Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as "The Rock," is asked to play all sorts of heroic roles thanks to his impressive physical stature.
That being said, I think he succeeds in these roles thanks to an overabundance of charisma, rather than his muscle power. The man simply elevates any movie by just walking on screen.
Case in point, his latest film, "Hercules," isn't a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it's very watchable, thanks mostly to Johnson in the title role.
Based on Steve Moore's graphic novel, "Hercules: The Thracian War," this latest film paints Hercules as a gifted fighter, but an otherwise mortal man, rather than a demigod. All of his impossible labors are more hype than actual events. It's an interesting approach that makes the story a bit more accessible to modern audiences.
Hercules uses his inflated reputation to psyche out his enemies. That tactic will all be put to the test when our hero and his band of traveling mercenaries are asked to protect the Greek city of Thrace from a ruthless warlord. As you might guess, this will require a lot of fighting and heroic acts of valor that will only make Hercules' heroic reputation shine even brighter.
Director Brett Ratner is quite adept at making a crowd-pleasing sword and sandal epic. He gives us a nice onslaught of action sequences, frequently peppered with some impressive special effects. Johnson spends a good part of this movie acting on a green screen, and it is to his credit that the special effects moments work seamlessly within the rest of the movie.
The supporting cast kicks in some nice moments as well. Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell and Ingrid Bols Berdal, playing some of the mercenaries get to shine with their individual fighting techniques as well as a few memorable quips thrown in to keep the film's tone nice and light.
That's all well and good, but it's Dwayne Johnson who has to carry this film, and he doesn't disappoint. There are plenty of moments of heroic bravado, but more importantly, enough moments where his likeable charisma gives audiences a reason to forgive some of the film's sillier elements.
"Hercules" won't go down as a great movie. I'm not even sure that it will be all that memorable in years to come. This is very much a summer flick that features a few mythic characters, some nice battle sequences and impressive computer generated monsters. It's a crowd-pleasing sword and sandal fantasy that will help take your mind off a hot July night, and it succeeds mostly due to the Herculean efforts of Dwayne Johnson.