Had the ancient Greeks sought out a 13th labor for the mythological hero Heracles (renamed Hercules by the Romans), they could not have devised anything as wearying or awful as sitting through the latest movie about him, “The Legend of Hercules.”
This boring, bombastic combination of swords and sandals is built as a 3-D showcase for the muscular frame of Kellan Lutz, who’s most recognizable as the most hunky of the sparkly vampires in “The Twilight Saga.” With his well-cut form, gelled blond hair and grunting line-readings, Lutz’s Hercules seems spawned from that Greek village known as Muscle Beach.
Not that this is a Hercules any Greek scholar would recognize. The script, by Sean Hood and Danny Giat, has a plot that sounds more like “Ben-Hur.” (This isn’t new: Disney’s version of “Hercules” twists the mythology into something closer to the “Superman” origin story.)
It starts with Herc’s mom, Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee), pleading for Zeus to end a war started by her bloodthirsty husband, King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins). Zeus, seen only as special-effects lightning, responds by impregnating Alcmene with the baby who will become Hercules.
As a young adult, Hercules falls in love with the Cretan princess Hebe (Gaia Weiss) — but Amphitryon arranges for Hebe to marry Herc’s sniveling half-brother, Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), as part of a peace settlement. Further, Amphitryon sends Hercules to Egypt on the pretext of settling a border dispute, but really to have the Egyptian army ambush and murder Hercules.
Herc and his military captain, Sotiris (Liam McIntyre), survive the attack and are sold into slavery, forced to fight for their lives in gladitorial spectacles. Hercules convinces their captor to take them back to Greece, and soon Hercules and Sotiris are leading a revolt against Amphitryon and Iphicles.
Director Renny Harlin, who was really big back in the ‘90s (remember “Die Hard 2”? “The Long Kiss Goodnight”?), drenches everything in a washed-out palette of tans and grays that are supposed to be epic — but just remind you how much better “300” worked with similarly themed material. His one trick is to put the action in super-slo-mo at random moments, and he repeats the trick past the point of absurdity — in a brainless action movie that was absurd enough to begin with.
‘The Legend of Hercules’
The Greek hero flexes his muscles in this brainless, visually inert action movie.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Now open.
Rating • PG-13 for sequences of intense combat action and violence, and for some sensuality.
Running time • 99 minutes.