The Rock plays a legend, a half-god, part beast part human: Hercules! Through the intro we learn his legend, yet through the story we learn what's under that facade of greatness. We learn his real story, the stories of his companions, and the story they create as they venture - first only as mercenaries - eventually with a bravado that befits only true heroes.
It starts simple. A mission. A war to win. But there is plenty of intrigue and treachery hiding behind that peaceful surface. I like the fact that it's hinted but not reveleased, in the way the farmers look/look at them, in the way the soldiers act, in the gigantic statue of Hera, in how the enemy isn't what they seem to be... and yet in the end it was as much a revelation for the characters as it was for me! If I watch it again, I wonder how different the experience would be?
The sceneries are awesome. In fact, sometimes they're too awesome. On their journey to the first battlefield the camera flickers from view to view as they're walking, each view more magnificent than the next, and it feels like they chose out separate locations to film just to make the sceneries as beautiful as possible. It doesn't seem very consistent. Even the battleground camp has an almost small town idyll to it. Not that it bothers me at all, it looks great, but it also seems so unnaturally green compared to the cold hard reality of the battle. But maybe that's a part of the picture... how things are in fact much greener than they seem to be? Maybe it's a hint that looks can be deceiving?
The battles are as awesome as they are elaborate. The armies are large (and you can see they're not just copying squadrons on the field... at least not for some of the close-ups, like the magnificent march downhill before the great field) and the fights are both brutal and varied. Each character fights in their own way, each one dives into battle headfirst and comes out virtually unscathed... mostly, and the final scene was a ferociously fiery display of power and might, befitting a legend.
It's pretty cool how you get to see a legend being made, as the legend that's been told is in fact only a legend, and the reality we now see far-surpassing it. You get to immerse yourself in the movie that way. And you get to relate to the character, because he really isn't a God after all... is he?
The movie reminded me a bit of The Scorpion King, just a lot flashier. There's the dame, there's the unjust ruler, the trap, the trials and myths... but there are more differences than there are similarities. And Hercules isn't on the run, nor is he a hero-to-be - he's the center of attention from the first moment.
At times it feels like the other characters are slashing down foes and he's just looking, pointing our own interest in a certain direction, not doing the hard work... but I guess that's what separates a leader from a fighter, right? At least he is the one doing most of the real work. Like the heavy lifting.
If you, like me, think 'Hercules of New York' or 'Animated Hercules' when you hear this name, it's time to swap out your stereotypes. This was a great watch.
rated 4/5: fo shizzle