My opinion right after watching film
My opinion right after watching this film is that it is mediocre at best. The animation is not spectacular, the musical format really fails in this movie, the characters (while enjoyable) are not the best, and the story is….pretty sloppy and has holes like it is swiss cheese. It is one of the weaker films in this era, and for many reasons. I still like it though, but again, I am not biased.
So after the success of Aladdin, Musker and Clements were working on Treasure Planet until the fall of 1993, but it was rejected by Katzenberg. They made a deal with him that they would do another animated film ONLY if they could make Treasure Planet afterwards, which he accepted. They chose the project of Hercules officially in 1994, which they were excited by, because it was their chance to make a superhero movie.
Danny DeVito initially refused to audition for Philoctetes, so many others auditioned, but they knew that the studio wanted DeVito. They approached him during the taping of Matilda, where he finally joined the project. There was also an issue with casting for the role of Hades, with Jack Nicholson refusing to do it for the financial issues with the payment, so they casted John Lithgow in the fall of 1994, for them to only toss him after 9 months. They hired James Woods in the fall of 1995.
The character designs and art were based off of Gerald Scarfes work.
So the film starts with the Muses (Lillias White, Cheryl Freeman, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, and Vaneese Y Thomas) introducing the story of Zeus beating the Titans through the first song called Gospel Truth. It is a bit weird to see 5 sassy black women telling us about an Ancient Greek story, but I will roll with it.
We are then taken to Mount Olympus to celebrate newborn Hercules (Tate Donovan and Josh Keaton)’s birth. All of the gods are having a good time, but when Hades (James Woods) shows up, a different vibe is given to the party.
Hades leaves the party as soon as he came, because he has a meeting with The Fates (Amanda Plummer, Carole Shelley, and Paddi Edwards). While Hades is making his way back to the Underworld, the Muses sings Gospel Truth II, which basically reminds us that Hades is the evil one and he has an evil plan. He meets with The Fates, who TELL him his plan, which is that he will get the Titans out from under the Ocean and together, they will defeat Zeus, but if Hercules fights, Hades will lose. It is a bit pathetic that Hades has to be told his plan to defeat the good guys. So he goes to get this pink liquid, which is used to turn any god into a mortal. I do not understand this. Where did he get that from? Couldn’t he just put that in a drink of Zeus? Couldn’t he have made more? Who made it?
Anyways, so it is night time, and his minions Pain (Bobcat Goldthwait) and Panic (Matt Frewer) kidnap a baby Hercules, who is sleeping beside his Pegasus (Frank Welker), and feeds him the mortal spell, but because he did not drink the last drop, Hercules still has his super strength, but is mortal. He is found by an aging couple named Amphitryon (Hal Holbrook) and Alcmene (Barbara Barrie) who adopt him.
So teen Herc goes to town with his father, and tries to play with the other teens, but they snub him. His strength accidentally causes the city to be wrecked, with everyone snapping at him, and telling his father that Hercules needs to never leave his house. He has a talk with his father about what happened, and how he tries to fit in, but can’t. He realizes that he does not belong in the farm town, which leads to the “I Want song” Go the Distance. It is about him wanting to find where he belongs, and for everyone to cheer his name. It is a decent song, but it is not strong enough to be a standout. During the song, they tell him that they adopted him, and they found the Symbol of the Gods medallion around him. He decides to leave to find who he is, and where he comes from.
He reaches the Temple of Zeus to pray his soul out, but is freaked when the statue comes to life. Zeus tells Hercules that he is his son, which makes the lad overly confused. He then asks why didn’t they want him, and Zeus responded that he was
an illegitimate child of a mortal kidnapped and his parents found him. He is reintroduced to Pegasus, and they suddenly remember one another. How in the hell could they remember one another if Hercules was DAYS old, and he is about 16-17?
So with Hercules getting rid of his clumsy strength with a controlled one, he passes all the tests, and they are on their way to Thebes, but before they can get there, they hear a DID (Damsel in Distress), which causes them to go to the scene. We see Megara (Susan Egan) getting manhandled by a blue monster Nesseus, with Hercules trying to be the hero, which she replies telling him to keep it moving. He “saves her” anyways, and while he is fighting Nesseus, Phil tries to make a move on Megara, causing her to push him off. I never knew half-animals and humans – with humans. Phil and Pegasus
who has a crush on Herc hates on Meg, and especially when Hercules tries to flirt with her. She somewhat compliments his rippling pectorals, while he likes her sassy and dry attitude. She walks off, and it is revealed that she is working for Hades.
