A note: This is the first in the Anti-Monitor series, where it’s believed that some films are best reviewed with the utmost incredulity. This week, my hetero-lifemate Matt Fleming and myself banter back and forth over Brett Ratner’s latest debacle, the Dwayne “Not The Rock” Johnson-starrer, Hercules. Please be wary for spoilers throughout, and enjoy.
DR: Well. That was certainly a humbling experience.
Matt: What’s humbling about a hilarious comedy?! That was a comedy, yeah? Funniest Brett Ratner film since X3!
DR: It actually made me laugh. Like, out loud. You know me: do I EVER laugh during a movie?
Matt: Only MST3K. To be honest, I kept envisioning the funnier Dwayne Rock-Johnson, the one from earlier films and his appearances on SNL, and when viewed through the lense of intentional comedy, it’s an absurd laff-riot.
DR: I’m glad you mention that. Dwayne Johnson has an undeniable charisma, and he makes it so easy to like him. But here? With Brett Ratner guiding him? There’s just nothing to like, is there?
Matt: The number one problem is the script. The dialogue sounds like it came out of a cliche-generator, and someone forgot to program the whole English language. Not even the People’s Champion can make this shit sound good.
DR: When the film starts with some phony English accent telling us we don’t know the “truth” about Hercules, I all but gave up right then and there.
Matt: This film was not written by a literate adult.
DR: I dunno. A poet-warrior from Athens, a she-warrior Amazon, and a bitter, vile Hera… (screenwriters) Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos at the very least saw 300. Oh, and hey… one of them is Greek.
Matt: As opposed to anyone in this movie. Frankly, I shouldn’t care about everybody’s dumb accents in this kind of film, but it really bugged me to hear Hercules speaking like an American Action/Wrestling Superstar. Best line of the night: “fucking centaurs.”
DR: It bugged me when Johnson actually bothered with his fakey English/Period accent. You heard it, right? Tell me you heard it. That made me dislike Dwayne Johnson so much. I fear for the DC Cinematic Universe.
Matt: It was like a 15% at best.
DR: Certainly doesn’t eradicate the fact that it happened. Like all that shit CGI. Every pan shot of an advancing army made me throw my hands up in the air, all like: “Ratner couldn’t con any more shady investors for some decent battle sequences?” Christ, I miss the days before Lord Of The Rings.
Matt: You mean like when Herc’s brigade fought a bunch of tribal, nu-metal green army dudes? (The yelling for a solid minute!) Some of the CGI was good, like the animals, but for God’s sake, get your budget on par with Game Of Thrones at least.
DR: At the very least. I know I mentioned this to you before when we were walking home, but I almost want to watch the Renny Harlin Legend Of Hercules just to see how they compare in quality.
Matt: I wonder if Harlin threw any digs at Ratner the way Brett threw shade in this movie. I wonder if it’s just gonna be a hunkier, Twilight/YA Hercules.
DR: You mentioned shade, but I completely missed it. What are you talking about?
Matt: Iolaus (Reece Ritchie) the plucky storyteller who plays up Herc’s labors, asks which title sounds better: something to the effect of The Labors of Hercules or Hercules: The Legend. Ian McShane replies they both sound boring.
DR: Oh, right. I think he said something like The Legend Begins but I get you. Yeah. Don’t put anything past Brett Ratner. The man just oozes class. Or maybe just ass.
Matt: Did you know that Dwayne Johnson was in three consecutive number one films in 2013? Maybe he could be Brett Ratner’s good luck charm, because he’s the only draw, and like you said, minus the charisma. The best moment was when he woke up from his fever-nightmare with a spear sticking into the air, surrounded by corpses, for like two seconds too long. All his charm is replaced by stilted dialogue and hair.
DR: There is some serious genre-bait casting in this flick: Ian McShane, John Hurt, Rufus Sewell (who seems doomed to roll in this dreck)… throw some eye-liner on them, and fuck it: Greeks. Athenians. Brothers.
Matt: The Unforgettables. Characters whose names I can’t remember. They repeat their names so many times, but the sound mixing in this movie is terrible, so I kept calling John Hurt “Lord Curtis.” And Ian McShane’s constant eye-rolling asides should be cute and funny, but rather they’re stupid and hilarious.
DR: The man was visibly bored. John Hurt’s been doing this shit for so long, it barely registers for the man anymore. I got to the point with him where the only thing I was thinking was, “man, the 3-D really brings out his cataracts.”
