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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Review By: Dave Warner