'Hercules': Critics like the Dwayne Johnson film more than January's 'Legend of Hercules'

'Hercules,' starring Johnson, is the second movie this year to center on the Greek hero. 'Hercules' is in theaters now.

Kerry Brown/Paramount Pictures/AP
'Hercules' stars Dwayne Johnson.

If you feel as if you just heard about a Hercules movie hitting theaters, you’re not imagining things.

The movie “Hercules,” starring Dwayne Johnson as the mythological hero, hits theaters today, and it’s the second time this year that a movie about the Greek half-god has been released. The film “The Legend of Hercules” starred “Twilight” actor Kellan Lutz and was released this past January. “Legend” was directed by Renny Harlin of “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” while “Hercules” is helmed by “Tower Heist” director Brett Ratner.

Interestingly, beyond their title hero, the movie’s characters don’t seem to overlap too much. “Legend” features Hebe (portrayed by actress Gaia Weiss) as the romantic heroine – Hebe is traditionally Zeus and Hera’s daughter, who performed tasks on Mount Olympus like helping her mother and serving as a cupbearer before becoming Hercules’ wife. Meanwhile, one character in Johnson’s “Hercules” is Megara (played by actress Irina Shayk), with whom Hercules traditionally has two children. In addition, according to reviews of Johnson’s “Hercules,” the hero seems to be more mundane in the new film, with the movie suggesting that perhaps Hercules’ divine parentage was no more than a story to impress friends and enemies alike.

“Legend” was not well-received critically and currently holds a score of 22 out of 100 on Metacritic. So is “Hercules” doing any better? So far, many reviews say that the movie is an entertaining and fun experience. USA Today writer Scott Bowles awarded the movie three stars out of four, writing that “[Johnson and Ratner have] made a sword-and-sandal spectacle that entertains… this Hercules proves surprisingly knowing of the legend – and surprisingly willing to tweak it… The sets are spectacular, and the 3-D battle scenes, particularly an ambush early in the film, avoid devolving into a morass of blood, swords, and severed limbs… ‘Hercules’… stands miles above this year's ‘The Legend of Hercules.’”

Variety writer Scott Foundas found the movie “a grandly staged, solidly entertaining, old-fashioned adventure movie that does something no other Hercules movie has quite done before: It cuts the mythical son of Zeus down to human size… for all the handsome craftsmanship, [Ratner] never tries to deny the Hercules story’s intrinsic schlock value.”

Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw also found that the movie reveled in its cheesiness, calling it “cheerfully ridiculous and entertaining.”

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