Hercules (2014 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brett Ratner|
|Based on||Hercules: The Thracian Wars|
by Steve Moore
|Music by||Fernando Velázquez|
|Box office||$244.8 million|
Hercules is a 2014 American 3D action-adventure film directed by Brett Ratner, written by Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos, and starring Dwayne Johnson as the titular character, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Reece Ritchie, Tobias Santelmann, Joseph Fiennes, Peter Mullan, Rebecca Ferguson, Isaac Andrews, Irina Shayk, and John Hurt. It is based on the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars. Distributed jointly by Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, it was released on July 25, 2014. It is one of two Hollywood-studio Hercules films released in 2014, the other one being Lionsgate's The Legend of Hercules.
The film became a box office success, earning $244 million on a $100 million budget and received mixed reviews from critics, with some praise for Johnson's performance and the action sequences.
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Hercules is the leader of a band of mercenaries comprising the spear-wielding king-turned-prophet Amphiaraus of Argos, the knife-throwing thief Autolycus of Sparta, the feral warrior Tydeus of Thebes, the Amazon archer Atalanta of Scythia, and his nephew, storyteller Iolaus of Athens.
Hercules is said to be the demigod son of Zeus, who completed the legendary Twelve Labors after he was betrayed by Hera, who drove him insane and caused him to murder his wife Megara and their children during a visit to King Eurystheus. Throughout the film, it is not clearly established that Hercules is truly the son of Zeus and many are skeptical of the claim as well as of the stories of Hercules' famous Twelve Labors. Despite this, Hercules displays unusual inhuman strength and nigh-unmatched skill in combat. However, Hercules is frequently haunted by the memory of the deaths of his wife and children by his hand, as well as visions of Cerberus.
After finishing a recent mission and saving his nephew on the Macedonian Coast in Northern Greece in 358 BC, Hercules and his team are celebrating and drinking at a tavern when they are approached by Ergenia, the daughter of King Cotys, who wants Hercules to train the armies of Thrace to defend the kingdom from bloodthirsty warlord Rhesus. Hercules accepts after he and his men are offered his weight in gold, and the band is welcomed to Thrace by Cotys and General Sitacles, leader of the Thracian army.
However, Rhesus has reached the Bessi tribe in Central Thrace and Cotys insists that Hercules lead the army into battle to defend the Bessi, despite Hercules's objections and the army's lack of training. However, they are too late as Rhesus' supposed sorcery has turned the Bessi against the Thracians. After the Bessi are defeated following a long and disastrous battle which results in at least half the Thracian forces being killed, Hercules and his allies properly train the army.
When the training is complete, Hercules and Sitacles confront Rhesus and his soldiers after a day-long journey on the battlefield before Mount Asticus. The Thracians force Rhesus' army to retreat after an arduous battle, but Rhesus himself rides out to confront Hercules and is defeated by him.
Rhesus is taken back to Thrace as a prisoner, where he is publicly tormented and humiliated. Taking pity, Hercules stops the townsfolk from throwing more objects at him. When Hercules mentions Rhesus' actions of burning down villages, Rhesus tells him it was not him or his army and tells Hercules that he has been fighting on the wrong side.
Later, in the palace hall, Rhesus is chained up and left on display. Noticing that Ergenia has taken pity on him, Hercules confronts her and finds out Rhesus was telling the truth about the villages, in that he was merely retaliating against Cotys's aggressive attempts to expand his kingdom. Although Ergenia doesn't agree with Cotys's methods, she goes along out of fear, as her father poisoned her husband, the previous king. Furthermore, Cotys threatens her son Arius, the true heir to the throne.
After receiving their reward, the mercenaries are ready to leave, but Hercules decides to stay behind to stop Cotys, with all but Autolycus choosing to follow him. However, they are overpowered and captured by Sitacles and his men. While chained, Hercules is confronted by King Eurystheus, who is in league with Cotys. Eurystheus reveals that he drugged Hercules the night his family died, viewing him as a threat to his power. Hercules's family was in fact killed by three black wolves sent by Eurystheus, resulting in Hercules's constant hallucinations of Cerberus. When Cotys orders Ergenia to be executed for her betrayal, Hercules is encouraged by Amphiaraus to believe in himself just as everyone believes in him. In a show of superhuman strength, Hercules breaks free of his chains, saving Ergenia and defeating the wolves with his bare hands. Hercules releases the prisoners, including Rhesus, and then confronts Eurystheus, impaling him with his own dagger and avenging his family; however, he is ambushed by Sitacles, who is then stabbed to death by Iolaus, who has been secretly honing his skills.
Outside, Hercules and his forces battle Cotys and his army. Arius is taken hostage, but rescued by Autolycus, who has decided to return to help his friends. In the ensuing battle, Tydeus is mortally wounded while protecting Arius, but fights on, slaughtering numerous Thracian soldiers until he falls; later dying in Hercules's arms. Again using inhuman strength, Hercules pushes a massive statue of Hera from its foundations and uses it to crush Cotys and many of his soldiers. The remaining soldiers see Hercules as lightning flashes in the background. The surviving soldiers bow to Hercules and Arius takes the throne, with Ergenia at his side. As the credits roll, an animated retelling of the Twelve Labors shows how Hercules accomplished these feats with the help of his companions.
- Dwayne Johnson as Hercules, the son of Zeus.
- Ian McShane as Amphiaraus, the seer.
- Rufus Sewell as Autolycus, the rogue.
- Aksel Hennie as Tydeus, the wild barbarian.
