Have you seen the Starz show Spartacus? It’s actually quite good, combining some stylistic action with some fairly in-depth character development. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend giving it a look. And then, when you’re done with that, never, ever, watch The Legend of Hercules. This film quite liberally steals some of the major plot points of that show, attempts to condense them into a poorly written script, then tries to simulate the epicness of that show with fight scenes that pale in their choreography and impact. Sitting through this movie felt like work, more so than any other film I’ve reviewed so far on this site, and after Grudge Match, that means something. Something horrible.
Let’s get one thing straight here. Despite the title and the name of the main character, this is NOT the legend of Hercules. This story bears little resemblance to any mythological story of Hercules. The closest we see is a scene of Hercules killing the Nemean Lion (with some laughably bad CG and prop work), but then we embark on a tale of Hercules entering gladiatorial slavery only to fight his way to freedom so that he may reunite with his lost love. Spartacus fans, sound familiar? However, when we get to the third act, the story adds a messianic twist. Seriously. Hercules is tortured publicly and calls upon his father Zeus to imbue him with the strength to escape his bonds. Push forward to the climax, and a pointless Zeus ex machina shoots down from the heavens and wins Hercules’s war for him, completely removing what little dramatic tension the film had built up to that point. It doesn’t help that no event feels like it’s an epic battle or emotional character moment; the film is content to treat its plot like a formulaic checklist, moving from point to point without stopping to allow a single scene’s alleged impact to soak in.
Almost none of the performances help this film either. I can picture almost every single actor watching their payment check being waved just off-screen, for every line of horribly expositional dialogue is uttered with about as much emotion as a concrete block, though to what little credit I can give them, the script doesn’t give them much to work with. Every line only serves to provide backstory or advance the plot, and the film’s characters are worth absolutely nothing except to play their archetypal roles. The only actor I saw who actually seemed to give a damn was the one who played Hercules’s best friend and lieutenant, Sotiris. He was played by Liam McIntyre… who also played Spartacus in the aforementioned TV show. If anything convinced me of this film being a lazy cash-in on the void that show’s finale has left, it’s that.
The all-important fight scenes aren’t even up to snuff. Presumably in order to retain a PG-13 rating, there is almost no blood in this film, which makes all the fight scenes feel hollow and without any stakes. Furthermore, the cinematography makes almost every fight scene incredibly confusing to watch as two stuntmen keep their faces away from the camera so that I can’t tell which character is supposed to be winning in any given encounter. I will admit that I got a minimum of pleasure from watching Hercules swing stone slabs attached to chains in a very God of War-like scene, but that was mostly because it reminded me of the fun times I had playing that game and not because I appreciated the film itself.
Ultimately, that’s the biggest problem with this movie. There’s nothing original or likeable about anything it shows us. It takes elements of 300, God of War, and, most blatantly, Spartacus and tries to lazily throw them together to make something that has none of the creativity that made its forebears any fun to experience. Don’t watch this movie. Don’t even look at it. Pick up the first season of Spartacus instead, and see what you think. It does everything this movie attempts and doesn’t attempt to do with the gladiator concept, and it does it infinitely better.
If you’ve seen Spartacus, what do you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.