Hercules Was A Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson-Sized Disappointment

Hercules Was A Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson-Sized Disappointment

You have to steel yourself before going to see a new movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It’s an intense feat of mental conditioning, on par with the way Mr. Johnson hyped himself up before stepping into the ring during his glory days as a professional wrestler.

You must do this because while The Rock may be an amazing movie star, he is not an equally amazing actor. His filmography is a mixed bag as a result. I did my best last week to contain my excitement for Hercules. I was convinced his new movie was going to be great for one simple reason: it starred Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Hercules. This is the role he’s been destined to play ever since he first stepped into the limelight and starting hitting things with a gigantic piece of wood in Walking Tall.

“I don’t even need to see the whole movie to tell you it’s going to be amazing,” I wrote on Friday, channeling The Rock’s self-aggrandizing energy as best I could.

I was wrong. Hercules is a terrible movie. But don’t worry, diehard Dwayne Johnson fans: this isn’t The Rock’s fault.

Before I go any further, I should warn you: I’m going to spoil some major plot points in Hercules. Consider this an act of mercy, because you should not subject yourself to this colossal disappointment of a movie. Really, director Brett Ratner should be apologizing for betraying all the good will that believers in The Rock brought with them into movie theatres over the past weekend.

Hercules is based on a relatively obscure comic by Steve Moore, so you’d be forgiven for not knowing what you were getting yourself into with the new movie. Its trailer promised, however coyly, a CGI-fuelled romp that involved Hercules fighting the mythical creatures he’s best known for fighting:

This trailer looks amazing, right? Of course it does. In less than 90 seconds, it somehow crams in footage of The Rock wrestling the Nemean Lion:

…and the the Erymanthian Boar:

…and plenty more epically-scaled goodness.

Enjoy those GIFs while you still can. Because as much as it pains me to break this to The Rock-loving public: the trailer for Hercules is cruelly, cruelly misleading.

Roughly 99 per cent of what you see in it takes place before the title card for Hercules drops. The rest comes from a scene towards the end of the movie where Dwayne Johnson once again comes into full Hercules form. And for one more fleeting moment, he’s played like the Grecian hero we all wanted to see.

Everything sandwiched between these two moments is a tragedy. And not the good kind of Greek tragedy, either. After the awesome-looking montage of The Rock wrestling a lion and sprinting full-tilt at a gigantic killer boar is done, the film cuts to a scene by a campfire. It’s revealed that everything you just saw is purely the stuff of fairy tales, exaggerated by Hercules’ nephew Iolaus to intimidate their enemies.

What follows is a bizarre attempt to humanize Hercules, much in the same way that Clive Owen was summoned to depict a historically accurate version of King Arthur ten years ago in another regrettable movie that was too clever for its own good.

Hercules isn’t actually historically accurate, of course. It’s just more historically accurate than the stuff of legends. He’s not the son of Zeus, and the goddess Hera doesn’t have it in for ol’ Herc. The entire pantheon of Greek gods, in fact, is merely the stuff of religious superstition.

Hercules, in turn, doesn’t have any superhuman abilities — unless you count being an immensely buff version of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He’s just a meaty guy who leads a ragtag group of warriors around Ancient Greece, performing random acts of violence for the highest bidder. His brothers (and one sister!) in arms, meanwhile, are a forgettable collection of action movie sidekick clichés. There’s an old guy who has some words of wisdom here and there, an acrobatic archer, a scrawny wise-cracking younger sibling, and a generic scruffy white dude who seems to only exist so he can abandon Hercules and then return at a climactic moment in the final fight scene.

I could go on. But what’s the point? The damage is already done. Brett Ratner and his team of yes-men dealt Hercules its killing blow the moment they decided to cast Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in a movie that was meant to shrink an iconic hero down to regular human proportions.

