There's a spark of soapy life in this movie. It happens somewhere at the hour mark, which is a long time to wait for anything, much less for a film to kick into gear.
That brief moment of energy happens when strutting, screaming, rage-bearded King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins, giving the kind of MORE a dopey wannabe-future-camp garbage-spectacle requires) encounters his not-son Hercules (Kellen Lutz) and tells the strapping slayer of the Nemean Lion that his own diabolical brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) is "about to consummate his marriage" to Hebe (Gaia Weiss), the woman Herc loves because she is the lone young female in the vicinity. King Amphitryon grins when he says this, which is appropriate. It means the villain is behaving villainously and the film is ready for a fight. And then the moment is gone. That Hercules -- born of a hookup between Queen Aclmene (Roxanne McKee) and the god Zeus, one that involved swirly lightning, solo writhing and billowing bedcurtains borrowed from an Enigma video -- doesn't take out his sword and immediately begin liberating heads from torsos is one of this lifeless cartoon's many faults.
Dispensing with a lot of the actual legends of Hercules and replacing them with a barely-there hero's journey (find your power, fight the bad men, save the kingdom, get the girl) and Matrix-style, stop/start battles in which men take running leaps at one another and then freeze mid-air for max sword-slowness is another. But the list of cinematic crimes committed by The Legend of Hercules is much too long to delve into and retain a word-count you'll keep reading, so here are some highlights: a fidelity to bronze-y 300-inspired digital backdrops, the laziness of director Renny Harlin, the cheapness of Bulgaria, the agony of steroids, the insistence that animated lions look just like the real thing and an overall feeling of exhaustion that takes over in the opening frames and can hardly keep itself breathing until the final act, where two opposing endings compete for your interpretation. But you won't interpret. You will leave and say, "What just happened? Can we go get some tater tots?"
Hercules may be a figure of classical mythology but the Hercules movie, traditionally, is a figure of classic B- and C-movie status. And that is how it should be. Films featuring this lumbering musclemonster are meant to be thrillingly dumb, covertly lustful, pruriently violent and sweaty. They are the best mockery of a classical education and they shouldn't invite pity. That's why it's especially unpleasant to watch one where you wind up feeling sorry for its star. He made a name for himself as a goofy vampire with a gym membership in the Twilight series and, here, is forced to keep a straight face even when nothing around him deserves to be taken seriously. He's subdued even when screaming his dialogue -- which happens a lot -- and he's seemingly forced to act opposite a series of what were probably tennis balls on sticks. His Hercules feels like what would happen if a life-sized human butter sculpture suddenly became sentient. When Nick Frost out-Hulks you in The World's End, you know you've been mishandled. Don't let them fool you twice, Mr. Lutz.