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The Mentally Challenged Golden Retriever of Cinema: 'The Legend of Hercules' Review

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film Reviews | January 10, 2014 | Comments ()


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The key to a movie that is so bad that it is good is that it has to take itself absolutely dead seriously. No tongues in cheek, no nods at the camera at the absurdity. Everyone involved has to plow forward with the seriousness of a movie about falling in love in a concentration camp. There’s a distinction I think between movies that are so bad that they’re good, and B-movies that are terrible but fun. See, the latter are movies like Sharknado. They are terrible. They know they are terrible. And they’re really in it to make you laugh. The motivation is different with so-bad-they’re-good. They’re honestly trying to make a fantastic film, but they are so incompetent at every level that the exercise descends into pure entertainment. It’s not funny because it’s funny, it’s funny because it is failing so badly at being good.

In other words, movies like Sharknado? We’re laughing with them. Movies like The Legend of Hercules? We’re laughing at them. But it’s not just about a movie being serious and bad. Getaway had that in spades, and it was the worst movie I’ve ever seen. The difference is between that earnest overly-serious guy who can’t tie his own shoes and the douchebag who struts around like he owns the bar. They’re both incomprehensibly dense and incompetent, but you’re only rooting for one them to get a hit by a bus.

The Legend of Hercules is the most I’ve laughed in a movie since The World’s End. Now don’t get me wrong, under no circumstances should you pay money to see this movie in a theater. But, you know, if your boss makes you, it will be a delightful experience.

You just can’t hate this movie. It would be like hating the golden retriever with a negative IQ that greets you every single day when you come home from work, running headfirst into the wall and then shitting itself as it does so. You cannot hate that dog. It’s just trying so hard, that it would be cruel not to love it anyway.

It’s a fantastic metaphor, because without casting aspersions on any particular grandparent of his, Kellan Lutz is at least one quarter mentally disabled golden retriever. For one thing, he is quite literally golden. I mean he’s as blonde and blue as an Aryan recruitment poster, with the proper bronzed sheen to boot. And his eyes aren’t placed quite right on his head, so for at least half the shots in the film he looks like he’s cross-eyed. And most of the time he has a sort of toothy grimace for an expression like his mouth can’t actually close right without dental intervention. He is bouncy and earnest and gosh just wants to do the right thing. Even while his acting tops the charts of junior-high drama club, not helped by the atrocious dialogue they make the poor guy say, Lutz is trying really really hard the entire time.

The breaking point of hilarity here is when Hercules sails for home to avenge his whatever and he is hanging off the bow, leaning forward with the most psychotically overjoyed grin you will ever see. The captain points out, “um, I told him it would be two more days, but he won’t come down.” Lutz is a tongue flapping out the side of his mouth from literally being a dog with his head out the car window.

And please don’t go off about judging an actor for their looks, or the usual series of outraged comments that follow paragraphs like that. My entire knowledge of Lutz comes from a movie in which he wears a leather skirt. Let’s go to Wikipedia. Oh, he campaigns against declawing cats. And was also in Twilight. So, he’s actually your middle-aged single aunt, but he seems like a nice enough guy, so there’s that.

I’ll just give you a taste of the gorgeous plot of this film. See, Hercules is sent to crush a rebellion in Egypt. Because in 1300 BC, Greece owned Egypt, just roll with it. He’s sent with only eighty men, which isn’t fair because he should get to take the full 160 for the unit. Because apparently the population of the ancient world was smaller than my high school.

Then the inevitable swarthy villains with funny hair and accents wipe out the massive unit and take Hercules hostage. Then they sell him into slavery with his buddy. Know who buys them? Kenneth Cranham, aka Pompey the Great from Rome. I guess he still had his toga and needed the cash, but if I actually yelled “HE WAS A CONSUL OF ROME!” in the theater, then I apologize to the other three people there, but I regret nothing.

This is problematic because Hercules’ one true love will be marrying another in 3 months time, so he totes has to get back and deal with that. Okay to summarize: Hercules leaves Greece, invades Egypt, gets captured, sold into slavery, fights his way to the top of the super gladiator rankings in Sicily, gets back to Greece, and starts an uprising, all before three months is up. Golden retrievers can be awfully hyperactive, but that’s a lot of mileage. And how was your summer vacation?

The two loveliest events in cinematic history occur in the last half hour. See the evil Egyptians must be defeated, but so do their allies: the Vikings. No seriously, they just reference “mercenaries from the north” but dudes show up in furs and with horned helmets right out of Skyrim. And then Hercules raises his sword to the skies and lightning from his dad supercharges it, and he uses it to electricity whip the other army to death. By the power of Greyskull, I swooned with laughter.

Between the worst CGI to be inflicted on the world since the mid-nineties, understanding of space, time, and history eclipsed by most six year olds, acting and dialogue so bad it should be a violation of international law in a just world, the constant and completely inexplicable bullet-time slowdowns of random parts of combat, and the complete lack of any kind of self-awareness in the midst of its catastrophic somberness, this film is as if someone liked 300 but wished that it wasn’t so dense and philosophical. But somehow it wraps back around into a level of hilarity that most comedies can only aspire to.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here and order his novel here.







