lion, the Lernaean Hydra, the Erymanthian Boar, and more.
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What's the story?
Based on Radical comic Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore, HERCULES doesn't focus on the mythology of the character as a demigod so much as the "legend" of him as famous warrior. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays Hercules not as a buff young man (like Kellan Lutz in The Legend of Hercules) but as a a well-paid mercenary with a crew of specialized fighters -- his best friend, Autolycus (Rufus Sewell); seer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane); Amazon Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal)' and mute but deadly Tydeus (Aksel Hennie). Hercules' young nephew, Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), is brought along as a young storyteller. When the beautiful Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) pleads with Hercules to meet and take up arms for her father, Lord Cotys (John Hurt), against a demonic enemy, Hercules agrees. But things aren't always as they seem for Hercules, who has a painful past and a soft spot for the oppressed.
Is it any good?
The story and the action sequences, while mildly entertaining, are nothing spectacular -- or nothing you haven't already seen in countless similar movies. Johnson is one of Hollywood's most charismatic action stars -- he commits to his roles and generally plays likable heroes who are easy to root for in every movie -- but his Hercules is considerably broodier than other characters Johnson has played, and he leaves the humor to his co-stars, especially McShane and Sewell. These three actors are basically the chief reasons to see this popcorn action flick.
The dialogue is so formulaic that moments that should be serious or poignant are eye-rollingly obvious and almost laughable. And the flashbacks to Hercules' sexy (and dead) wife disrobing and looking sultry take away from the emotional impact of her death. When Maximus in Gladiator remembered his wife, it wasn't about how sexually attractive she was but about the fact that she was his wife and the mother of his child. It's a shame that since there's no outright romance in Hercules, the director chose to add in those unnecessary scenes, as well some off-the-mark double entendres about long swords and tongues and the like. These fall flat, unlike the many subtle jokes that McShane's Amphiaraus delivers. In the end, McShane's quiet, wise, and funny seer and Sewell's sarcastic realist steal the show, but they still can't save the movie from being just another forgettable action flick. At the very least, it's better than The Legend of Hercules.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Hercules' violence. Does the fact that the battle scenes show so much violence at once make it easier to watch in some ways? Would you consider that desensitization?
Compare this version to other movies about Hercules. Which one(s) do you prefer, and why? Does the movie make you want to learn more about the legend?
Why are myths and legends so popular in pop culture?
- In theaters: July 25, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: November 4, 2014
- Cast: Dwayne The Rock Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane
- Director: Brett Ratner
- Studios: Paramount Pictures, MGM/UA
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: epic battle sequences, violence, suggestive comments, brief strong language and partial nudity
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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