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'The Legend of Hercules' review: Feeble acting, weak effects

Kellan Lutz in "The Legend of Hercules."

Kellan Lutz in "The Legend of Hercules." Credit: MCT

Come back, Taylor Kitsch! "John Carter" is forgiven thanks to the Kellan Lutz vehicle "The Legend of Hercules."

Lutz, the fashion model and actor best known as the strapping Emmett Cullen in the "Twilight" franchise, takes the title role in "The Legend of Hercules," a movie so gruelingly terrible it makes the 2012 bomb "John Carter" look like 1960's "Spartacus." Lutz's performance is so wooden he makes Kitsch look like Kirk Douglas. Lutz isn't solely to blame, but it's difficult to pinpoint what exactly makes "Hercules" so awful. Each aspect of this movie seems magically worse than all the others.

It's presented as an origin story of the demigod strongman Hercules, the product of a quickie between Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) and Zeus. Why the heartless King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins) raises Hercules alongside his own son, Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), isn't clear, especially since he's later willing to send him on a fatal military mission to Egypt. Hercules survives, however, hoping to return and claim the hand of Hebe (Gaia Weiss).

"The Legend of Hercules" is a swords-and-sandals epic retrofitted for the modern superhero era, and nothing about it jibes. Director Renny Harlin, who in the 1990s turned out fine popcorn flicks like "Die Hard 2" and "Cliffhanger," seems to be grabbing at various styles: the craggy landscapes and lusty speeches of "Clash of the Titans," the treacherous brother-figure from "Thor," the slow-mo fight sequences of "The Matrix." At times, the cliches become self-parody: One idyllic love scene is filled with so much floating, sun-dappled pollen that the actors nearly disappear.

With a dearth of memorable dialogue, interesting characters and decent acting (Lutz's pectorals can fill a screen but they unfortunately can't overdub his lines), the only remaining reason for this film to exist would seem to be the special effects. These, too, are bad. At one point, Hercules flings around two giant chunks of stone that look as light as Styrofoam (odd, since they're actually made of pixels). It's as good a metaphor for this hollow movie as any.

PLOT The origin story of the Greek demigod.


CAST Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins


BOTTOM LINE This painfully feeble version of the strongman story fails on every level, from Lutz's wooden acting to the Styrofoam special effects. At least that's one less sequel to worry about.

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