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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • St

    To no one’s surprise it flopped with 8.6 millions on opening week-end.

    But I was actually surprised to see that it has budget of $70 millions. It looks so cheap and ridiculous in trailer that I thought it has budget of some $40 millions. Who on earth could give $70 million dollars to a movie with Kellan Lutz in lead role. At least those people who gave money on Taylor Lautner’s Abduction suspected that Taylor may not sell it and gave only $35 millions for budget.

    I don’t know what producers behind The Legend of Hercules were thinking. It was obviously to everyone that movie with Kellan Lutz in lead role will never bring $70 millions at the box-office. Yet someone green lighted this movie. Couldn’t they at least hire other young and attractive actor that people actually liked in other movies? I’m sure they would found few.

  • wojtek

    I'm so happy Storytellers aren't dead yet.

  • This sounds fucking delightful! I LOVE a So-Good-It's-Bad-Movie. I've never laughed so hard or enjoyed myself as much as I did during Congo, but now I just absolutely have to watch this and see if it'll become a new favorite.

    Hee. "Hercules". It's like they just came up with some dumb story about a strong guy who has adventures and decided to slap the most vaguely recognizable Strong Guy name they could find and call it that. It's so cute.

  • Strand

    I'll check this out at some point but definitely not in a cinema. I hate it when studios deliberately make a shit movie and wear the B-movie status on their sleeve (a la Sharknado). No, give me something like The Room or apparently, THIS. Something so earnest but incompetent that the schadenfreude bursts open in your mouth and runs down your chin when you bite into it.

  • Joe Drago

    One of the best reviews I've read on this site. Love it.

  • lingli

    ... and you know what? When the "Best Films of 2014" list comes out the OH and I will have seen approximately two of them, but I bet we'll have seen this.

  • "Between the worst CGI to be inflicted on the world since the mid-nineties, understanding of space, time, and history eclipsed by most six year olds, acting and dialogue so bad it should be a violation of international law in a just world, the constant and completely inexplicable bullet-time slowdowns of random parts of combat, and the complete lack of any kind of self-awareness in the midst of its catastrophic somberness, this film is as if someone liked 300 but wished that it wasn’t so dense and philosophical."

    - Pete Hammond

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Huh?

  • Pete Hammond writes terrible, pun-filled, poster-ready, studio-approved reviews just so his name appears in marketing materials. I was poking fun at that. Poorly, apparently.

  • Whistler

    "You just can’t hate this movie. It would be like hating the golden
    retriever with a negative IQ that greets you every single day when you
    come home from work, running headfirst into the wall and then shitting
    itself as it does so."

    I think we've found our poster quote!

  • Danar the Barbarian

    See, I can love the dog but hate cleaning up the poop. So maybe love Kellan but skip the movie? Is that what the analogy breaks down to? Because seriously, I don't know how long I'd be able to keep a dog in the house if it shits itself every day.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Great, now I have to watch it.

  • Bob Genghis Khan

    Let me disclaim this first: I am not offended nor do I think this review is cruel to Kellen Lutz.

    That being said, statements like "His eyes are not placed right on his head", IF they were written elsewhere, and about a female, Dustin would likely point out the writer as a huge asshole.

    Just sayin.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Nah. But if he said it about Benedict Cumberbatch....

    (he'd be right!!!)

  • lingli

    I watched Sherlock today (DVR-ed because we have been marathoning Breaking Bad in our house for the past fortnight but finished last night) and that is exactly what I was thinking :D

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I just watched August Osage County. And we just kept saying "Ewan McGregor. So hot. So beardily hot. Benedict Cumberbatch. So weird." (to be fair, he uses his weirdness wonderfully in that movie.)

  • lingli

    Absolutely ... although there are occasional moments, in a certain light ... but really, no. I sort of wonder what he looks like in real life, i.e. more or less weird?

  • bleujayone

    Well, it would seem I now have a new movie to look forward to when it goes to DVD for our MST3K Movie Night. Maybe I'll double feature it with the Clash of the Titans remake or perhaps Oliver Stone's Hannibal or screw it, I'll just pop in 10,000 BC and see if it's possible to survive an overdose of cheese of Vermont and Wisconsin proportions.

  • Have you seen Congo? That one's my all-time favorite. I have to "recommend" it to everyone.

  • bleujayone

    And for those who desire something a little more vintage in their MST3K, I would point them in the direction of Gene Kelly's last film, that 1980 roller-disco epic known as Xanadu.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    It's on the DVR...(Is Xanadu better or worse than Robert Preston's last film, The Last Starfighter?)

