Iíd say Hercules is a cool, funny epic. Itís not dashing or classy, but it does offer nothing less than pure fun that has been interpreted by many to be brainless, which is so not true. How can a movie which pokes fun at the very heart of fandom, geekdom and hero-dom be brainless? Itís an understated intelligent parody, because dude, how can you not get the giggles at the sight of Air-Herc? Or Aphroditeís Secret?
Hercules, only child of the King and Queen of the gods Zeus and Hera, is turned mortal by the hand of Zeusí jealous baby bro Hades, which is a bad thing because only gods can live on Olympus. But when he finds out his heritage, he begins a quest to become a true hero in order to return to his family.
Hades, got of the Underworld, suffers from an extreme case of sibling envy, considering his big brother Zeus gets to relax up on Olympus while he (Hades) is busy with work, and has planned a hostile takeover. A visit from the Fates tells Hades thus: in 18 years when the planets align, he may release the Titans and take over the world, and his plans will only be foiled if Hercules, the only son of Zeus and Hera, is able to fight. So Hades, like a true forward-thinker, plots the demise of the newly-born tyke.
But good help is hard to get as Hades discovers, because his minions Pain and Panic screw up what should have been a foolproof plan. Hercules is successfully turned mortal, but still retains his god-like strength and is adopted by the human couple Alcmene and Amphitryon. And as a mortal, Hercules cannot return to Olympus and does not know his true heritage.
But with one thing and another, a teen Hercules finds out the truth, and also learns how he may return to Olympus: he needs to become a true hero. So off he goes, aided by the winged bird-brain Pegasus, to Philoctetes the trainer of heroes, where he is to learn to become a hero. Not too long later a grown-up Hercules starts on his journey to become a hero, and along the way meets up with the incredibly self-composed and occasional-damsel-in-distress Megara. And all this while Hades is also still working day and night putting up the finishing touches on his plan to take over the world, which of course, our hero must stop.
It is an epic. The larger-than-life gospel soundtrack and in-your-face heroism and villainy attribute to that. Well, okay, it does bring Disney a step back from the maturity of its predecessors The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pocahontas, but Iím okay with that. Disney should try new things, because when it gets stuck in a rut, itís hard to break out. The only real gripe I have is the simplicity of the actual story underneath, but with all the razzle-dazzle going on, itís easy to overlook it. I watch to be entertained, not to give my brain a workout.
They reworked mythology quite a bit to tailor to the story Disney style, which is to expected, considering the absolute bizarreness of the antics of the Greek gods. (Seriously, the Greek gods lived a twisted soap opera 24/7.) Hercules is now the legit son of Zeus and Hera, who are doting and well-adjusted parents. Which is a nice change, considering loads of people get their mythology lowdown from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (which I still watch occasionally) that features Zeus as a Bad Daddy and Hera as the Root of All Evil. In this Disney version Alcmene and Amphitryon adopt Hercules when he falls from Olympus (symbolism anyone?), and he eventually has to fulfil his DESTINY of becoming a hero and basically messing up the plans of the extremely bitter Hades who wants what every evil god of the Underworld wants, which is to rule the cosmos. Throw all of that together with some pretty tongue-in-cheek jokes and you get a movie some people will enjoy and some people wonít.
Our hero Hercules has something of a clueless farmboy thing going on, which gives him an earnest wide-eyed way of looking at the world that is usually not expected of a main character destined to be heroic. (Think Quasimodo, only less angsty.) The thing I like about him is that he really doesnít get why everyone makes such a big deal about him even when he gets famous. He does enjoy the glamour of it all, considering what a nerd he is. Yes, he is still a nerd even after getting all buffed-up. And thatís why he doesnít really get why heís a celebrity and heís still very much a lost little kid when he canít figure out what it takes to return to Olympus, and that makes me wanna huggle him. And Pegasus. Definitely wanna huggle Pegasus.
And the way coolness line-up: Megara, Hades, the Muses, cloud morphing, god cameos, subtle jokes, movie references, and the soundtrack. *g*
Megara... Susan Egan has one of the sexiest voices (well, to me, anyway) and she just oozes a confident yet cynical sensuality in a way that has never been done before. Sheís something of the anti-heroine at first (I read someone mentioning this somewhere else on the net, but I canít remember exactly where), and what I like about her is that she doesnít feel she has to live up to any sort of expectations. Sheís totally comfortable in her own skin and thatís where her real strength lies, and also why she balances out Hercules who feels like a stranger in his own skin.
And Hades... Man oh man, where to begin. Hades, Lord of the Underworld, hot-tempered smart-talking used-car-salesman-style god, and the bitter younger brother of Zeus. I had read somewhere that Hades was originally intended to be played dark and menacing, but James Woods took him a whole other (more enjoyable) direction. My fav scene: Boom-bada-boom-boom-boom! Yea... And by the way, ainít it interesting how Hades is the only god who doesnít have a glowy-halo-thing around him? Oh, and while I may have felt sorry for him by the end of the movie, I felt more sorry for his minions Pain and Panic, who had to tolerate constant abuse from their god. What a liviní.
The Muses who take on the narrating role in an unconventional way, totally ROCK. Goddesses of the arts, proclaimers of heroes, all-around funky storytelling chicks with awesome voices. You go, girlfriends.
Which brings me to... the soundtrack. I didnít really think much of Go the Distance because I've heard one too many epic stage-style ballads to really feel for this one, unfortunately. It was the Muses that totally spun the fun numbers, and of course the ever-lovely I Wonít Say Iím in Love, which totally took me by surprise when I watched the movie for the first time. I had seen the Making and some promos before seeing the movie, and I hadnít figured that Megara would have her own song, and whatta cool song it is, too. (Susan Egan rocks my socks.) What I had thought was that there would be was a Hades number, which I expected would be an overblown gloating villainy style song, but there wasnít, which kinda disappointed me... But the prequel series made up for that when Hades performed My Kinda Town (with the Muses, no less!) in an episode.
Watching Hercules again after quite a while, I was dizzy by the parallels it had with Smallville (yeah, that show chronicling the adventures of a young Clark Kent). Just lookÖ Herc was forced to leave his unusual home for reasons beyond his and his parentsí control, was adopted by a wonderful human couple whoíd been craving a child for so long, grew up an awkward teen (and if you follow the animated series, became best friends with an eccentric dude and dudette), had to cope with being a Ďfreakí among normals despite the fact that we (the audience) see his powers as a gift and not a curse; then Herc leaves his home to follow his calling to be a hero, but in the end finds that where he truly belongs is not a place, but a person. Parallels, much.
All in all, Hercules is a fun picture. Itís not as much of a surface rollercoaster fun thing as The Emperor's New Groove, but it does run along those lines. Which I like. There were of course things that didnít really click with me, including the Phil factor and the typical Disney-esque approach to expressing Herculesí frustration, but Iíll close one eye, if only for Hades going, ďGuys? Olympus would be that way.Ē