NYCC 2013 – Hercules: The Legend Begins – The Origin of a Hero…in 3D
Hercules. Son of Zeus. Demigod. There are few nowadays who haven’t heard the name of Hercules, at the least. Most of us have a passing familiarity, if not a more thorough knowledge, of this part of Greek mythology. Disney did their cartoon animation, Kevin Sorbo played the hero in a TV show, and now there are two films coming out next year about this legendary hero. So what sets Hercules: The Legend Begins apart from these other interpretations? The director, Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger), and actors Kellan Lutz (The Twilight Saga, Immortals), Gaia Weiss (Mary Queen of Scots), Scott Adkins (The Expendables 2, The Bourne Ultimatum), and Liam McIntyre (Spartacus: War of the Damned) made an appearance at New York Comic Con this past Saturday evening to promote their upcoming film.
Out of the panel came two main reasons that the panelists continually returned to in defense of their film: it will focus on the psyche of Hercules rather than his brute strength, and it was filmed specifically to be 3D.
Origin films have become popular, it seems, since Batman Begins (2005). In keeping with this, Harlin and his crew have created what they are calling the origin movie for Hercules (Lutz). Their argument is that other versions of Hercules are about his powers and later journeys, but this is the only film that treats him as a human character and goes back to his youth, before he knew his heritage and that he had a destiny greater than himself. This film endeavors to show the coming-of-age of the young man who would become Hercules, while centering the story around his romantic interest, Hebe (Weiss). Hercules comes into conflict with a father who hates him, is sent off to war, and then has to suffer many trials and challenges in his struggle to return home to the love of his life. I for one enjoy a good origin story, seeing the psychology behind the stereotype (e.g. Batman Begins, Casino Royale); however, I am not convinced by what I saw at the panel that they will succeed. The trailer they showed to the fans had no clear story to it, and just appeared as a jumble of action and romance scenes. It did not set this film apart, in my opinion, from every image of Hercules I already had. Not to mention the fact that they keep referring to Hercules being a young man in this film, but they’re using a 28-year-old actor (arguably young, yes, since he’s only a year older than myself) and the actor playing his father (Adkins) is only nine years older.
There has also been the great push toward 3D movies (and even home televisions), which to some has been more of a disappointment than anything else. The only movie I personally have seen that was worth the larger ticket price was Avatar, which was spectacular in 3D because of the world the film was set in. For Harlin, however, this is not just another gimmick to increase ticket prices. He has approached this film from the very beginning with 3D in mind. For him, there is more to 3D film than a simple conversion of a movie already in 2D. Harlin told fans that it starts from the entire visual design, even down to the way you light the scenes. With 3D, the way scenes are shot is different, as well. Punches and weapons sequences must be closer to the actors than they would need to be in 2D, and there cannot be a lot of quick cuts between shots. This means the takes are longer and, in many cases, real weapons are used. Harlin told one such story about bringing a real axe down next to Lutz’s head, because a fake one would bounce off the flooring. Lutz was eager to do the take again, but closer this time. However, when Harlin showed him how the axe hit farther away, but then bounced right next to his head because of the force, Lutz was fine with using the shot they had. Harlin had to be meticulous with planning every shot and sequence. For him and this film, shooting for 3D raised the bar. For those who like action flicks, this may be a reason in and of itself to check out the film when it is released in March.
All told, the cast does seem to have a great chemistry, McIntyre standing out above the rest with his silliness and knack for comedy, and hopefully that will come across in the film. I cannot say I’ve been convinced to go see the film myself, but it has potential, and I look forward to seeing further trailers that better capture the tone and story they are looking for. I hope those will do more to persuade me.