  • bleujayone

    Worse. But then again I suppose it's all relative. Personally, I adore The Last Starfighter. For many reasons. Robert Preston's alien grifter aka Music Man in Spaaaace, Dan O'Herlihy stealling the show as the gung-ho pilot Grig, the Gunstar design, the sweeping symphony theme. Yes, Starfighter is bowl of the best comfort food you remember as a kid- it might not be the best for you but you love it all the same. Xanadu is only good in that it's a perfect ripeness for multiple verbal evisceration- otherwise in terms of straight entertainment, it's dated crapcakes.

  • BWeaves

    Yes, I was thinking this was ripe for an MST3King.

    Forget the Clash of the Titans remake. Just go with the original. "BUT, We have a flying horse!"

  • But the new one has LIAM NEESON and RALPH FIENNES and they are so SERIOUS about it! It's amazing.

  • BWeaves

    But the old one has Harry Hamlin, and Sir Lawrence Olivier and they are SERIOUS about it! It's amazing, too!

    OK, maybe a triple feature is needed.

  • bleujayone

    I don't know. I have more respect for the original version of the movie such as it is. I like to think of it as part of a Ray Harryhausen marathon with the likes of the 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Mysterious Island and Jason & the Argonauts. I have so much contempt for the crapiness that is the remake that I went into it all ready run it down like angry villagers after Karloff.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I couldn't get through the new one. so much yawn. And while I fondly adore the old one, and the which has the actress I considered the most beautiful woman in the world growing up PLUS Sian Phillips, who is my role model for hauteur...it's kind of a slow movie and the acting is definitely on the cheesy side.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I wanted the new Clash of the Titans to be entertaining but I was just so booooored. And I own the old one. (part of my beloved-cheesy-movie collection, see above "Flash Gordon")

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Timothy Dalton in tights. *sigh*

  • bleujayone

    I already have several copies of that cinematic gemstone. The supporting cast alone makes that movie a hoot to watch (and sing to) over and over again. So much so that I simply do not have the heart to look down on it with the same train-wreck enjoyment I might have for other guilty pleasure bombs. This is what they intended to produce and damn anyone for not recognizing its greatness. That movie is the reason I have my habit of breaking into Brian Blessed's voice whenever I'm trapped in traffic.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    DIIIIIIIIIIIVVEE!

  • linnyloo

    Everybody now! (dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun) FLASH! A-Ahhhhhhhhhh!

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Oh,I've got the soundtrack, too. And the best part is that it starts with "Clytus, I'm bored..."

  • Bert_McGurt

    "It’s a fantastic metaphor, because without casting aspersions on any particular grandparent of his, Kellan Lutz is at least one quarter mentally disabled golden retriever."

    To prove your point, his parents named him K. Lutz. That's worse than poor ol' Ingrid Patricia Freely.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Wait. Hercules is Greek? Reverse mythology appropriation really bided its time.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    C'mon now, even Disney did that.

  • Mrs. Julien

    These comments aren't going to captious themselves. We all have obligations to fulfill.

    Honestly, I was just very happy with the phrase "reverse mythology appropriation".

  • Sara_Tonin00

    "captious" as a verb, eh? Loves me some vocabulary on Friday afternoon. (listens for the Flintstone whistle)

  • Mrs. Julien

    Can't talk, preparing to slide down dinosaur's tail...

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Thanks for reminding me to watch Flash Gordon this weekend.

    I keep wondering if the true love that Hercules needs to save is the one he's going to "accidentally" murder in one of his insane rages. Or the other one. The one he gets later one as a consolation prize.

    I'm sooo tempted by this review saying that it's so bad it's fun, but the trailer made flames...on the side of my head...so I'm not sure I'd be able to take the full thing.

  • BWeaves

    For super fun, watch a double feature of Flash Gordon (Buster Crabbe version) followed by Flesh Gordon.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria (where I live...[Astoria, not the Museum]) also shows the old serials. Sometimes Flash, sometimes others...also airs a Muppet Show episode, changing weekly. (good stuff!)

    FLESH Gordon I have not deigned to watch...if I had more geeky sci-fi girlfriends (and seriously, why don't I? probably because I'm not hardcore) it would work better.

  • Hayley

    I read that last part with Madeline Kahn's voice in my head.

    flaming... burning...

  • Sara_Tonin00

    as intended.

  • DeaconG

    It turned you into half a Ghost Rider? No, I don't think you should either. And neither will I.

  • snrp

    Can someone just explain to me why they had to bring Hercules into it? Did the writers/studio think the reference to Greek mythology would be a big draw?

  • BWeaves

    Since Hercules is the Roman name for the character, I'm sure Greek mythology is rolling over in its grave.

  • Mrs. Julien

    The spirit of priscovisceration is alive and well on Pajiba and I say, "BRAVO!".

  • NynjaSquirrel

    I suppose it beggars the question - 'will it blend?'

  • EMMA - Marcil

    Did the writers/studio think the reference to Greek mythology would be a big draw?

  • NynjaSquirrel

    Muscley, shirtless hunk, perhaps they saw how popular this combination has been in recent movies and looked for a bandwagon to jump on. Story, pah, character, pah, abs, check.

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