I suppose that Hercules is a more intellectually engaging film than what I expected it to be because of how handily it denied its audience the fan service they were all hungry for. Maybe that’s what Rattner thought he was doing when he set about making this movie. But where was The Rock at the critical moment when he could have turned to his director and shouted: it doesn’t matter what you think?

I mean: Have you seen Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? There is nothing about this man that is regular or human-sized. That’s the whole point. People don’t go to The Rock’s movies to experience some existential quandary about the illusory temptations of hero worship. They go to see Dwayne Johnson movies to indulge in hero worship.

That’s why this movie seemed so promising. It looked like it was going to be what 300 could have been in that other adaptation of a comic book based on a greco-roman legend had cast an actor with half of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s innate charm in the starring role. Or what Troy could have been if it capitalised on the gruff allure of a professional wrestler-turned-actor instead of Brad Pitt’s more exquisite brand of beauty. But no. Hercules had to go and ruin everything after assembling the perfect set of ingredients.

Now, let me be clear: none of this means that The Rock failed in his sacred duty to embody Hercules. As with many of his less-than-stellar films, the actor still brings his iconic brand of charisma and ultra-masculine ferocity to the role in full force. It’s just as fun to see Johnson walk around smacking things with a giant piece of wood today as it was ten years ago when he first did so in Walking Tall. There’s even one genuinely memorable moment when The Rock takes down an enemy on horseback with the perfect mixture of grace and hulking, brute force.

At the end of the day, Hercules the movie just isn’t good enough to live up to Hercules the man. And that’s the ultimate tragedy of this movie. It could have been so much more than what it is. Maybe, someday, we’ll get to see Hercules “The Rock” Johnson the way he was meant to be played. But not today.

So congratulations, Hercules: you made me question my belief. I guess that’s what you set out to do, on some level. But that doesn’t make the sting of this movie’s betrayal any less painful.

To contact the author of this post, write to yannick.lejacq@kotaku.com or find him on Twitter at @YannickLeJacq.


  • Saw it on the weekend. I thought it was alright. A fun afternoon out. I didn’t go in with epic expectations so I was not disappointed…

    • Pretty much in the same boat, it was an OK movie and an interesting spin on the Herculean mythology. It was a silly movie to be sure but it was worth a few laughs and a bit of a popcorn experience.

      • Agreed, it wasn’t that bad. I went in thinking it will be terrible and it actually surprised me. It was entertaining and I don’t feel like I had wasted my afternoon at the cinema.

  • Expected nothing and was still disappointed. It felt like a TV movie.

    Love the stolen training sequence from army of darkness :p

    • Same! Expected nothing from it and still felt like I’d wasted my time watching it >.< Luckily I had complimentary tickets for the movie so it didn’t hurt the wallet!

      • I almost got a free ticket to see it last week.

        I was in EB Games, being harassed to purchase the unnecessary insurance/protection on a brand new heavily price dropped game, when a complete stranger asked me if I wanted a free ticket. I had a cold and just wanted to go home.

  • I quite enjoyed the movie, I don’t know why people expected it to be a huge hit movie though. It was a very family friendly plot placed in a movie that didn’t know if it wanted to be serious or humourous.

    It’s a fun movie if you just want to see The Rock smash some stuff.

  • One thing is a massive warning that it’s going to be a steaming pile… Brett Ratner.

  • If you hype yourself up for a Brett Ratner movie, then you should expect disappointment. If you go into a Brett Ratner movie expecting disappointment, you’ll be surprised that you weren’t expecting to be even more disappointed. Love ‘The Rock’, but at this point, anything Ratner touches I don’t even bother watching.

  • while The Rock may be an amazing movie star, he is not an equally amazing actor.
    That. I’ve never enjoyed any of his movies and I dont think I ever will. He couldnt act if his life depended on it. But im amazed he got paid a shit load of money for that movie. Still if you’re looking to kill some time and have nothing better to watch, then go ahead.

