Friday, June 6, 2014

Hercules (Ron Clements and John Musker, 1997) Review

I reviewed two Studio Ghibli films last month so I figured I would tackle a film from the OTHER best animated company, Disney. I've tackled a few in the past such as the Aladdin trilogy and the horrendously bad Chicken Little but I just felt the need to take a look at some of the more popular ones. I'm not doing loads right now, just over time. Don't be surprised if you see The Lion King trilogy somewhere down the line but, for now, let's take a look at Hercules.

On Mount Olympus, Zeus's (Rip Torn) new born son Hercules is kidnapped and lost on Earth as a result of Hades (James Woods), the God of the Underworld, trying to overthrow Zeus and take over Mount Olympus. Hades fails in tuning Hercules human, leaving him as a demi-God with super human strength, leaving Hercules coping on Earth with his adopted parents. Hercules discovers his true past on Olympus and seaches out a trainer by the name of Philoctetes (Danny DeVito) to train and return to his birth parents while being infatuated by a mysterious woman named Meg (Susan Egan).

My opinion on Hercules has been so erratic over the years that I almost didn't review it. I couldn't make up my mind about what I thought of it. I've come to the conclusion that Hercules is worthy of being part of the Disney Renaissance but is in the bottom half of said category. In comparison to Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, the animation is lacking in terms of depth and lighting but Hercules has it's own style that suits the Greek story setting that they were going for. The jaded lines, the abundance of curls (just look at Herc's chin) and the simple colours work well.

One thing to note is that this is primarily a character based film. Hercules revels in it's characters. The most memorable is the villain Hades voiced by a perfectly cast James Woods. Without James Woods, there would be no film. He hams up every second he's on screen and he extremely enjoys the role, therefore his enjoyment connects with ours, making for an enjoyable film as a result. Hercules himself is a very likable hero albeit a bit simple. He's not the most deep hero out there but he has a certain charm. Now I think about it, the characters in general aren't deep or complex, they're just likable. Meg and Philoctetes also have a certain charm but I think it's mainly down to the voice actors that deliver this. Danny DeVito is basically playing himself with Mickey from Rocky thrown in. The film's shining glory is the songs. 'Go The Distance' and 'I Won't Say I'm in Love' are some of Disney's best, the latter especially. The soundtrack as a whole is catchy and memorable.

Hercules is a strange step on Disney's part but I think, overall, it came out fine. The characters, while a bit simple and not very complex, are memorable and likable with James Woods as Hades being the greatest element in the film. The soundtrack contains a couple of very strong songs with the others just being catchy and memorable. The animation does take a step down as it goes for a more simple style but it works with the context of the film. I'm glad there wasn't a Hercules 2, which...actually now I think about it actually very surprising. Not because it's not deserving but...I jut don't want to review it. Disney sequels, you see (well, except the Aladdin and Lion King sequels). And another thing, with all the pointless movies Disney churn out, why not make a Gravity Falls movie? It's the smartest and one of the best properties Disney has at the moment!

Filled with likable characters and a great soundtrack. The animation is a bit confusing though, especially from Disney post-Lion King.

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