Actors : Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Irina Shayk, Peter Mullan
Director: Brett Ratner
In a well-known Hindu-Buddhist parable about existence, life and living, death is represented by a tiger ( or an assortment of wild beasts depending on the version) In Bret Ratner’s action adaptation of Steve Moore’s graphic novel “Hercules: The Thracian Wars,” the Greek demi-god ( Dwayne Johnson) is haunted by the Chimaera, a three-headed fire-breathing monster. Between breath-taking fight scenes and interesting plot twists in this epic tale, the Chimaera appears, time and again, to Hercules’
As the story begins, our strongman has finished most of the onerous tasks (also known as “the labours of Hercules” given to him by King Eurystheus of Tiryns. Did you know one of them even brought him to India! I’d have loved to see this in the film!).
Being a demi-god (his father was the King of Gods, Zeus, his mother a mere mortal) has not made him omnipotent or invincible, thanks to Zeus’ jealous wife Hera who even sends a pair of serpents to kill the infant Hercules. That actually, is how your reviewer was first introduced to the legend. The image of a baby strangling the serpents with his bare hands adorned the gripe water we were fed as children. The name of Greece’s mightiest hero has also adorned other well known brands to signify strength.
But in the film under review, our hero has been laid low by tragedy. His beautiful wife (footballer Ronaldo Cristiano’s Russian girlfriend Irina Shayk) and children were found murdered and the finger of suspicion pointed in his direction. He himself was drunk and remembers little of what transpired. In self-imposed exile post the tragedy, he hires himself out as a mercenary, with a formidable band of loyal friends.
His best friend Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), the Amazonian Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, )the traumatised mute but fearsome warrior Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), his nephew and gifted storyteller and Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), who has a hotline to the gods like the Biblical prophets of yore.
The narrative takes off when Hercules agrees to fight for King Cotys of Thrace (John Hurt) at the urgings of his daughter (Rebecca Ferguson) and rid the kingdom of a rebel called Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann). Then, much in the manner of Mel Gibson in The Patriot, he trains and transforms the farmers into sturdy soldiers. But betrayal looms in the wake of courtly machinations, and Hercules must decide if he wants to leave or stay on to set things right.
In the end, his biggest battle is the internal jihad. This he wins with the exhortations from Autolycus about faith and believing in himself. “You just need to believe you’re a hero.” This, after Amphiaraus warns Hercules that a “man cannot escape his fate”. But the film suggests that man can work out his own salvation. 3D has been an unnecessary add on in many films of late but this is one movie in which the special effects are spectacular. I found myself ducking when spears and arrows came lying!