  • Your first warning should have been Brett Ratner’s involvement, let alone him being director 🙁

  • What the hell???? This is what i was looking forward to???

    Growing up I was obsessed with Hercules…

    The traditional Hercules story revolves around Hera, Zeus’ wife, seeking revenge, jealous of the fact that her husband had slept with a mortal. She possessed Hercules one night, and in that moment of rage, Hercules killed his wife and children. He was then sent on the infamous 12 task journey to redeem himself, and reclaim his place with the gods.\

    its sad that the truth of the matter is that the only faithful adaptation of the story is the tv show Hercules: The legendary journeys from the mid 90’s starring kevin sorbo…

  • Honestly, if you go and see any big budget “blockbuster” movie these days with high expectations and leave disappointed, well… you did that to yourself. Maybe next time you’ll think twice.

  • Considering how much this author seems to love Michael Bay and his movies I’m going to take his opinions on other films with a large pinch of salt.

  • I really enjoyed the movie. I dislike how the author humanized Hercules but I am choosing to ignore it. In my mind it is the civilizations view of Hercules rather than fact.

  • Find it kinda funny that Yannick doesn’t like this film yet spends 2 articles trying to justify his fondness for Transformers, aka the worst blockbuster film series

  • Hercules is a myth, this director tried to make him historically accurate, the myth has him exacting pennance because his step mother possesed him & made him kill his family, plus he is considered 1 of thee early best super heros ever who can multiskill, is there any of this multi skill in this movie, since in the fate visual novel series, he can be of ANY archetype, but does this these multitude of skills show up in the film?

      • What I mean is that he has multiple useful skills as in knowing how to defeat something using every skill you have learnt, its like having a very diverse movepool in rpgs, having multiple skills means you can adapt to your enviroment, example in smash bros, both samus & zelda are in the game twice because they have 2 forms to use their skills as, samus (armour) is a lightning bruiser equal to sonic while having an armament equivilent to the present day wmds, while 0 suit is capable of using both regular firearms & I do believe close quarter combat, while zelda is a magical knight, whilst sheik is a ninja/assasin. The appeal of herc is that he is quick on his feet with all the skills he has learnt, thus the ONLY accurate version of him is & always the legendary adventures of herc, because it shows using this memorable attribute

        • Sign you’ve been playing RPG video games a little too much; you start using the line “they didn’t even multiskill” in general conversation… >_>

  • Bugger. It was evident from the second trailer that they’d screwed around with the story, but I was hoping that the core was going to be roughly the same.

    There are so many good stories in mythology that could be adapted successfully to the kind of big bombastic films that people go out to the cinema to see (or indeed to games) without significant alteration, Hercules being among the most obvious of choices, and yet we never get them. The last we got was what, Beowulf? And that was dreadful, used that stupid motion capture animation thing that Robert Zemeckis is inexplicably obsessed with and it still did alright.

    Hollywood is always poking around for ways to avoid having to create entirely new IP. Pilfer the ancient Greeks or Scandinavians or British or any number of other possible options.

  • Sounds just like Suckerpunch, which of course was an ironic name for the terrible film (saw it on DVD luckily)

  • I went into this movie expecting nothing much, just a tired retread of the same old Hercules story we’ve all seen a thousand times. What I got instead was a thoughtful look at a man trying to live up to his own legend. To be honest, I prefered what I got.

    Hercules and his companions have great on screen chemistry. While it is obvious fairly early that there is a twist coming, I didn’t see the exact nature of the twist until it happened. And the climax of the film is great in that it subverts expectation about what’s going to happen without the audience feeling cheated.

    Hercules is a better film than I was expecting, and I would recommend it. It’s no classic of cinema, but it is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours.

  • That is disappointing, I’ve wanted to see this for ages with high expectations.

  • He did great! The only bad part of the movie was his chest plate didn’t fit. Lol the peck muscles were to high. He did the role justice the outfit made him look like a tard.

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