Kellan Lutz in a scene from 'The Legend of Hercules'
One night, Queen Alcmene was ravished by the god Zeus. From this union, she would give birth to a boy whom his stepfather King Amphityrion named Alcides. Later in life, the boy would develop remarkable physique and abilities, taking on the name Hercules.
Other than these nominal details though, it seems the rest of this "origins" movie was not derived from the ancient myths at all.
Case in point, mythology told us how angry the goddess Hera was with Hercules because he was a product of Zeus' infidelity, even driving Hercules mad to kill his own children. However in this film, we get a mild resigned Hera. In an Annunciation-like scenario, Hera appears to Alcmene and tells her that Zeus will visit the queen to plant his divine seed in her. It was even Hera who told Alcmene to call the boy Hercules.
The lady love of Hercules in this film, the Princess Hebe from Crete and her entire story line, along with the love triangle with Hercules' inept half-brother Iphicles, is an original conception by the four scriptwriters, of which director Renny Harlin (who never seemed to have recovered after the unfortunate 1995 debacle "Cutthroat Island") was one of them.
Watching "The Legend of Hercules" is like watching a compendium of all the sword-and-sandal films I have ever seen on film. The most dominant elements were from "300." This film, in fact, looked like a sequel of "300" because of the very similar style of computer graphics used for the sweeping scenery, the big crowds, the complex fight sequences with the stops, slow-motion and splattering liquids. Even the costumes looked like they were straight out of "300" dressing rooms.
We also pick up similarities with the movie "Troy," especially with regards to choreography of the battle scenes. The jumping attack move made classic by Brad Pitt's Achilles was multiplied so many times over in frequency and variation.
About halfway into the film, we will remember "Ben Hur" as Hercules becomes a slave and was made to row an ocean-going sailing vessel in rough waters. Then the film morphs into "Spartacus" or "Gladiator" as Hercules becomes an arena fighter for people's entertainment and gambling.
Later on, we will be reminded of "Samson and Delilah" when Hercules was being whipped while chained to two pillars. At that moment there will be a scene of mocking and divine communication reminiscent of the crucifixion scene from any film about Jesus like "The Passion of the Christ."
It was rather disappointing that we do not get to see familiar Hercules stories such as the "12 Labors," except from a short scene where he slayed an ugly CG animal they called the Nemean Lion. But this was not in the context as the myths tell us.
Anyhow, having a B-list cast with only Kellan Lutz of "Twilight" fame as the most familiar name starring as the titular muscle-bound hero, I guess we really should not expect too much from "The Legend of Hercules," especially in the acting department. Keep your mindset shallow, and you may even enjoy this pure popcorn flick. 5/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."