|Can you smell what the Herc is cooking?|
Well, at the box office anyway. "Lucy," starring Scarlett Johansson, triumphed over Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend. The brainy "Lucy" brought in $44 million, compared to the brawny "Hercules" collecting $29 million.
We gave "Lucy" a glowing review a few days back. But that doesn't mean we are here to disparage "Hercules."
Far from it. "Hercules" is a highly enjoyable summer flick. It just doesn't pretend to require a Mensa-level IQ to get lost in its 98 minutes of action. In fact, it doesn't even take its own mythology too seriously. One of the running gags is whether Hercules really is the Son of Zeus. Or does he just have a good publicity agent (storyteller Iolaus, portrayed by Reece Ritchie)?
Much of the credit for the film coming together goes to Johnson. A former pro wrestler known as The Rock, Johnson, as an actor, is, well, he's a former pro wrestler. That is not a problem, though. The fact remains that Johnson is a likable onscreen presence.
Some of the credit, too, goes to a better-than-average story, based on the graphic novel "Hercules: The Thracian Wars." Rather than give us the typical hero-can-do-no-wrong tale, the Hercules we meet has a dark past and leads a band of ragged mercenaries interested in one thing and one thing only - getting paid for their deeds. They want gold, not glory.
Besides Ritchie, the Hercules posse includes the prophet Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), the thief Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), the silent warrior Tydeus (Aksel Hennie) and the archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal). Each dreams of bigger and bigger paydays.
But - and you knew there was a "but" coming, right? - they begin to see things differently when a major plot twist unfolds after they aid the embattled kingdom of Lord Cotys (John Hurt, adding to his recent resume of recent outstanding roles in "Dr. Who" and "Snowpiercer").
"Hercules" fits in quite nicely as the 13th labor for our legendary demigod. And, given Hollywood's love of sequels, maybe a 14th labor will follow.