Hercules preview and Q&A report

CaptureToday Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X:Men The Last Stand) and the cast of Hercules brought their unique vision of an old tale to London to give a world exclusive preview of footage from the movie. Ratner confirmed that he had only just been putting the finishing touches to the project so the full movie was unavailable, but we were treated to a 2D non-IMAX screening of a glimpse at a few parts of the film as well as a full battle scene, and the 3D trailer.

Hercules is a story that lead actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has admired from a young age, looking up to actors such as Steve Reeves back in the 1950s. Johnson admitted “when I first hit Hollywood, I asked about the possibility of playing Hercules in a project” but he didn’t have the star power at the time to make his vision a reality. Fast forward to 2014 and the former WWE Champion has the world at his feet and is arguably one of the biggest action stars in all of Hollywood right now, so it’s no surprise he has finally been able to combine with Ratner and bring this project to fruition.

The 2D footage itself was as exciting as you would expect, and perhaps bloodier and gorier than one may expect. There’s no messing around in the battle scenes, with Hercules (Johnson) and his band of warriors bringing an air of Thor and the Warriors Three to the table. Between Hercules, Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), Autolycus (Rufus Sewell) and others, there’s a true comradery and belief, with skilled weaponry, athleticism and even chariot riding on display. While there’s a modern style and clear made-for-3D feeling to the visuals, Ratner also manages to make Hercules feel traditional and old school, grounded in the Hollywood of old where Ben-Hur and epics reigned supreme. With actors like McShane, John Hurt (King of Thrace) and Joseph Fiennes on board, there’s often a thespian feel to the scenes beyond a simple all-out action movie, and Johnson pours his most passionate work to date into the titular character.

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Chaired by Edith Bowman, the Q&A session involved Ratner, Johnson, Hurt, McShane, Berdal, Aksel Hennie, Reece Ritchie and Irina Shayk. There was a clear excitement about the movie despite everyone admitting it was “one of the toughest shoots they had ever done.” From the months spent in the heat of Budapest to the training regimes many of the main cast had to go through, it was a gruelling project based on love and admiration for Hercules. Johnson had to get up at 4am to train before shoots, while Hennie revealed that he “got into ‘ripped’ shape” before finding out his body would be covered up the whole time! As he freely admitted, what’s the point in training that much when everyone looks so small against The Rock anyway?

Hercules has a clear sense of spectacular adventure grounded in reality, and that’s something that Ratner had his eyes set on. While his vision may have been in 3D and making the most of modern technology, he insisted on all the sets being built rather than relying on green screen. Again, it’s a clear indication of the love and eagerness surrounding the movie that they didn’t take the easy way out on many things. Not only is Hercules a strong leading male but he is presented as fallible and human also, while Atalanta stands on her own two feet and shows that women can be just as powerful. From the small glimpses of Megara (Shayk), Hercules’ wife, we only see her as a titillation, but Shayk admitted herself that this is her first acting role and was more than happy to get naked on various occasions. Hopefully there’s slightly more to her character in the full movie.

The preview itself hardly changed any opinions or perceptions on the film – it’s a big summer blockbuster starring Dwayne Johnson, so you’re not going in expecting an Oscar winning life changing experience. However, listening to the director and cast, it has to be said that this is a movie that they genuinely believe in, that involves some incredible actors, and in essence is a dream come true for a young boy who grew up to be a megastar in entertainment. It’s even one that could become a franchise if any of those involved get their way. Walking away from this preview you can’t help but think you could do a lot worse at the cinema this summer than going to see Hercules.

Hercules is out in cinemas on 25th July.

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