At the very beginning of Hercules our titular hero tries to kill a giant lion with his bare hands. My response was: wow, he sure is kicking the hell out of that bad-ass looking lion. Towards the end of Hercules our titular hero tries to kill three wolves with his bare hands. My response was: wait, is it right for him to be killing those wolves? They didn't eat his wife because they were evil, they ate his wife because they had been starved by the bad guy. Why don't you go kill that guy instead, you dog-murderer? The difference between those two attitudes tells you everything you need to know about this movie: it starts strong, but at some point it loses the plot.

This movie opens by showing us brief flashes of Hercules completing his twelve labors. It makes sense for the filmmakers to start the story there, because in addition to kicking off the movie with a bang, it also provides context for modern viewers who might not know that much about who Hercules is. However, starting off by showing us Hercules doing superhuman feats and then revealing that most of his legend is exaggerated if not completely fabricated by gullible peasants is a grave mistake. I suppose a human version of Hercules could have worked in a smarter movie, but this Hercules is still a brute with a big club. If he's going to attack every problem with a spiked stick he might as well have the most clubable problems possible, and that means big monsters, not greedy kings.

As iffy as I was on the Hercules character, I was downright disappointed by the foes he faces. Even if this film didn't mix swords and sorcery in a very Game of Thrones-y way that show would still have been on my mind, because this movie basically boils down to a few kings trying to maneuver their way into being in charge of a vast empire. It's not a comparison this movie benefits from. Game of Thrones has a large canvas to paint on, whereas this movie has to get in and out in under two hours, so there's not a lot of room to set up the characters, have them make deals, betray those deals, and then pay for their crimes in a way that's complicated. The benefit of having Hercules fight monstrous humans instead of actual monsters is that they can have involved motivations, give big speeches, or act in surprising ways, but this movie doesn't give any of it's villains any opportunity for nuance. So why bother with them?

Don't get me wrong: this movie isn't a total write off after the cool opening. After all, I did mention that there are killer wolves, and most of Hercules' sidekicks are reasonably entertaining. There are long stretches of this movie that give into being the dumb spectacle it always wanted to be, and those scenes were fun. But if your film's climax is making me wonder whether the snarling wolves that are attacking the hero in the movie's are really to blame for their behavior, you might have fallen asleep on the job a bit.

Winner: Draw

Hercules on IMDB