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Pff. Hercules. What a poser. You want to talk about impossible labours? Try writing a comedic review about a comedy while looking after a sick baby, fighting off a stomach bug, grappling with unreliable internet connection and only three days to write the review because you’re going on holiday. Now there’s a challenge. Especially if it’s a good comedy. And I’ll admit, this is a funny movie. Maybe it’s just because it comes right after three of the most serious movies in the canon (yeah, Lion King is light-hearted in places but nothing that has that death scene gets to call itself jovial) but fair is fair, it goes for the yuks and it gets them more often than not.
Production started in 1994 under the directorship of Ron Clements and John Musker, the directing team behind The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, the movie it most closely resembles. In fact, if I had to describe Hercules it would be, “Aladdin, but more.” Actually no, it would be “Aladdin, but too much.” Hercules sees Aladdin’s celebrity voice actors, heavy emphasis on comedy, deliberate anachronisms and pop culture references and raises the stakes like a wild-eyed gambler in a saloon who won’t listen to his wife pulling at his arm and screaming at him not to bet the farm, Lawence! The end result is that…that…
Aw hell, I can’t hold it in anymore…
ONE YEAR BITCHES!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
Sorry, where were we?
Oh right, Hercules. My point is, while Aladdin is overall a very fun and light movie, they still treated the story as something that mattered. You care about Aladdin and Jasmine, and while the genie might seem like a joke dispensing machine, he does actually get some quite affecting character beats.
Hercules though? The whole thing just comes off as such a lark that it’s kind of hard to give a damn about anything that happens. It’s an easy film to be entertained by. But not really an easy film to care about.
This represents Disney’s first foray into actual mythology rather than fairy tales, literature or legends. And no, a legend and a myth are not the same thing. In fact, let’s do a quick crash course on terminology (please let me do this, this is literally the only time my degree in Folklore has had any, even slightly, practical use).
Okay, so a fairy tale (or as folklorists prefer, a wonder tale) is set in a faraway place, a long time ago. It’s not about a real place, and it’s not about real people. It’s a fictitious tale told purely for enjoyment and usually has fantastical elements and magic and what have you. A legend, while also fictitious, takes place in a real place and time and features real people. So, for example, Washington chopping down his father’s cherry tree is a legend. It never actually happened, but Washington was a real person and it’s set in a specific time and place, Colonial America. Finally, a myth is the remnant of a now extinct religion. Hercules is a myth because both he and Zeus were once genuinely worshipped as gods and the tales featuring them had the weight of religious belief behind them. Myths tend to be taken more seriously than legends or wonder tales and while wonder tales tend to be considered universal (which culture gave rise to Cinderella?) myths remain very closely linked to their native culture. This may explain why this movie is absolutely loathed in Greece, where its, shall we say loose, interpretation of the Hercules stories enraged the Greeks.
Was their ire justified? Let’s take a look.
The movie begins with the sonorous tones of Charlton Heston giving us the low down on Hercules before being interrupted by the five muses; Calliope, Clio, Melpomene, Terpsichore and Thalia (Lillias White, Vanéese E. Thomas, Cheryl E Freeman, La Chanze and Roz Ryan).
The muses tell Charlton that he’s really coming on a little too heavy for this movie, and that they’ll take over the narration from here on in. Charlton says they can take his narration from his cold dead hands…no, actually he gives the most unconvincing “You go, girl” in history and hands off. The muses are a lot of fun, and they get the bulk of the film’s songs which are pretty darn spiffy. Our first one, The Gospel Truth, gives us some backstory while setting up the Gospel infused tone of the movie. Alan Menken wrote the music for this one again, this time with lyrics by David Zippel. Before the decision was made to have the muses be Gospel singers, Disney briefly considered casting a well known pop group in the roles. Hmm…an all girl pop group who would have been popular in 1997. Who could they have been thinking of…OH JESUS NO!
The muses tell us that a long time ago, the world was ruled by the Titans until Zeus, king of the gods, laid the smackdown and imprisoned them beneath the ocean. This is rather unique in this movie, in that it kinda, sorta resembles something that actually happened in Greek Mythology.
Flash forward many thousands of years later, and Zeus is ruling over Mount Olympus and his wife Hera has just given birth to their son, Hercules.
Yeah. Hera’s Hercules’ mother in this one. Oh boy.
Alright, I’m not a huge Greek mythology buff. I mean, Greek mythology is fine. Y’know, if you’re stuck and you can’t get something truly awesome.
But even I have to take issue with just how blatantly they’re disregarding the original stories here. If you don’t know, in the myths Zeus fathered Hercules on a mortal woman because Zeus was essentially a massive sentient penis that managed to grow a beard. When it came to fathering bastards Zeus made Robert Baratheon look like Ned Stark, and Ned Stark look like Varys and if you don’t know what I’m talking about for GOD’S SAKE READ GAME OF THRONES. Zeus’ horndog tendencies were so pronounced they basically were one of the driving narrative forces of the entire canon. The eminent scholar Ernest Hilbert even did this convenient chart.
Also, in the original stories Zeus’ wife Hera had a less than forgiving attitude to his infidelities, enacting terrible vengeance against his mistresses and their children including Hercules. Hell, even his original Greek name “Herakles” was given to him in an attempt to deflect Hera’s wrath by naming him after her. It didn’t work, but then I don’t know why any reasonable person would expect it to. The point is, seeing Hera represented here as a loving mother cooing over the infant Hercules is a bit much to take, but fortunately your loyal Mouse is here to fix the movie. Basically, the trick to watching Hercules is to assume that Hera is secretly manipulating everyone behind the scenes to get Zeus and Hades to wipe each other out, kill Hercules and rule unchallenged as Empress of Olympus. Trust me, it makes it so much more entertaining.