He does not like it that she could not get Nesseus to be on their side for the battle with Zeus, but she explains that a farm-boy guy ruined it, and she says she is not impressed with his “act”. Hades loses his top, which leads to a HUGE plothole.
So the crew arrives to Thebes, and we see it is like Canada’s Toronto, and the US’s New York; but in Greece. They are complaining about needing a hero, and Hercules tells the people that he is a hero, but the commoners push him off with needing a professional hero -_-. And how would they know what a professional hero is? Megara conveniently runs up to tell them that 2 little kids (Pain and Panic in disguise) are stuck under a rock, with Hercules grabbing her and riding on Pegasus to the sight. He saves them easily, for one of Hades’ monsters to attack him, and we get this intense battle (with the worst GGI yet). Megara is smirking
wishing he would lift her up and down like that, and he won over the town, when he is finally able to beat it.
His first victory leads to the song Zero to Hero, which shows him becoming a no one, to the biggest and most famous person in Greece. He even gets an epic mansion out of it, a sponsor for many businesses,
and gives the execs and producers an excuse to shove in many pop culture references. Hades is freaking out because he has 24 hours to defeat Hercules and Zeus, and loses it when his sidekicks is wearing Herc’s merchandise. Meg is enjoying the battle, until she is told to “take care of Herc as a man” and she tells him that she swore off Man-handling a while ago. Hades is telling Megara to engage in sexual advances on Hercules to make him weaker. Take that in for a moment………… We then learn that she made a deal with Hades to save her ex, who only abandoned her for another babe…..Wait. If she was brought down to and trapped in the Underworld, she should not have expected her ex to stay with her, so I do not know why we should really feel bad for her about this.
Hercules is wearing Scar for a picture, and loses it because he just met with the statue of his father and was told that he is not a hero yet because of the fame. A bunch of thirsty fangirls want some of the stallion that is Hercules, but Phil tricks the girls into leaving (with him getting taken with them). Megara managed to sneak in the house, with Hercules revealing that it has been a while and he missed her. She tells him to go hooky with her, which he easily does.
They go out for the entire evening, and manage to go to a garden, where they both clearly had a good time. A disguised Pain and Panic tells her to start with her seduction, causing her to intentionally fall in his arms. He says she needs to rest, so he carries her to the bench, which puts her plan into motion. She slowly and seductively moves closer to him, talking to him with a bunch of innuendos, and he moves away nervously, which showed off his innocence.
So they talk about them thinking the other is perfect, and we see an insecure side from both of them. This is a really genuine conversation between the two. So he says that she makes him feel alive and whole, and she is not pleased that he wanted to be petty and dishonest like everyone else. He tries to assure her, and she is unconsciously leaning to get more, and she says that they should stop this dalliance they are having (while moving to make out with him), but they are cock blocked (interrupted) by Phil and Pegasus
who is glad that she got no play from his lover. He is in trouble from Phil, but he does not care, even when she apologizes. He gives her a kiss on the cheek. which leaves tingles all over her.
After they leave, she sings I Won’t Say I’m in Love, which is actually the best song in the movie. This got me into the film when I first saw it on YouTube, as I never grew up with this film until a year or 2 ago (same with Hunchback). This really shows Meg’s insecure but tough character. The Muses are encouraging her to admit that she is in love with Hercules, with Megara singing she wont say she is in love out loud. Hades soon shows up and asks her what is Herc’s weakness. She says to get another girl for the deal because she is done with it, even if her only chance at freedom will be gone.
Phil (who fell when he was on Pegasus) and heard some of Hades and Megs conversation, causing him to run to Hercules to tell him that Meg is a fraud. When he gets to Herc’s outside gym, the young man is too gleeful, lovestruck and happy to listen to anything Phil has to say. Phil has to yell it out that Meg is using him, which Herc does not like or believe because he knows his trainer does not like Megara. While this happens, Pain and Panic disguise as a sexy female horse to tie and trap him. Herc knows Phil is mad about today, but thinks he is overreacting. He gets mad when Phil continues on with the conversation and says that she does not love him, which causes him to backhand Phil so hard that he flies across the room, yelling SHUT UP.
