“More watchable than I ever would have expected from The Asylum.”

by Martin Hafer

Hercules Reborn is a production of The Asylum—a film production company known for making so-called ‘mockbusters’.  These mockbusters are films that are released to coincide with the release of big studio epics in order to capitalize on the hubbub surrounding the big-budget movies.  They feature titles that are VERY similar to the bigger films, but you wouldn’t ever mix up these films with the originals!  I’ve reviewed a few of these, such as Apocalypse Pompeii (released to coincide with Pompeii) and Sleeping Beauty (to coincide with Malificent).   They also are the same folks who have given us the Sharknado franchise for what that’s worth.

With the upcoming release of the new Dwayne Johnson (‘the Rock’) movie Hercules in late July, The Asylum has brought out its latest mockbuster, Hercules Reborn.  The star of this film, naturally, is Hercules and he’s played by the pro wrestler/actor, John Hennigan.

Hercules Reborn
Directed by
Nick Lyon
John Hennigan, Christian Oliver, Marcus Shirock
Release Date
15 July 2014
Martin’s Grade: C+

As far as the film’s attention to detail goes, it’s very poor. The myths of Hercules are only vaguely used in this film and classical studies professors will have a conniption when they watch the film. However, EVERY Hercules film I have ever seen does exactly the same thing–they pretty much ignore the old myths and have the hero doing lots of things he never supposedly did. So, I’ll cut it some slack in this particular area.

I noticed that this film’s plot is very, very similar to the old ‘sword and sandals epics’ that the Italians were making in the late 50s and through much of the 1960s. Sometimes the hero was called Hercules, sometimes he was Maciste or Ursus or Goliath or even Samson–and sometimes the names just depended on which dub you saw! Sometimes the SAME movie had multiple versions and he would be called Hercules in one and Maciste in the other! In most cases, famous bodybuilders were used–whether they could speak the language or not! So, having Hennigan playing the part is pretty reasonable. But is it any good? Well, it’s not bad–and that is far better than I’d say about some of the other films I’ve seen from this company.

The film begins in a happy ancient Greek town…happy, happy, happy town. However, General Nikos is a jerk-face–and most people don’t realize how big a jerk-face he really is. By the time they come to realize it, it’s too late—he and his troops have murdered the king and queen and enslaved the people. And soon, he plans on a war simply to enrich himself and his men. However, one of the loyal officers and a few of his men have managed to escape and are searching for the legendary warrior, Hercules. Unfortunately, what they find is an alcoholic who burps much of his dialog. However, when he’s sober, he’s a lean, mean fighting machine–and he agrees to go because he, too, has a beef with Nikos. Can they stop him as well as manage to save the feisty princess who Nikos is forcing to become his bride? What do you think?

There were a few things I really liked about this film. The princess was great. She was NOT just some victim waiting to be saved by the men but was a tough lady–and I appreciate that she had some depth. I also liked the general plot of the film–it sure made me remember the old Italian films–and this new version was a heck of a lot better. And, it’s very watchable…in an undemanding sort of way. Strikes against it was it’s less than believable city–as they only looked to have about 15 or 20 people in this city! A bigger budget like the upcoming Dwayne Johnson version obviously will have the budget and masses of people. Also, a few of the actors weren’t particularly good–especially their reactions to the coup, which were amazingly underplayed. Heck, this crazy general has butchered half the city–don’t you think this would make folks a tad emotional?!

As for Hercules himself, I just don’t know what to think. This version is the least heroic I’ve ever seen. He’s not mythically strong. He’s a bit of a knucklehead at times. And, folks will be surprised just how ordinary he seems. This guy is a great fighter, granted, but he doesn’t seem unstoppable or the sort that could take on an army all by himself. The way I see it, if you ignore his name and just see it as an action movie with a buff hero, it’s a lot more enjoyable.

Overall, I wouldn’t rush to see this one. But, it shows a bit more quality and is more watchable than I ever would have expected from The Asylum. Worth a look provided your expectations are not too high…and you have no classical studies friends watching it with you*!

*As a retired history teacher, you probably don’t want to go to seriously inaccurate historical films as well. I just can’t seem to sit there all night without eventually saying SOMETHING about the factual errors. So, I can understand and relate to the plight of the classical studies folks!