Matt: John Hurt just acts old throughout the movie. And his facial hair looked really gross. You said it, though, the things we do for a paycheck.
DR: All things aside, what is there to do with this material? The script is woefully undercooked, but reliably formulaic in the Three-Act Structure. The movie picks its nose but never lets the grass grow under its feet. I felt so exhausted by the end of this fucking thing, I really did.
Matt: I agree about how long the movie feels. Truthfully, if this was an episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, it might have been better. Problem number one is the terrible script: choppy dialogue advancing a surprisingly confusing plot. The mystery of Herc’s family is revealed in such a stilted manner that by the end I just didn’t care. When they reveal the truth, I realized they had written themselves into a corner and pulled a “get-out-of-plot-jam-free” card. And for the life of me, I don’t think I remember how the movie actually ended.
DR: Ratner should never burden himself with complication. The whole “is he or isn’t he” subplot of Hercules’ purported godly heritage and his briefly skimmed “did he or didn’t he” murder plot hardly registered. And Dwayne The Rock Johnson ain’t actor enough to carry them pathos. Not for one bit.
Matt: The way the movie plays with history, the way it places import on things like the “shield wall” formation, it all really drags. For being what should be a big action-adventure, it feels very enclosed and trapped.
DR: And – hey, let’s talk about that. The Shield Wall bullshit. So Hercules and his merry mercs decide they’re gonna train a kingdom full of farmers into becoming warriors, and festoons them with – for serious – patented Hercules Armor. Where did they make those? WHEN did they make those? DID they make those? Why are those?
Matt: Yeah, I was curious who was in charge of Hercules’ merchandising. “Hey guys, in case we ever need to train an army of farmers and want some extra motivation, why don’t we buy a surplus of lion-themed army gear!” Is there a budget in the team’s collective pool of loot? Probably the same stash that keeps Hotlanta from running out of arrows.
DR: Infinite Ammo, man. Come on. You know about the Infinite Ammo by now.
Matt: Yeah, yeah, infinite ammo. You know who I liked the most in his posse? Tydeus, cause he didn’t have any lines.
DR: He had the one. Oops, spoiler. Fuck your spoilers.
Matt: That’s no spoiler. There’s two things to spoil in this movie, and I’ll avoid them, but they aren’t surprising.
DR: I seriously believe if Ratner could have got away with it, Atalanta would have been the one without any dialogue. The way he depicts women in this flick is too egregious to ignore. Like that flashback sequence with Hercules’ wife. We get a shot of her bare ass – which, PG-13? – and the literal next shot is her dead and mutilated corpse laying on the ground, lip gloss shimmering louder than the blood. Fuck this guy.
Matt: I would have enjoyed this film better if it were written and produced by Marlon Wayans.
DR: I would have enjoyed this film better if we got to go home before it began.
ANTI-MONITOR – MATT: In addition to the poorly written dialogue and bored performances, Hercules suffers from an identity crisis. At times too serious and not serious enough, Ratner’s take on legend versus reality comes close to parody enough to be funny, just not on purpose. If Danny McBride punched up the script (and replaced the hard nosed Rufus Sewell as Herc’s number two) and Ben Stiller directed the action, we’d have Tropic Thunder: Hercules. As such, Ratner desperately wants to be taken seriously as a serious action filmmaker (I guess that could exist?), but forgets his best work was (…sigh) Rush Hour. Without any dynamism of character, all the emotion of the story is forced, and The Most Electrifying Man in Hollywood becomes an unrelatable mass of muscles.
If you’re going to make a crisp, fun historic romp with a great cast (on paper), you’ve got to convince an audience of your intent. Hercules lacks the darkness and weight of both 300s, but isn’t quite silly enough to qualify as so-bad-it’sgood. Dwayne Johnson should kill this role, but I don’t believe anyone from the screenwriters down cared enough to ensure he had the correct take on such a rich legend. Glossing over some of the greatest stories in mythology with some fancy slowmotion flashbacks, then turning the character into a glorified drill sergeant, Ratner does the audience, as well as the real legend, a true disservice. And if you’re going to make an historic action romp 100 minutes long, make sure it doesn’t feel longer than Pain And Gain. I thought The Rock was massive enough to make a Brett Ratner film bearable, and I was wrong.
ANTI-MONITOR – JARROD: The entirety of Brett Ratner’s Hercules can be summed up by this photograph: