Revisited: Hercules

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

After imprisoning the Titans beneath the ocean, the Greek gods Zeus and his wife Hera have a son named Hercules. While the other gods are joyful, Zeus’ jealous brother Hades plots to overthrow Zeus and rule Mount Olympus. Turning to the Fates for help, Hades learns that in eighteen years, a planetary alignment will allow Hades to locate and free the Titans to conquer Olympus, but only if Hercules does not interfere. Hades sends his minions Pain and Panic to dispose of Hercules. The two succeed at kidnapping and feeding him a formula that turns him mortal, but fail to remove his superhuman strength before Hercules is found and adopted by the farmers Amphitryon and Alcmene.

Years later, the teenaged Hercules becomes an outcast due to his strength, and wonders where he came from. After his foster parents reveal the necklace they found him with, Hercules decides to visit the temple of Zeus for answers. The temple’s statue of Zeus comes to life and reveals all to Hercules, telling him that he can regain his godhood by becoming a “true hero”. Zeus sends Hercules and his forgotten infant-hood friend Pegasus to find the satyr Philoctetes—”Phil” for short—who is known for training heroes. The two meet Phil, who has retired from training heroes due to numerous disappointments, but Hercules inspires him to follow his dream to train a true hero who will be recognized by the gods. Phil trains Hercules into a potential hero, and when he is older, they fly for Thebes. On the way, they meet Megara—”Meg” for short—a sarcastic damsel who Hercules saves from the centaur Nessus. However, after Hercules, Phil, and Pegasus leave, Meg is revealed to be Hades’ minion, having sold her soul to him to save an unfaithful lover.

Arriving in Thebes, Hercules is turned down by the downtrodden citizens until Meg says that two boys are trapped in a gorge. Hercules saves them, unaware that they are Pain and Panic in disguise, allowing Hades to summon the Hydra to fight Hercules. Hercules continually cuts off its heads, but more heads replace them until Hercules kills the monster by causing a landslide. Hercules is seen as a hero and a celebrity, but Zeus tells Hercules he is not yet a true hero. Driven to depression, Hercules turns to Meg, who is falling in love with him. Hades learns of this and on the eve of his takeover, offers a deal that Hercules give up his powers for twenty-four hours on the condition that Meg will be unharmed. Hercules accepts, losing his strength, and is heartbroken when Hades reveals that Meg is working for him.

Hades unleashes the Titans who climb Olympus and capture the gods, while a Cyclops goes to Thebes to kill Hercules. Phil inspires Hercules to fight and kill the cyclops, but Meg is crushed by a falling pillar saving Hercules from it, allowing him to regain his strength. Hercules and Pegasus fly to Olympus where they free the gods and launch the Titans into space where they explode, though Meg dies before he returns to her. With Meg’s soul now Hades’ property, Hercules breaks into the Underworld where he negotiates with Hades to free Meg from the Styx in exchange for his own life. His willingness to sacrifice his life restores his godhood and immortality before the life-draining river can kill him, and he rescues Meg and punches Hades into the Styx. After reviving Meg, she and Hercules are summoned to Olympus where Zeus and Hera welcome their son home. However, Hercules chooses to remain on Earth with Meg. Hercules returns to Thebes where he is hailed as a true hero as Zeus creates a picture of Hercules in the stars commemorating his heroism

REVIEW:

Perhaps the most well-known figure in Greek mythology is Hercules. Disney decided to take a chance and turn this myth into an animated musical comedy. Some have said this was the end of the Disney renaissance, but I happen to think this film gets a bad rap.

What is this about?

In Disney’s animated take on Greek mythology, the heavenly Hercules is stripped of his immortality and raised on Earth instead of Olympus, where he’s forced to take on Hades and assorted monsters.

What did I like?

Irony. I’ve seen this film quite a few time, but it was pointed out to me a few minutes ago that it is a bit ironic that a film about Greek mythology relies heavily on gospel. The irony isn’t lost on me. As a matter of fact, I appreciate the chance they took with the gospel chorus. When you think of a Greek chorus, can you really imagine them not having that gospel thing going when they sing? I know I can’t!

Hades. James Woods owns this role of Hades, perhaps even more than he does when he plays himself on Family Guy. I was reading some background info and it turns out that some have compared his performance to Robin Williams’ genie in Aladdin, which is pretty high praise, if you think about it. Woods manages to play Hades as a comedic villain, but there is still that dark quality that most, if not all, Disney villains have.

Music and color. I’ve already mentioned the gospel tinges, but I have to bring up a couple of standout songs, “Go the Distance” and “I Won’t Say I’m in Love”. Neither are gold standards in the Disney lexicon like “When You Wish Upon a Star”, “Whistle While You Work”, “I Wanna Be Like You”, etc, but they are quite enjoyable. Personally, I love Meg’s heart wrenching ballad. Moving on to color, well, this is a very colorful film. Look at the gods, each of them is a different color. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this at first, but now I think I really like that creative decision. In a way, this is kind of a dark story, so juxtaposing it with the bright-colored residents of Olympus is quite the contrast.

What didn’t I like?

Gods. I feel like they could have given us more of the gods. Perhaps I’m a bit spoiled from the Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys TV show, but it just seems as if Herc should have encountered some of his brothers and sisters, or at the very least, had regular run-in with Zeus. That would have been better than the freaky statue coming to life.

Character design. I’m not sure where I fall on the design of these characters, and that isn’t a good thing. On the one hand, I applaud the design of Hades, Philoctetes, etc., but on the flipside young Hercules, Megara, and some of the lesser gods just weren’t doing it for me. At first, I thought perhaps they were going for a look that resembled Grecian writing, but now it just seems like the animators just experimented with a style that didn’t work as well as they thought it would.

CG. In Hercules’ first heroic deed, or one of his firsts, he battles the dreaded Hydra. For some reason, animators decided that the Hydra needed to be CG, but I honestly could not tell you why. Other than the part where he suddenly has a gazillion heads because Hercules hadn’t figured out that chopping its head off only creates more, it could very well have been hand drawn. The animators just got lazy, which is why everything animated these days is CG. GRRR!!!

While not the crown jewel in the Disney collection, Hercules provided audiences with lots of fun. I really don’t understand why people seem to be so down on this flick, but they are. I highly recommend that you give this a shot! It is a Disney animated musical, you don’t get much better than that, now do you?

4 out of 5 stars

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2 Responses to “Revisited: Hercules”

  1. […] to make him Sampson from the bible, rather than Hercules. Say what you will about Disney’s Hercules, at least they let Hercules be a demigod and then threw in a slight love story. Maybe this film […]

  2. […] in my head like King Candy from Wreck-It Ralph or perhaps more of a booming voice like Zeus in Hercules. Also, can we please get Cube to stop shoe horning in “It was a good day” into what is […]

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