Kellan Lutz as ‘The Legend of Hercules’ a Summer Blockbuster Action Wannabe

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CHICAGO – Big-budget Hollywood is struggling to find new stories, which is why we sometimes see the same ones two, three or even 10 times. Sometimes they’re days or months apart. And sometimes they shouldn’t have been made in the first place and just were to profit from a beloved story or hero.

Here’s a thing that sure makes you go hmmm. The plot synopsis for “The Legend of Hercules,” which stars Kellan Lutz of “Twilight” fame and opened on Jan. 10, 2014 from the producers of “The Expendables,” is:

“The Legend of Hercules” is the origin story of the mythical Greek hero. Betrayed by his stepfather (the king) and exiled and sold into slavery because of a forbidden love, Hercules must use his formidable powers to fight his way back to his rightful kingdom.

Kellan Lutz stars in The Legend of Hercules
Kellan Lutz stars in “The Legend of Hercules”.
Image credit: Summit Entertainment

The plot synopsis for “Hercules,” which stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and opens just 6 months later on July 25, 2014, is:

Hercules – the Greek demigod – has his life as a sword-for-hire tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek his aid in defeating a tyrannical warlord.

This month’s Hercules is helmed by director Renny Harlin (“Die Hard 2,” “Cliffhanger”). He’s one of the most successful Finnish film directors in the history of Hollywood – who you’ve never heard of. July’s Hercules comes at us from a more recognizable name: Brett Ratner (three “Rush Hour” films, “Red Dragon,” “X-Men: The Last Stand”).

Gaia Weiss stars in The Legend of Hercules
Gaia Weiss stars in “The Legend of Hercules”.
Image credit: Summit Entertainment

Despite taking fight sequence and cinematographic inspiration from films like “300” and “Gladiator,” “The Legend of Hercules” fails as an epic action film because of its low-cost acting, a stiff and cheesy script, an underwhelming visual feast and pre-pubescent character depth. It’s a summer blockbuster film wannabe that opened in January instead to recoup the piece of its $70 million budget that it can.

Many moviegoers don’t know it’s in theatres, and when you curiously ask friends about it, they seem to respond with: “You mean the cartoon?” It has nowhere near the same excitement or appeal as masterful, hormone-raging CGI films like “300” or “Immortals”. This film self-professes its primary character as a legend without making him feel like one.

That said, a few action sequences will happily glaze your eyes over – such as breaking free of chains in stone and Whack-a-Moling tough guys with said stone at the end of said chains.

Kellan Lutz stars in The Legend of Hercules
Kellan Lutz stars in “The Legend of Hercules”.
Image credit: Summit Entertainment

And while I so often pan the romantic element in blockbuster films because I typically don’t feel the chemistry, I’m surprisingly not hating this couple. I blame that more on the success that is Gaia Weiss as Hebe rather than the mediocre Kellan Lutz that is Hercules. I actually felt that she felt something for her herculean love interest while he was acting that he felt it back.

That said, he could have been anyone else and she probably would have sold it just as well – just like Rachel McAdams can for whichever guy she’s supposed to love. For Kellan Lutz, on the other hand, I can’t help but feel – after having been a minor character in “Twilight” (Emmett Cullen) – that he got a major break in landing this titular role. Lutz also plays the voice of Tarzan in the new animated film “Tarzan” out of Germany, which releases there next month.

His pecs are bigger than hers and he got ridiculously ripped – so it appears on film, any way – since the last time I interviewed 4 years ago and photographed him. I recall from that photo when Kellan asked me to retake it a few times because he wasn’t satisfied that he – and I quote – “burned” in them.

Kellan Lutz stars in The Legend of Hercules
Kellan Lutz stars in “The Legend of Hercules”.
Image credit: Summit Entertainment

When Lutz first landed the role as Hercules, he immediately wanted to beef up his body – and apparently only wear a shirt of some sort for about 20 percent of this film. But director Renny Harlin requested for him not to amp up and just to “get his abs to pop out more”. Lutz went with the look that his director had in mind, which still looks quite assisted by CGI.

Nevertheless, it was important for Lutz to perform at least four of his own stunts: battling bad guys on horseback, whirling around a hefty iron chain, holding an armored man over his head and jumping over fire while wielding a sword. Still, the film’s worst special effects scene comes when Hercules figures out how to empower his sword with his dad’s lightning bolts. Zeus may be a giving guy, but that’s some low-budget ridiculousness.

Releasing to 2,014 theatres in the U.S. on Friday, its first-day box-office gross only saw $3 million. It’s a short, 90-minute popcorn flick that you can get in and out of with an “eh” or not see at all and be the better for it. Summit Entertainment (which also distributed the “Twilight” films) is taking it seriously enough to try to be a mini-blockbuster while knowing it won’t truly perform as one. If you miss it in theatres and catch it later on Blu-ray or TV, you’ll be being kind to help it cut its losses.

“The Legend of Hercules” stars Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins, Roxanne McKee, Scott Adkins, Liam Garrigan, Liam McIntyre, Rade Serbedzija, Johnathon Schaech, Luke Newberry, Kenneth Cranham, Mariah Gale and Sarai Givaty from writer and director Renny Harlin and writer Daniel Giat. The film, which opened on Jan. 10, 2014, has a running time of 90 minutes. It is rated “PG-13” for sequences of intense combat action and violence and for some sensuality.

HollywoodChicago.com publisher Adam Fendelman

By ADAM FENDELMAN
Publisher
HollywoodChicago.com
adam@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2014 Adam Fendelman, HollywoodChicago.com LLC

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