Life isn’t easy when you’re the bastard child of Zeus, father of all Gods, and your name happens to be Hercules. In ancient Greece, it was commonplace for the Gods to descend from Mount Olympus to fornicate with humans and leave mortal offspring in their wake. But Zeus’ infidelity incurred the vengeful wrath of his wife, Hera, who wanted to destroy his illegitimate progeny. When killing Hercules proved problematic, she instead did the next best thing and drove him to madness and the murder of his own wife and children. Remorse then prompted him to undertake his twelve impossible labors to purge himself of his crime.

Or so the legend goes.

This latest cinematic retread—the second of two in 2014, in fact—takes the classic myth with a hefty grain of salt and portrays its tortured protagonist more as just a big bad-ass dude who roams the countryside with his band of merry miscreants fighting not for justice or glory but for gold. The stories of his divine origin and exploits have been bloated and exaggerated as an instrument of fear and intimidation, and why not? It’s a hell of a marketing tool. Hercules and his mercenaries are soon recruited by a wealthy and powerful king to train and lead an army against a horde of rebels, and the lucrative offer is too good to refuse. Plenty of chaos and carnage ensues from there. Whoopdie-doo.

The 3D version of the film offers consistent and admirable depth of field and clarity with only intermittent halo and ghosting effects. Indeed, numerous shots seem tailor-made for the 3D format and make ample use of it. It at least holds your attention visually when the story starts to lag. The 2D Blu-ray contains two versions of the film and all the extras. The Extended Cut boasts “exciting action not shown in theaters,” which I find perplexing because it occupies a whole two extra minutes of screen time. Both 2D versions look and sound terrific, I have to say. Not surprisingly, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is exemplary on all levels. It excites and entices with subtle background ambience in the quieter scenes and thunders impressively in the scenes of combat and chaos.

Extras include 15 deleted and extended scenes apparently deemed not good enough for the Extended Cut, featurettes, and an audio commentary with director Brett Ratner and producer Beau Flynn. Bonus DVD and Digital Copy are included.

Blu-Ray 3D
Studio: Paramount, 2014
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
Length: Theatrical Cut: 98 mins.; Extended Cut: 101 mins.
MPAA Rating: Theatrical Cut: PG-13; Extended Cut: Unrated
Director: Brett Ratner
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Rufus Sewel, John Hurt

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