Hercules

By Di Golding

Mailed on August 13, 2014


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Dear Peter Berg
Executive Producer

Dear Peter,

As a director, you've adapted screenplays from books, actual events, and even from a beloved board game. As executive producer of Hercules, you must have been excited to bring such an epic character to the screen. The legend of Hercules is entrenched in history through song, art, and literature. In pop culture, he has graced the large and small screen for over eighty years. Strange, then, that with this abundance of backstory - and dude-bro Brett Ratner at the helm -you offer up such a flaccid and forgettable version of the mythological hero.

Hercules is the story of the man, not the myth. We're introduced to the titular hero as a mortal warrior with a tragic past rather than the demi-god of lore. He and his small team of mercenaries are hired by the daughter of the King of Thrace to help defeat the brutal warlord Rhesus, who is intent on overtaking their empire. On the page, this plot must have seemed like it was right up your alley, Peter. You've long been a fan of the whole "leader of men" trope, from meme-friendly Coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights, to Jamie Foxx in the FBI thriller The Kingdom, and the real-life SEAL team of Lone Survivor.

So why do Hercules and his ragtag band of swords-for-hire feel like a B-rate A-Team in sandals?

Dwayne '"The Rock" Johnson is perfect as Hercules, which worked out well for you, since there aren't many other actors of his calibre - physically or professionally - who could have played the son of Zeus. When you need someone to throw a horse, he's your guy. His comic timing is just as impressive, too, which is why it's so unfortunate that the laughs in this film are either too obvious or just plain unclear. Like Hercules himself, this script suffers from an identity crisis. Are we supposed to laugh when he fights three wolves or dons a hood made of a lion's head? Are the close-up 3D effects trying to mimic a vintage Disney View-Master reel? Are the relentlessly bloody fight scenes worthy of only a PG-13 rating? One of the writing credits goes to a screenwriter who helped pen The Jungle Book, Tarzan 2,_ and Lion King 1 ½. _Another credit goes to the late Stephen Moore, whose articulately researched comic concentrated on lending veracity to a grittier, more human Hercules. It's obvious that someone at the top couldn't decide which way to steer the chariot. Was it you?

Hercules isn't awful, it's just not good enough. At least not as good as its individual parts: the intricately choreographed action sequences, the roster of respectable British thespians, the $100 million price tag. The sum should be something more. Had you picked the right lane and gone with substance over style, you might have had a film closer in tone to Gladiator than Goofy Goes to Thrace. For someone who purports to value authenticity - as evidenced by your commitment to detail in _Lone Survivor _and the much-praised documentary-feel of the series _Friday Night Lights _- it's disappointing that you didn't fight harder to honour Moore's source material. And apparently Moore felt the same way.

With any luck, this muddled effort will inspire audiences to pick up Moore's comic, or perhaps learn more about the classical myth of Hercules. It's such a rich story. Shame you short-changed it.

Regards, Di

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