The Fandango trailer for The Legend of Hercules promised a mashup of Samson, Spartacus, Jesus, and He-Man. Missing completely: any of the twelve labors.
The film itself was less fun than that mashup suggested. On the "twelve labors" or "dodekathlon" angle there was, in fact, a lion, though it looked a little like Aslan so I wasn't sure it would stay dead after Hercules killed it. Also, one of the gladiator villians had his hair braided up in a manner reminescent of Medusa, but she's not even one of the labors. Maybe it was a hydra? So, two?
I suppose a proper deconstruction of this film would call out the elements from the trailer's mashups, identify their commonalities, and attempt to tie all that together with an exploration of how the Campbellian monomyth could have been better applied and/or better left alone by this film. This, however, is not a proper deconstruction. It's my first film review of the year, and I have a zillion other things to get to, so I'm going to fall back to my usual position and answer the question: "how much fun did I have at the theater?"
Not nearly enough.
Oh, hey! The fight scenes were brilliantly choreographed and were filmed and edited beautifully. If you're hankering for nothing more than watching athletic actor/models and stunt men perform close-combat, this film delivers that. Unfortunately, between the cool fighting there are going to be scenes where people talk, and some of them are going to attempt to emote. Watching one of the brawlers take a Herculean uppercut to the crotch is actually LESS sympathetically painful than sitting through some of the dialog, and it was a very powerfully delivered uppercut. In heroic slo-mo, even.
The emoting was bad enough that I didn't care who won the fights. That trims the last of the tasty, meaty bits from a meal of battling beefcake, leaving nothing but indigestible gristle. It's pretty gristle, but okay this metaphor has ruined my appetite. I'd start over but I've got other things on the to-do list.
In years past my first films of the season have gotten numbers. I felt no shame in starting the list below #1 for Legion (2010, #a jillionty-five) and Wolverine (summer 2009, #6), nor in giving Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters the #1 slot (2013, and yes, this kind of floored me. Also I love the H&G:WH soundtrack a lot.) This year, however, I'm just going to say no. There's no #1 yet, and I'm too brain-fogged to attempt to assign an arbitrary "FUN" value to a film during which I thought to myself on at least 5 occasions "I'd rather be playing XCOM."
And honestly, if I were going to allow myself to play XCOM (I'm 25% into "The Enemy Within" DLC) before my work was done this evening, I would have walked out of the theater about 40 minutes into the 99. Those 99 minutes felt like 130.
Technical note: I saw the 3D. Some of the effects were absolutely gorgeous. Some were cheesy (lighting IN YOUR FACE!) But in a lot of places the 3D was broken, with reflections on the surface of the water (for instance) jumping out in front of the characters who were standing above it.