Phil decides to leave because Hercules does not need him anymore, and Hades shows up with Meg to make a deal; give his powers to save Meg. Herc (for the pussy whipped fool he is) takes the deal, and because Hades is….Hades, he drops the bomb that Meg has been working for him. He feels betrayed, and Meg feels bad. Hades leaves with both of them on the floor, sad, depressed, and most likely crying.
So Hades releases the Titans, and Herc goes out to fight them (with Meg trying to stop him). When she finally gets that he will not listen to her, she goes on Pegasus to get Phil, and they rush back, to see mortal Hercules getting his ass whooped. They rush back to him, and give him a pep talk that he is a hero (which the man says dreams are for rookies as he gives Meg the dirtiest and coldest glare), and all of that bullshit, which inspires him to defeat one of the Titans. As the Titan falls, it causes one of the pillars to tumble, and it almost falls on Hercules, but Meg pushes him aside, with it falling on her. He regains his powers, since Meg got hurt, and she is slowly dying. He asks wtf did she do that, which she says that people do crazy things when they are in love. Phil says he will watch her as he goes to defeat the Titans and Hades.
So the other gods are helpless, as they are captured, but Herucles comes to save the day. Hades cackles as he knows Meg is about to die in seconds (so NOW he knows who and when someone is dying). Herc races back to Thebes and when he gets there, the Fates cut her life cord, meaning she is dead. So he rushes to the Underworld o make a deal with Hades; he takes Meg’s place if he gets her dead spirit, which Hades expects. So Herc goes and swims through the dead spirits, and he is about to die from old age, and the Fates are about to cut his life chord, but cannot because he turned into a god, as he grabbed her.
So when he revives Meg back to life, she asks him wtf did he do that, to which he replied that people do crazy things when they are in love. They are all taken to Mount Olympus (since Hercules was turned into a god for reviving Meg, which he unheroically backed out of his deal from….), to where he is celebrated. Meg is sad that they will be separating, but he saw the look on her face, and could not bear to separate from her, so he declines being a god. I have to say that I do feel sorry for Zeus and Hera; they never got a chance to raise their son, and when they had the chance to reunite, he rejects them for a girl.
So the quartet (Herc, Meg, Phil and Pegasus) returns to Thebes to reunite with his adoptive parents, and they look happily as Hercules gets his own constellation. The muses closes the film with the song A Star is Born.
There are really only 4 important characters that needed to be discussed. Some of them are good, while others are meh or pathetic. Let’s get to it.
The CGI is so fucking awful in this film. Anyways, the designs are good at times, but otherwise, it looks weird. I do not know if the Scarface design was the best thing, but they did their best. I do like the backgrounds though, and the bright colors that are given to every object in the film. I was not blown away with or disgusted (outside of the CGI) with the animation. It is in the middle with me.
I do not think the Broadway approach was good for the film. I somewhat touched on about it in my last review, but I will explain more here. From The Little Mermaid to Hunchback, the broadway approach benefits it, and helps move along the film, with giving it depth, with a new theme every single time. Here, they are really shoehorned in, and it is not really adding much to the story. This is what caused the Renaissance to start to die, and they need to switch things up with this film. It switches from Gospel (which was a unique choice, since Gospel are all about gods), but there are also smooth ballads. I do not really remember much of the songs, and I do not think they developed the characters the best they could have. The soundtrack is not that memorable, and I wish we had more of a Greek score.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on June 27, 1997, it opened at the #2 spot, making $21,454,451 on opening week. It ended up under-performing even more than it’s past 2 predecessors, with $99,112,101 domestically, and $153,600,000 overseas, with a total of $252,712,101.
Critically, it was panned by Greeks, but it overall received positive reception. People liked the high-energy, Woods performance, with the animation being great, while others did not like it for thinking it is like a circus gone wild.
Things were even weaker with the awards. It was nominated for 7 awards (many for Best song Go the Distance), and only won 4 Annies for Individual Producing, Directing, Character animation, and Effects animation. The soundtracks still did decently, charting #17 at the Billboards.
Today, it is seen as an imitation of Aladdin, not deemed as a classic, and is considered one of the weaker (if not the weakest) film of the Renaissance. It is growing a following, but there are still many that hate this film for being too obnoxious. Disney does not talk about this film much at all.
= 27/40 = 68%