Let’s face it: You release a film called The Legend of Hercules in the wasteland of new-year releases, cast a secondary actor from Twilight and set the press screening three hours before the film goes wide, and you’re not expecting art. But I got news for ya: We know that. We don’t want art. We want manmeat.
And we get it. Indeed, were I Kellan Lutz, the blonde beefsteak who plays Herc, I’d agreed to do some campy sword-and-sandal movie like this, too. He’s only going to have that physique, and that poor judgment, for a very narrow window if life. Why not preserve your look for gay teenage boys’ masturbatory fantasies for decades to come?
There’s a long history of such cheesefests, dating back to the Steve Reeves movies of the 1950s, and gaining true legitimacy once Gladiator won the best picture Oscar. Since then, there’s been a parade of muscle-studs-in-skirts movies: 300, Clash/Wrath of the Titans, The Immortals and now this (and there’s another Hercules movie coming out later this year). But really, Legend owes more to the soft-core porn of Bo Derek’s Tarzan the Ape Man than any of those: The lighting is pearlescent, the flesh quivering and super-saturated, the dialogue almost intentionally terrible and the men touch each other a lot (even in platonic embraces, they cross the line from Homeric to homoerotic).
Renny Harlin, who I was unaware until the closing credits was even allowed near a director’s chair anymore, keeps the rating PG-13, which means there’s less blood in the coliseum fight than in the shower scene of Carrie. Ptosh! It’s a pointless exercise to talk about the acting, the script, the abundance of super-slo-mo fight scenes (I suspect without them, the film would only run 18 minutes long), or even the fact that Hercules’ milquetoast brother looks more like Rowan Atkinson in Blackadder than the once and future king of Greece. This is the kind of movie that you go into open I’d fully aware that its pure escapism. On that score, it doesn’t myth the mark.