Friday, December 12, 2014

Hercules: Reborn

2014 has not been kind to the legendary warrior Hercules, at least not in cinema anyways. Before this year, if someone said Hercules and movies in the same sentence I would have thought back to one of the last hand drawn animated Disney blockbusters of the 90s. Fast forward to 2014 and a trilogy of duds bearing the son of Zeus' name pretty much have ruined the chance of anymore Hercules movies hitting the big screen. First there was Legend of Hercules, which I have not seen yet, but has went to garner critical lashings as one of the worst films of the year. A few months later we got The Rock landing the big role in Hercules, which took the character in a refreshing twist, yet what seemed like mindlessly fun summer popcorn flick turned out to be one of my own personal picks for worst of the year. Then out of nowhere my same awesome friend that gave me wonderful past birthday gifts dropped off his latest 'present' in the form of 2014's third movie with the demigod in the form of Hercules: Reborn (trailer).

If you were like me, you had no idea this movie existed until my friend informed me he saw it in the direct-to-video section at Wal-Mart and he instantly thought of me when he saw the DVD art with "starring WWE's John Morrison" in big letters at the top of the DVD with Morrison front and center. Never mind the fact that Morrison's real name is John Hennigan and he has not been in the WWE for over three years and does not have the right to use that name outside of the company, and this is not even a WWE Studios film! While being on the front of the DVD, Hennigan is not the main actor of the film, that honor goes to Christian Oliver who plays the role of Arius.

Things start off well for Arius; he recently announced his engagement to Princess Theodora (Christina Ulfsparre) and General Nikos (Dylan Fox) promotes Arius to captain of the army. Things quickly turn for the worse as Nikos is on the losing end in military politics and his jealousy over Theodora leads him to lead an uprising and kidnap Theodora. Arius escapes and attempts to find the legendary Hercules (Hennigan) to assist in a rescue, but good 'ol Hercules turns out to be the town drunk living in shame and agony for killing his family. Now it is up to Arius to bring back the demigod to his old glorious ways and rescue his wife and vanquish Nikos once and for all.

One thing I will give Hercules with The Rock is that it early on establishes Hercules as this legendary warrior capable of great heroics to the point where no one believes he exists. In Hercules: Reborn, Hercules' name is not even dropped by the cast until about 20 minutes into the film after Nikos has led his uprising and Theodora is kidnapped when Arius says rather matter-of-factly that he is going to a random town he hears where Hercules resides for assistance. For about half of the film, Arius is trying to rid Hercules of his drinking habits and bring out the Hercules of old as they venture an unknown, seemingly infinite distance back and forth to rescue Theodora. I had some problems in this instance where bad things are happening to Theodora while Arius does not appear to be making much haste to get Hercules on his side.

There were mostly competent performances from this cast of unknowns. Out of this cast, minus Hennigan the only other actor I mildly recognized was James Duval from a couple of bit roles in major films around the turn of the century. Duval plays Horace, the best friend to Arius, who is along for the ride to get Hercules on their side. Hennigan is not terrible as Hercules, minus a couple of dramatic lines where he went too over the top. He even works in some of his notorious parkour-style WWE moves that seem ridiculously out of place here that you cannot help but laugh when he busts them out.

For the action scenes I went in expecting a low-budget version of 300 and Hercules, and that is what I got, complete with 300-esque globs of blood splattering with every sword slash. I did get a chuckle with how Hercules dealt with Nikos in the climatic final battle, and I think if Hercules: Reborn would have went overboard and indulged in more of these ridiculous fight/action moments it could have went a long way. In the short behind-the-scenes extra feature the crew talked about using legit swords because they did not have access to fake ones where they filmed in Morocco, and if that is actually the case then props to the cast for literally risking their lives on the set.

Other than the nine minute making of video, the only other main extra is a two minute gag reel along with about nearly a dozen other trailers for direct-to-video films from the fine folks at Asylum Home Entertainment. It is worth noting the back of the DVD case lied to me, because it states there being deleted scenes, but alas there are none to be found on the disc. A small nitpick I feel worth griping about is no option for subtitles; I find it inexcusable for that no matter what the budget is for a film.

I went in expecting this to have worse-than-TV-movie production values and somehow be worse than Hercules with the Rock. I think I set my expectations too low because while this is by no mean a five star film, it is not one of the worst films of the year either. It is pretty obvious throughout there was not a huge special effects budget, and the quality of the acting and action is subpar to the two other Hercules films this year. I get the feeling the filmmakers at Asylum knew this going in and gave it their best effort and made it as passable and competent of a direct-to-video movie as they could given the parameters they had to work within. So to finalize, Hercules: Reborn is the best of the three Hercules movies this year, and goes to great lengths to skip my worst of the year honors and does a commendable job at being an enjoyably generic BC-era action film.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Bounty Hunters
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Marine 3: Homefront
Marine 4: Moving Target
Rocky I-VI
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
Star Trek I-XII
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)

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