Hercules on Blu-ray is a feast for the eyes and ears


The movie may not have been a big hit with critics, but is Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Hercules’ isn’t as bad as some may have you believe. And it’s even better on Blu-ray.


I’ve seen one Hercules movie this year, the Kellan Lutz starrer The Legend of Hercules, so I wasn’t really sure if I was ready for another one. The earlier one was a bit of a chore to sit through, leaning more to the juvenile spectrum than even the 1950s versions that are seen as pure camp today (granted, most US audiences have never seen the original versions of those Italian sword and sandal epics, just choppily edited versions). Lutz looked the part, to be sure, but he really had nothing to work with.

But we knew then that there was another take on the legend coming, this time starring Dwayne Johnson and simply titled Hercules. The only real drawback at the time was that the film was being directed by the almost universally reviled Brett Ratner, who hasn’t made a good film in about as long as the other Herc movie’s director Renny Harlin has. But Johnson oozes enough charm out of every pore to make audiences like just about anything he’s in. Could he actually save this Hercules?

The answer is a surprising yes! We probably know, or vaguely know, the legend of Hercules from movies, TV shows, cartoons and even comic books. The half-god son of Zeus and a mortal woman, embued with amazing strength, set upon with twelve labors that include killing various mythological creatures. That word is key to this Hercules because it treats the character as a real human and the legend surrounding him is nothing put pure myth that he uses for monetary gain (with the help of his band of mercenaries and a silver-tongued nephew who spins his amazing tales).

The story is simple: a kingdom on the verge of attack hires Hercules and his mercenaries to use his legend to scare off the invading army. Of course, there is a twist or two, including one that posits Hercules may have murdered his own family, but the real meat of the film comes from the interaction between Hercules and his “family.” The film is full of big action set-pieces, but some of the quiter moments between characters and getting a glimpse into their loyalty to each other sets this film apart from some of the others. Ratner also handles the action scenes with great skill, actually allowing the audience to see the battles full frame, not in maddening, hand-held close-ups. Dante Spinotti’s cinematography is also gorgeous, and even though there is quite a bit of CGI, it’s used mostly to add scenery and bodies for scale rather than to be the main focus of a shot.

Hercules is a much better film than I expected, and I would have to say I enjoyed it more than my colleague Jeremy Fogelman, who reviewed the film upon its theatrical release. And now that the movie is available on home video, more people who didn’t want to risk a waste of time and money at the movies can enjoy the film in the comfort of their living rooms. And if you have a Blu-ray player, the experience will be even better (and I have to say that seeing this in 3D is the ultimate experience). The movie itself may not be great — although it is entertaining — but the Blu-ray presentation is simply spectacular.

After looking at two other films on Blu-ray this week, Paramount’s Hercules is the hands down winner for visual clarity (and the win comes over two titles from the usually reliable Warner Home Video). The Blu-ray captures Spinotti’s breath-taking visuals and when you watch the deleted scenes, you realize how much work went into the film’s overall look. It is stunning. The video image is sharp with no hint of graininess, even in the film’s many dark scenes. The movie was obviously shot with digital cameras but it always retains a film-like look. The disk’s 7.1 HD Master Audio is also extremely well-balanced. Even during the battle scenes, any dialog is still clearly audible. The music and sound effects never overpower the center channel. As Blu-rays go, this is one of the best as far as presentation. If you have a 3D set-up, the image is just as sharp and the 3D process is one of the best I’ve seen for a home video presentation, bringing depth to the screen and having many objects, from spears and arrows to drifting ash, extend far beyond the edge of the screen.

The Blu-ray also contains a host of bonus material:

  • Commentary by Brett Ratner and Beau Flynn (theatrical version only)
  • Brett Ratner and Dwayne Johnson: An Introduction (5:32) — The director and actor discuss their long-held desires to make a Hercules movie, and how a serious injury to Johnson nearly derailed the production.
  • Hercules and His Mercenaries (11:07) — A behind the scenes look at the cast, rehearsals, training and production of the film.
  • Weapons! (5:24) — A brief look at the various weapons used in the film. Fun fact: several actors refused to carry the rubber versions, preferring to feel the weight of the weapon while carrying them.
  • The Bessi Battle (11:54) — In-depth look at all aspects of shooting the first battle scene from construction of the set (and most of the sets on screen are real with CGI augmentation) to training extras and applying full body makeup and tattoos to hundreds of extras. (Although they never discuss hiding Johnson’s massive tattoos.)
  • The Effects of Hercules (12:28) — A look at how the visual effects artists combined on-set practical effects with their CGI magic.
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes (14:38) — A collection of extended and deleted scenes, some unfinished and not color timed, that actually don’t seem superfluous.

The Blu-ray also contains the theatrical and extended versions of the film. I do have a slight complaint about these releases now that are calling themselves “extended.” Peter Jackson adding 25 minutes to his Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies is an extended edition. Adding three minutes of footage is pushing the boundaries of what one could call “extended.” Hercules only contains about three minutes so the impact on the film overall is negligible. Aside from that, Hercules on Blu-ray is well-worth the purchase price if you enjoyed the movie on the big screen, and is certainly worth checking out if you had your doubts.

The Hercules Blu-ray was provided to CliqueClack by The Karpel Group/Paramount Home video for purpose of review.


Photo Credit: Paramount/MGM

One Comment on “Hercules on Blu-ray is a feast for the eyes and ears

  1. I dunno. I found the visuals of the battle to be kind of average.

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