The subjects of the King of Thrace are being murdered by vicious rebels. The mighty and infamous Hercules is hired to protect Thrace, along with his band of mercenaries. While Hercules’ reputation precedes him, his epic deeds may be the sole invention of one verbally gifted nephew so, when Thrace appears to fall under attack from mythical beasts, can Hercules live up to the legend he has crafted for himself, and will it ever atone for what he has done?

is Hercules appropriate for kids

Hercules (2014) – Director: Brett Ratner

Rating: 12

Running Length: 98 mins

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane

Genre: Fantasy, Action / Adventure, War

REVIEW

With Brett Ratner, director of the ‘Rush Hour’ series of films (as well as X Men: The Last Stand – generally considered the worst X-Men film in the franchise) and Dwayne Johnson ( a man who, whilst personally charming and engaging, often takes roles as a lumbering muscle mountain), it would have been easy to sneer at ‘Hercules’. But it doesn’t take many minutes of screen time to prove such instinct so very wrong. Unlike recent movies that have run through the tiresome checklists of Greek mythology to bamboozle us with shallow CGI-fests (such as ‘Clash of The Titans’ and, arguably, the ‘Percy Jackson’ series) ‘Hercules’ approaches from a more refreshingly human and realistic angle.

A smart move by ‘Hercules’ is that it never establishes whether or not the gods are actually real. Any Greek beast of legend slain is shown to simply be humans in disguise, or exaggerated animals slain by normal means. This has the rather refreshing effect of meaning that the story focuses less on running through the normal Greek CGI-bloated tropes (there is no Medusa, no Cyclops, no Hades, etc) and instead tells a human story of Hercules – played with charisma by the ever accessible Dwayne Johnson’ – seeking redemption for the loss of his family, which he may or may not have been directly responsible for.

With popcorn-munching actions scenes abound, the rather predictable plot can be forgiven. Hercules’ gang of mercenaries are engaging. Ian McShane in particular, as the soothsayer who knows when he is going to die, brings a sparkle to the character dynamic which is fun to see. The plot is mostly predictable but makes the right choice by focusing on the character relationships – specifically Hercules’ personal journey. Such focus allows the film’s character to get a foothold in the audience’s mind so that, instead of sitting through another CGI bonanza, ‘Hercules’ delivers a surprisingly fun and entertaining 90 minutes. Johnson may be flexing muscles as large as houses, but, thankfully, it’s the quality of his acting that steals the show.

IS ‘HERCULES’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

There is little sexual content in ‘Hercules’ but there are two brief instances of nudity. The first is in the opening sequence in which Hercules mother is shown to be leaning over his crib. She has a very loose-fitting top on and her breasts can be seen almost entirely exposed when she leans over (although the nipples are covered). Similarly, during Hercules second flashback about his family, his wife is shown to rise out of a bath and her bare behind is seen for a few brief seconds.

There are some infrequent moderate uses of curse words and one strong example but, for the most part, the potentially unsuitable content is violence related.

Also in the opening sequence a tale is being told about Hercules’ victory over a giant lion. The lion lunges at him and he catches it by holding apart its mouth. Hercules then pulls hard and breaks the lower jaw of the lion in a loud, ripping and cracking shot. Throughout the movie Hercules wears the lion’s head over his when going into battle.

The opening fight is brief but there are several shots of arrows going through necks. This will happen many times in later fights but there is no blood or suffering shown.

After the first fight scene, one character gives a prophecy whilst in a haze. However, it is implied that he achieved this state by smoking some form of drug. One character says, ‘If you are going to use those herbs then at least share’.

When Hercules opens a bag with huge decapitated snakes heads (from his victory against ‘Hydra’) these are shown to have decapitated human heads inside them. These heads have blood over them but the shot is quick.

During the first flashback about Hercules’ wife and children, there is an establishing scene showing the he was a happy family man but this ends abruptly with very quick and noisy cuts showing both wife and children dead on the floor and covered in blood. The second flashback is similar but the shots showing his dead family are longer and more close-up. There is then a vision of Cerberus (the three-headed dog guarding the gates of hell) sinking its teeth into one of the bodies and dragging it away whilst Hercules shouts.

When describing distractions, one female character says with scorn that, ‘nothing is as nice as a pair of breasts’. This same character later chides another by saying ‘if only your manhood were as long as your tongue,’ to which he replies, ‘both can pleasure in different ways’.

Once the action moved to Thrace we are introduced to a small boy who is obsessed with Hercules’ reported feats and the boy begins to recite the one about Hercules’ time spent with ‘buxom warriors and exciting bondage’ before being cut off.

When Hercules and the Thrace army leave to save a town they find it covered in fog. Some heads on spikes are slowly revealed through the fog. One character runs one finger along the lips of one of the heads and then immediately after licks his finger. This town is covered with corpses everywhere, covered in flies and blood. Shortly after there is a jump moment which catches everyone by surprise and is accompanied by a loud musical sting.

A large battle scene commences and involves a lot of stabbings, slashings, piercings and general fighting. This is mostly non-gory but occasionally there are clouds and jets of blood briefly shown. This is true for later fight scenes also but the first scene does feature a chariot whereby blades are extended out. These are used to run down enemies although the gore shown is minimal: there are no bodies dropping in half, for instance.

The small boy introduced in Thrace is threatened at one point near the start of the third Act. He screams and yells in terror and several characters are distraught. This scene lasts for around 2 minutes.

One fire bracket is knocked down and several guards are set on fire. The scream and panic whilst they burn to death, although this shot is very quick.

There are other, later fight scenes, but there are no stronger than the content mentioned above.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

‘Hercules’ could have been another tedious and dumb tick list of all things Greek but, whilst it certainly isn’t the most original plot, it is much more human and relatable than other recent attempts. With an engaging cast and good balance of drama and fun, ‘Hercules’ is worth a watch. However, due to the large level of violence shown and infrequent peppering of bloody injuries, we would state that Hercules is not suitable for children under 11.

  • Violence: 5/5 (constant and often gory (although these parts are never lingered upon and are over very quickly)
  • Emotional Distress: 3/5 (potentially upsetting scenes with threats against the young boy and associated family)
  • Fear Factor: 3/5 (even though the monsters battled are shown to be human, when they are fought they often taken up most of the screen)
  • Sexual Content: 2/5 (innuendo and brief non-sexualised nudity)             
  • Bad Language: 3/5 (infrequent moderate to mild usage, one strong usage)
  • Dialogue: 3/5   (one character relives the night that Hercules family were killed in some particularly strong dialog such teeth that ‘ground on your children’s bones’ and ‘tastes your daughter’s innocent flesh’
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of redemption, legend, teamwork, imperialism, obedience, morality and remorse.

Words by Michael Record

Hercules [DVD]


New From: £1.39 GBP In Stock

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