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December 21 2014
Hercules Extended Cut Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
24/7/201417/12/2014ParamountBrett Ratner
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)

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Dwayne Johnson has the physical presence of Hercules, the son of Zeus.

My earliest experience with Hercules was none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger's Hercules Goes Bananas (or Hercules in New York as it is also known) which is not only one of the worst movies of all time, but has next to no resemblance to the classic Greek mythology. Over the years there have been dozens of films and TV shows starring the son of Zeus, and indeed this is the second Hollywood film this year based on the character - but this is the vastly superior film before you ask!

Everyone knows the legend of Hercules and his twelve labors. Our story begins after the labors, and after the legend... Haunted by a sin from his past, Hercules has become a mercenary. Along with five faithful companions, he travels ancient Greece selling his services for gold and using his legendary reputation to intimidate enemies. But when the benevolent ruler of Thrace and his daughter seek Hercules' help to defeat a savage and terrifying warlord, Hercules finds that in order for good to triumph and justice to prevail... he must again become the hero he once was... he must embrace his own myth... he must be Hercules.

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Hercules takes on the Nemean Lion.
Hercules is a Hollywood styled blockbuster in every sense of the word with Dwayne Johnson headlining the film, plenty of over-the-top action and set pieces, plenty of CG visuals and spectacle over depth of characters. It is in fact based on Hercules: The Thracian Wars the Radical Comics but where it differs from your typical Hollywood movie is that it doesn't follow the legend and build him up to mythical proportions, but rather strips the legend back to a more realistic interpretation. The legendary water based serpent, the Hydra, as detailed in this film was actually assassin's wearing snake disguises. It's an interesting take, and one that we enjoyed immensely.

When it comes to the talent in this film we can't think of anyone with a better physique and stature then Dwayne Johnson to carry off the role of Hercules. Supporting cast are also impressive with actors including Ian McShane, John Hurt, Rufus Sewell, and Joseph Fiennes who would be familiar to most. We also really enjoyed Ingrid Bols° Berdal as Atalanta, the female archer, and Aksel Hennie as the barbarian. Both of these characters were entertaining.

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Action sequences are entertaining.
Director Brett Ratner is one who gets panned a lot in the industry but personally I enjoy his films - the Rush Hour trilogy are always entertaining, Red Dragon was a pretty decent thriller, and X-Men: The Last Stand was decent given the rushed production and that Brett had to replace Bryan Singer at short notice when he jumped ship to direct Superman Returns. While Hercules won't go down as one of the great films, we did find his direction - particularly during the action sequences pretty exciting.

As you may have noticed this Blu-Ray contains the Extended Cut of the film which adds in just over 3 minutes of footage. Perhaps more importantly this version adds back plenty more blood and gore which was missing from the theatrical release in order to get a PG-13 rating in America. We have to say that we enjoyed the violence here and movie studios need to be mindful that if this becomes the norm - a watered down theatrical experience - then we'll opt for waiting for the Blu-Ray every time. Parents may want to know that you can watch the theatrical cut of the film which reduces the gore to more suitable levels for younger teenagers.

This version of Hercules provides an interesting take on the legendary tale with a much more "realistic" approach to taking down the legend, and it's one which we enjoyed very much. Dwayne Johnson certainly fits the bill of the titular character and the support cast are also impressive.

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The battle with the Bessi is frantic.
Hercules has come to Blu-Ray in either 2D or 3D versions, however it is the former which we were sent to review so we can't comment on the effectiveness of the 3D - however we can certainly see some of the scenes would potentially provide some great moments in 3D, not least of which being the battle sequences. We must point out however that the 3D version is not the Extended Cut of the film which provides more gore.

Anyway looking at the 2D version this video has been encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec at the filmĺs original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Much of the film takes place at night, or in interiors and the transfer handles the often warm, fire lit, scenes with aplomb. We doubt you will be disappointed by the transfer on this Blu-Ray.

Even more impressive then the video is the stellar lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (24-bit/48Khz) English audio track which is every bit as exciting and immersive as one would expect from a blockbuster Hollywood action film. Surround sound channels get a frequent workout during the battle sequences while, even during the quieter scenes, the audio remains impressive with clear dialogue at all times. While it won't win any Academy Awards, we also enjoyed the music from composer Fernando Velßzquez.

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Hercules looks spectacular on Blu-Ray.
Other audio tracks are provided in German, Spanish, French, and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 each encoded at 640kbps with the same for the English Audio Description track. Subtitles are available in German, English Spanish, French, Dutch, and English for the Hearing Impaired.

This 2D Blu-Ray release of Hercules includes a few extras which are worth your time. These include...

Commentary by Brett Ratner and Beau Flynn: Only available on the Theatrical version of the film the director and producer provide pretty constant and interesting insights into the production of this film and it's definitely worth a listen if you like audio commentaries.

Brett Ratner and Dwayne Johnson: An Introduction (5:32/HD): Not much substance here with interviews with the director and actor really only acting as an EPK styled piece for the film with some on-set footage and pre- viz sequences. There is an interesting story about an injuries to Dwayne which caused production issues and delays.

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Visual effects in Hercules are often stunning.
Hercules and His Mercenaries (11:07/HD): We all know about Hercules and actor Dwayne Johnson, and this featurette looks at the other main characters in the film and the actors that play them. Good to see each of the other actors, many of them unknown to Hollywood, getting some coverage in the extras.

Weapons! (5:24/HD): The name says it all really with this featurette focusing on the weapons used throughout the film.

The Bessi Battle (11:54/HD): One of the major battle sequences in the film is detailed here from the design and construction of the set, to the boot camp for the soldiers, costume design, makeup on the Bessi and shooting the sequence.

The Effects of Hercules (12:28/HD): This featurette focuses on the amount of visual effects in the film. While much is done practically a lot - including creatures and set extensions - are done digitally and this is a pretty decent look at how the effects were done. Interesting to hear that 60 people worked on the 3 wolves in the film!

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Hercules (2014) is on Blu-Ray now.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (14:38/HD): Fifteen deleted or extended scenes are presented here of variable quality. Some could have remained in the final film, while others were obviously cut for pacing.

As a fan of Dwayne Johnson we were keen to check this latest iteration of the legendary Hercules out. The film had some great characters, a decent and unique take on the legend and fantastic battle sequences (which have added gore due to the Extended Cut Blu-Ray release). This is worth a watch.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Paramount. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.