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Hercules (Blu-ray Review)

HerculesAs is tradition in Hollywood, there are usually two films in a cinema-going year that are based on the same subject matter.  We’ve had years of double Joan of Arc movies, meteor gonna hit earth movies, volcano movies and even Truman Capote biopic movies.  This year was the year of Hercules.  First was the Renny Harlin, Kellan Lutz led The Legend Of Hercules.  I have not had the pleasure of seeing that one.  Even if, the one I’d be more interested in anyway would be this one, because it contains superstar Dwayne Johnson.  Unfortunately, this film came and left the box office underwhelming in the US.  The marketing on the film was very light and it came at the time when Guardians of the Galaxy and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles called dibbs on August.  However, this film was a pretty big hit overseas, helping the film to near $250 million total box office to help recoup the $100 million budget.  It didn’t seem like anyone I knew was really excited or looking forward to this movie.  But, should we have been?

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Film 

This aint your ancient ancestors’ Hercules!  In this rendition, Hercules leads a band of mercenaries, who roam the land completing tasks and battles for the riches of gold.  Hercules’ legend is more fabricated to build his intensity and character around the world, while he merely is a more grounded man than we’re normally used to.  One day, Hercules and his group are hired by Lord Cotys to train his kingdom of Thrace to prepare for battle from the evil Rhesus and his army of Centaurs.

First off, wow.  Immediately you’ll see that this movie was not the film that was marketed to us at all.  This film is not the dour and muscle-bound standard Greek mythological epic we were led to believe it was.  And that winds up being a very good thing.  What we get is a film that has an incredibly interesting spin on the lore of Hercules.  Its also a film that is very loose, full of witty dialogue that never takes itself too seriously.  Its also got a lot of well thought out battles and action sequences.  There is not a hint to any of this from the trailer we had been fed, that looked at some throw away forgettable film.

Dwayne Johnson is one the most charismatic blockbuster movie stars on the planet right now.  So, its no surprise that he absolutely eats up the character of Hercules and is having an absolute blast.  We are also treated to his band of mercenaries in the film, including Ian McShane.  McShane looks like he’s having a lot of fun, and provides most of the comic relief in the film.  Joseph Fiennes isn’t in the film a ton, but I found it to be the most wild and interesting performance from him I’ve ever seen.  Normally he bores me, but here he was a delight in his role as King Eurystheus.  I also enjoyed seeing Rebecca Ferguson from The White Queen show up here in something big like this as she’s someone who could be turning a corner into bigger roles (She’ll be in Mission: Impossible 5 next year).  And an actor from Cold Prey shows up!  Ingrid Bolso Berdal plays the super badass and arrow firing Atalanta.

This group of mercenaries and Hercules have great chemistry with one another.  Part of that is due to the sharp, loose dialogue in which they trade plenty of quips with one another.  The lines in the film are not afraid if they don’t feel “of the time”.  This film is just having a ton of fun telling its story, not caring about historical accuracies or if they are following mythology to a T.  Ratner and co have developed a film that has a really cavalier and fun attitude about it that is really fun and enhances anything in the movie that could have just been generic or unoriginal and makes it unique with its take.

Battles and action in the film is really well thought out and carries over that sense of fun.  The film pays attention to practical choreography and has a sense of timing and geography that make each sequence a wholly cohesive unit.  One thing I really dug was that the film takes time to focus on training and then when it comes to actual battles, there’s a focus on strategy.  Its also shot in such a way that you’re able to appreciate it as its happening and you can view it in progress.  The execution of it is well thought out.  Anyone who thought this might have been just some route, generic film based on preconceived notions is going to be wonderfully surprised.  I myself was one of those people.

