Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Hercules Everyone Hates

The GirlFriend and I have a constant argument about Hercules.

To her, Hercules is Kevin Sorbo, a fun loving guy who goes on wacky adventures with his pal, Iolaus, in the annuls of syndicated television. I argue that Hercules is the beer-loving, womanizing, Prince of Power from the Marvel Universe. I have yet to make her see the errors of her ways.

But there's one thing we do agree on: Disney's Hercules is the worst.

Hercules was released in that dark period of Disney animation between The Lion King and... well I guess present day. As such, neither the GirlFriend or myself really paid attention to it when it came out.

Well, that's not really true. To be honest, we both confessed that we wanted to see it, but the combination of bad reviews, Disney Fatigue, and getting older just kept us from the theater. I remember always admiring the design of the movie, it's strong angular lines and stylized approach; it was a nice departure from the normal Disney fare. I was also really intrigued by the strong male hero, because most of the Disney movies were for girls, and all I had to root for was Aladdin (which isn't a bad thing). It was these expectations that set up my ultimate disappointment in the final product.

When it comes down to it, the problem with Disney's Hercules is that it's not Hercules. Herc, traditionally, is a man of two worlds (the gods and the mortals) who uses his extraordinary abilities to sleep with as many women as he can while dealing with a bitchy step-mother (Hera). Meanwhile, the Disney version has Herc as a god who is stolen away, then raised by kindly farmers who instill him with a foundation of good, before becoming a hero to the masses so he can rise to godhood again. To be fair, I realize that the Disney version couldn't be a womanizer, or be the by-product of an affair, but it seems more Superman than Hercules.

Disney didn't stop at just getting the character wrong, they ignored Hercules' greatest feats. I don't know about you, but when I think about Hercules I think about the 12 labors. The stables, the apples, fighting the lion (The only lion in Disney's version is a throwaway joke!), all that, that's what makes Hercules Hercules. The Disney version opts to forgo all that to make up a story about Hades freeing the imprisoned Titans so he can topple Zeus and his kingdom.

As a quick aside, I feel really bad for Hades as a character in fiction. Talk about getting a bad rap for nothing. Poor guy is given the choice between ruling the seas or ruling the underworld, and he's forever demonized for it. Just because he's the ruler of the underworld doesn't mean he's Satan! It's not like if you're a good Greek you'll end up running around Mt. Olympus. Everyone who dies goes to the underworld and it's his job to make sure the place stays open. He needs a better PR agent. But anyway...

To top off their trifecta of terrible, the animation is just uninspired in Disney's Hercules. Aside from the fantastic Motown inspired Muse musical sequences scattered throughout, the whole movie just feels lazy. Medium shot after medium shot of the characters standing and talking with very little dynamism. I'm not asking for crazy Anime stuff, it would just be nice to see a little variation here and there.

In the end, it's a movie best left on the video store shelf (or the Netflix storeroom, if that's how you roll) to drift further into obscurity. That said, I don't think I'll ever get "Go The Distance" outta my head.


  1. The music was excellent. One of my fave Disney soundtracks. I know what you mean about the Disney dark ages. I mean, The Hunchback of Notre Dame??? What was that about?

  2. I'll give you 'Go the Distance' for sheer earworm-ness, but aside from that I can't imagine what else on that soundtrack is memorable. What else is there to love on that soundtrack? Was it the rules of being a hero song by Danny Devito? The Hercules/Meg love song? What?

    Also, I have never seen Hunchback, but I really want to just so I can point out what's wrong with it. Just like I want to watch Atlantis, Treasure Planet, Brother Bear, and Home on the Range. I'm kind of a glutton for Disney punishment, I think.

  3. I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with almost everything you have said, and this is probably because Disney is my one love. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and the music and how the Disney crew interpretted it. They can't really have inappropriate "womanizer" images for young kids, who this is for, no disrespect to you however. I believe they did well with choosing plots and character personalities that would sit well with children.