Film Reviews

Skip the Script and Double-Down on the Beefcakery in The Legend of Hercules

January! Just the time to snuggle up with a 3D sword-and-pectoral extravaganza. And although some of its more imaginative plot details would make Edith Hamilton blanch, Renny Harlin's Legend of Hercules fulfills every silly, flimsy promise that it makes in the first place: There are lots of battles (albeit rather jerkily rendered ones), some grand-looking horses decked out in handsome metal headdresses, and lots of well-oiled beefcake.

You could ask for more — an actual script, maybe? — but Harlin covers most of the basics. Or, perhaps more accurately, he leaves them uncovered.

Brawny Hercules (Kellan Lutz, Emmett Cullen of the Twilight Saga), son of the comely Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee), is sent off to battle by the resentful man who is not his real father, King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins).

Because the god Zeus, as we know, is Hercules's real daddy, which is even better than having Frank Sinatra's DNA in your gene pool. There's also a jealous half-brother, Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), and a radiant, willowy love interest, Hebe (Gaia Weiss).

Every actor muddles along valiantly with the movie's stiff dialogue, and most of them — especially Australian Liam McIntyre, who plays Hercules's buddy Sotiris with an almost Shakespearean nobility — get by. In fact, of all of them, Lutz has the smallest measure of screen presence: He looks like a frat boy headed to a post-graduation job at Brown Brothers Harriman, and his voice is less a mighty roar than a throaty croak. In the pectoral department, however, he does not disappoint. And if that's not at least part of what brings you to The Legend of Hercules, well, you're at the wrong movie.

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Stephanie Zacharek was the principal film critic at the Village Voice from 2013 to 2015. She is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and of the National Society of Film Critics. In 2015 Zacharek was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism.

Her work also appeared in the publications of the Voice’s film partner, Voice Media Group: LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press, Dallas Observer and OC Weekly.