- Ingrid Bolsø Berdal as Atalanta, the Amazon archer.
- Reece Ritchie as Iolaus, the storyteller.
- Tobias Santelmann as Rhesus, a supposed bloodthirsty warlord.
- Joseph Fiennes as King Eurystheus, a former employer of Hercules.
- Peter Mullan as General Sitacles, the leader of Thrace's army.
- Rebecca Ferguson as Ergenia, the Princess of Thrace.
- Isaac Andrews as Arius, the Crown Prince of Thrace.
- Irina Shayk as Megara, the late wife of Hercules.
- John Hurt as King Cotys, the ruler of Thrace and the father of Ergenia and grandfather of Arius.
- Joe Anderson as Phineas
- Steve Peacocke as Stephanos
- Barbara Palvin as Antimache
- Ian Whyte as Bessi Leader
- Christopher Fairbank as Gryza, leader of the Macedonian pirates
- Robert Maillet as Thracian Executioner
- Tamina Snuka
To prepare for the role, Johnson took on a grueling training routine, stating: "I trained and worked harder than ever for 8 months for this role. Lived alone and locked myself away (like a moody 260-lb. monk) in Budapest for 6 months while filming. Goal was to completely transform into this character. Disappear in the role. Press journalist asked me today, with the mental and physical toll the role had on me, would I do it again? Not only would I do it again...I'd do it twice."
In North America, Hercules was released on July 25, 2014 at 3595 theaters, and grossed $11 million its opening day and $29 million its opening weekend; it placed second at the box office, behind Lucy ($44 million for the opening weekend). Ray Subers of Box Office Mojo opined this was "not a particularly strong start" for Hercules given that "star Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's The Scorpion King opened to $36 million" in 2002.
Hercules, described as "pumping some much-needed life into a lackluster summer at U.S. and Canadian theaters," did financially better than expected, as it "topped the expectations of analysts by roughly $4 million" and beat out Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which was in its third weekend and finished third with $16.4 million." Subers stated, "The fact that Hercules got close to $30 million is a testament to The Rock's ability to mobilize his massive fanbase." Paramount Pictures jointly released the film with MGM; head of domestic marketing and distribution of Paramount Pictures, Megan Colligan, "credited Johnson's 'charisma' with helping drive the opening," and added that the opening weekend total is "exactly what [they] had hoped for." The audience for Hercules was 58 percent male, with 64 percent over age 25.
Outside North America, the film was released in 26 foreign markets in 3,364 locations and earned $28.7 million. Hercules dominated the Russian box office with a strong $12 million debut from 930 locations. Australia had a No. 1 with $3.5M at 222 locations. Hercules also journeyed to several Asian territories where it had strong No. 1s including in Malaysia ($1.6M from 110), Philippines ($1.2M from 134), Taiwan ($1.2M) and Singapore ($1.1M at 27) IMAX was globally worth $6M with international drawing in $2M from 114 screens; over $1M came from Russia.
Hercules received mixed reviews from critics. The general sentiment, however, was that the film was a pleasant surprise. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 57%, based on reviews from 117 critics with an average rating of 5.4/10. The site's consensus states: "Hercules has Brett Ratner behind the cameras and Dwayne Johnson rocking the loincloth – and delivers exactly what any reasonable person reading that description might expect." Metacritic gives the film a score of 47 out of 100, based on reviews from 25 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a "B+" grade on a scale of A to F.
Scott Foundas, chief film critic for Variety, wrote in a positive review that "It's a grandly staged, solidly entertaining, old-fashioned adventure movie that does something no other Hercules movie has quite done before: It cuts the mythical son of Zeus down to human size (or as human as you can get while still being played by Dwayne Johnson)". Foundas praised Ratner, stating that "in terms of sheer scale and craftsmanship, Hercules represents something of a quantum leap for Ratner" and that the action sequences are "coherent pieces [...] that build steadily in intensity." He concluded that "[Hercules's] strongest asset is surely Johnson, who continues to foster one of the most affable, guileless screen personas in movies today."
Elizabeth Weitzman of New York Daily News stated, "It's fast-paced, funny, and packed with eye-popping action. The effects are impressive, but there are none bigger than the star Dwayne Johnson's massive powerful physique which perfectly suited the character and the large-scale movie." She added, "Johnson makes his entrance wearing a conquered lion's head and a loincloth skirt. The fact that he can pull this look off sets the tone for everything else to come."
John DeFore of The Washington Post stated, "[The film] simply fails to exploit its assets: an amusing, revisionist take on the mythological strongman, and the charisma of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson." Critic James Berardinelli said, "A big-budget misfire of a sizeable order, a visually busy but emotionally dead endeavor that wearies the viewer with endless computer generated special effects while failing to provide a scintilla of human interest."
Steve Moore, a writer whose name is used in the promotion of the film, wanted to have his name disassociated from the adaptation before his death, according to an interview excerpt with his friend, acclaimed writer Alan Moore (no relation).
In essence, Alan Moore's account suggests that Steve Moore had been observing multiple drafts of his contract with Radical Comics over time and was firmly under the impression that he would receive at least a 'paltry' 15,000 dollars should a film be made, but upon closer investigation found that the final version of the contract had removed that clause without his attention being fully drawn to that fact. And therefore leaving him unable to make any legal claim to payment. That fact alone should be enough to give potential viewers of the film pause, but there's also the fairly callous way in which his name has been used against his wishes to promote the film in a way that is, unfortunately, typically opportunistic of the film industry.
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