Another Hercules movie in 2014? What is this, Hercules Memorial Year? Or just a very suspicious coincidence? Whatever the cause, I don't really mind the fact Hercules, or Greek mythology for that matter, is suddenly enjoying newfound popularity. I do mind if the results are poor though, which seems to be the case in the majority of recent examples of the Mediterranean classics being adapted to the moving image, from the two heavily digital Titans movies to the new BBC series Atlantis (which also features 'a' Hercules). This new film, Hercules: The Legend Begins, doesn't seem to steer in the right direction, as the story ventures far from the known Hercules tales and tells an origin story all its own which, judging from the trailer, seems a bit of an uneasy potpourri between traditional mythology fare and Roman plots and intrigue, complete with the ever sensational topic of arena fighting. The visual style is all too similar to the likes of 300 and the Spartacus series (the latter also starred Liam McIntyre, who plays an important role in this film as well), which is not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely an uninspired move at this point, as it currently seems "the" route to take for action flicks set in ancient times. There's also quite a 'B-movie' or 'direct-to-video' vibe to the piece (even though it's just a trailer and therefore nowhere near an accurate representation of the final product, as trailer history has taught us in the past) with its fairly bland and overly digital vistas and battle scenes, plus the fact there are no genuine A-list actors present, despite its obviously intended epic scope. All of the main cast is composed of actors that previously played bit parts and supporting roles, often minor, though some did take place in moderately big budget projects (including lead Kellan Lutz of Twilight Saga fame). For now it seems Hercules: The Legend Begins will find a major competitor in Brett Ratner's Hercules: The Thracian Wars, starring popular muscleman Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson as its titular character, while the cast includes veteran names like John Hurt, Joseph Fiennes, Ian McShane and Rufus Sewell. And that film too is nothing like the Hercules we know, but at least in its case that can be attributed to the fact it's a comic book adaptation. It seems Hercules will experience some tough competition from himself next year...
Then there is the news Marvel's TV plans, alluded to before when I reported on a potential Agent Carter series, have been revealed to some extent, and appear far bigger than anyone would have dared to anticipate. Four TV-shows and a miniseries, produced simultaneously, with a commitment for no less than sixty episodes?! Madness says I, and most seasoned television producers would agree with that assessment. However, this is the House of Ideas, and it has a brand name which has shown to survive seemingly mad notions before: on the big screen at least, establising a shared universe between various movies, culminating in one of the biggest box-office successes ever. Could it work similar wonders on the small screen and thus continue to slowly but surely dissolve the boundaries between both audiovisual media (as further interweaving of universes will be sure to happen, now that Marvel's only currently running show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has witnessed its first Samuel L. Jackson appearance that most people previously considered was not gonna happen)? Marvel's previous gamble payed off successfully and one cannot help but admire this bold move, but it would definitely be wiser to either continue more modestly (say, two additional shows) or wait for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to conclude its first full season and see the financial results. Of course, the latter would mean risking the loss of the current momentum: Marvel is hugely popular now, so better exploit that huge fan love before it dies down (you never know whether it will or won't, eh?). There's simply all kinds of pros and cons involved and that's not gonna change, so why not show a little more bravery and contine to risk much and gain more? After all, there's still many hundreds of fascinating superhuman characters (see above) that have yet to be seen on film, with an equal amount of good actors available to portray them satisfactory. I'm gonna watch whatever is spawned here for sure, and I know many many other people will do the same.