Brett Ratner’s Hercules is one of my personal biggest surprises of the year.  Its NOTHING like I expected or what marketing led me to believe it was going to be.  This is a much more lighthearted and loose affair than anything dour and “super dark and serious” take that it was supposed to based on marketing.  It is a more grounded approach, but its in the details where it brings more fun than frowns.  Another great factor, even in its extended form its still only 101 minutes (2 minutes longer than the theatrical cut).  Its a tight adventure that doesn’t sit and mistake super long runtime for a good mythological action movie.  This is definitely a movie I’m interested in going back to.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail:  This transfer is absolute perfection.  This sharp and unearthly clarity is almost as if you’re peering through a window.  Detail is extremely high and looks as if you can touch and feel anything on the screen.  Every pillar, every tile, every piece of armor has a rich amount of detail from dirt to smudges to to a little scratch.  This is a modern film looking its finest.

Depth:  The film boasts a terrific 3 dimensional look (It was released that way theatrically).  Every character, pillar and object feels completely free of any setting or background.  There is a fine separation between everything and foregrounds and backgrounds look immensely clear and discernible.

Black Levels:  Blacks are inky and well represented.  Many variations on shading and detail is not hidden in the slightest when its dark or there is is black articles of clothing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are rich and boldly displayed.  Reds and greens pop nicely.   The film boasts a nice rich palette with varying degrees of of shades and color populating every frame of the film.

Flesh Tones:  Flesh tones are extremely lifelike and consistent.  Detail is super high as you can make out every pore, wrinkle, freckle, blemish and cut like you’re looking in a mirror.  Sweat beats are identifiable by the drop.

Noise/Artifacts:  No, just…yeah…nothing.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French Spanish

Dynamics:  Hercules provides a Greek mythological rock concert of a 7.1 track.  This is a toga word fighting party right in your living room.  There is a nice variation between sound, voice and effects.  The track is loose, lively and features well rounded and distinct effect representation.  This is definitely one for the demo room at your local brick and mortar A/V store.

Low Frequency Extension: From Hercules smashing with his club, to the sound of thunder, pilars crashing down or some deep moments in the score, the subwoofer should shake your room quite well.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a Greek epic sweeps around your entire viewing space.  This film has a well thought out and extremely active 7.1 track.  The battles and actions filter throughout your room as if you just walked into the thick of it.  Its come side to side, back to front and right to left.  Very impressive.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Clear, crisp and center focused.

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Extras 

Hercules comes with a DVD copy and UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.  The release features both the Theatrical Edition and Extended Edition of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Brett Ratner And Beau Flynn (Theatrical Version Only)

Brett Ratner And Dwayne Johnson: An Introduction (HD, 5:32) – The director and lead talk about how it was a passion project for both of them.  They go over their meeting, the take on the property and how Johnson had an injury that postponed the shoot a few weeks.

Hercules And His Mercenaries (HD, 11:07) – Features some camera test work for the cast.  The cast and Brett Ratner talk about the creation of the characters and what the actors bring to the roles.

Weapons! (HD, 5:24) – A piece on the props and the weapons of each character and how they work for them.

The Bessi Battle (HD, 11:54) – Focuses on the shooting and creation of the battle that takes place in the first third of the film.  Has interviews with cast, Ratner and the many of the production team.  A lot of the work on prosthetics is shown.

The Effects Of Hercules 12:28) – Behind the scenes of the visual effects on the film.  Also there’s a focus on how a lot of the film was shot practical.  Mostly CG was only used on the creatures in the film.

Deleted/Extended Scenes (HD, 14:38)

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Summary 

I am very surprised and extremely pleased at how much fun I had with Hercules.  Here’s hoping a lot of people discover what this movie really is on Blu-ray.  This is nothing like the studio was selling it to be.  I don’t know if the 2 minute difference of the theatrical cut makes the film that much better, but I was strapped in and fully enjoying the ride.  Regardless of your opinion on the film, this transfer and 7.1 audio track are absolutely outstanding and nothing short of perfection.  If you’re wanting the best out of your TV and surround sound, this is the one to pick up.  It has some really solid extras that help to garner a deeper appreciation of the film as well.  Maybe I’m crazy and you will wonder what the heck I’m seeing in this movie, but I definitely think this Blu-ray is worth the purchase.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Hercules (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    I’m very curious about this cut of the movie, given that the theatrical just seemed to be begging for an R-rated release.