So all the gods are gathered at Olympus for the baby shower and I do have to give credit to the character designs. You can tell pretty much instantly who’s supposed to be Bacchus and Poseidon and so on, even when most of them are never named onscreen. The animators have moved away from the realistic human models of Pocahontas and Hunchback of Notre Dame and the characters here have a much more cartoony look, based on the drawings of artist Gerald Scarfe.
Zeus (Rip Torn) and Hera (Samathan Eggar) thank the guests for their gifts and then present their son with their gift, a baby Pegasus named Steve. Sorry, Pegasus. He’s named Pegasus. While everyone is aawing over this we meet our villain, Hades, voiced by James Woods. Woods always lists Hades as one of his favorite roles, to the point where this A-list actor will voice Hades in anything; direct to DVD sequels, Saturday morning cartoons, video games…
…and it’s not hard to see why. Woods is clearly having an absolute blast with this part and his Hades is easily the best thing in the movie. In fact, there are parts where Hades absolutely carries this movie. Also, can we agree that Hades is not really a villain? I mean, the other gods treat him like crap, he’s been given the shittiest job in the pantheon…no wonder he’s a fuming sack of resentment just waiting for a brilliant mastermind to use him as her unwitting pawn.
Hades checks out of the party early and returns to the Land of the Dead. We meet his two sidekicks, Pain (Bobcat Goldthwaite) and Panic (Matt Frewer). As sidekicks, they’re pretty blatant Happy Meal bait but they do at least play a role in the story so I will tolerate them. We also meet the Fates, three wizened old hags who can see the future. We get a funny scene where Hades tries to hold a conversation with someone who already knows everything he’s going to say, and coaxes them into revealing his future. They tell him that his plot (yeah, sure his plot) to overthrow Zeus will succeed but that if Hercules faces him in battle, Hades will lose. Hades is understandably peeved at this, and reaches for the medicine cabinet where he keeps a tiny vial of potion that can apparently turn a god mortal.
Why, it’s new regular character Nit the Nit Picking Nit!
Fair question, but I actually think I can answer it. There’s just barely enough potion in the vial to turn Hercules mortal (he retains his strength because he didn’t drink the last drop) so I suppose we can assume if there was only just enough to de-deify a baby like Hercules, it would take a whole lot more to make a god the size and power of Zeus mortal. Now, if Hades could get his hands on more of it, then sure. Wouldn’t even be that difficult to poison him, you just disguise the potion as something with a vagina and he’d get around to it eventually.
Pain and Panic sneak into Olympus and manage to abduct Hercules. Zeus and Hera find the baby missing and Hera throws herself at the empty crib, crying and wailing and basically giving zero indication that this was all in the plan.
Down on the ground, Pain and Panic feed Hercules the formula but before he can drink it all they’re surprised by Amphitryon and Alcmene, a humble farmer and his wife who discover the superpowered child and decide to raise him as their own wait just a damn minute here!
Yeah, after this the Superman parallels come thick and fast. Come to think of it, they are so clearly more interested in telling a Superman story that Disney probably should have just approached DC for the rights and made a Superman film.
Flash forward a few years later and Hercules has grown into an awkward, gangly youth whose phenomenal strength makes him a freak in the eyes of the townspeople. After a trip into town where he accidentally destroys…town, Amphitryon and Alceme finally tell him that he’s adopted, and show him the medallion that was around his neck, which bears the symbol of the gods. Hercules declares that the gods will know who his parents are and sets out for the temple of Zeus. Which, I gotta say; Isn’t that like if he was found with a crucifix and his first thought was “Jesus will know!”
Anyway, Hercules sets off for the temple singing Go the Distance, possibly the most perfunctory, by the numbers “I want” song in the whole canon. Hercules reaches the temple and approaches the statue of Zeus. But something’s not quite right.
The statue of Zeus comes to life and Zeus tells Hercules that he’s his son, just like roughly sixty percent of Europe. Zeus tells Hercules that to retake his place in Mount Olympus he will have to become a great hero, and tells him to seek out Philoctetes, the trainer of heroes. He’s also reunited with Pegasus, who flies him off to Philoctetes’ island home.
Philoctetes (or Phil, voiced by Danny deVito) is a fat little satyr who’s introduced to us while perving on some nymphs. Which, fair enough, that is totally what satyrs did. There’s a reason why the male equivalent of nymphomania is called “satyriasis”. They’re among the randiest characters in Greek mythology, which is saying everything.
Hercules asks Phil to train him but Phil says he’s washed up, out of the game, yesterday’s news, he’s had it, he’s two days to retirement, forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.
Sorry, that string of clichés kinda got away from me.
See, apparently Phil trained all the great Greek heroes, but they all failed because of…well, let’s just chalk it up to hubris. If you want to know why someone died in Greek myth, chances are it was hubris. Phil had a dream of training the greatest hero of all, someone so great that the gods would create a constellation for him, but years of disappointment have taken their toll.
But Hercules says he won’t let Phil down, because he’s the son of Zeus. Obviously, the idea that this superhumanly strong teenager with a flying horse is the son of a god is just too ridiculous for a rational half man-half-goat to accept, and Phil tells him to screw off…
…and then tells him to screw right back on. Well, obviously we don’t want to waste too much time on Hercules’ training, so you know what that means! MONTAGE BABY!
His training complete, Herc pleads with Phil to be allowed to do some proper heroing, so Phil agrees to take him to Thebes. But on the way they hear a woman scream and Phil declares that it sounds like a classic DID (damsel in distress). They fly down to where Megara (Susan Egan) is being menaced by Nessus the river guardian, voiced by Jim Cummings.
Alright, I’m probably going to catch a lot of shit for this but…I don’t really like Meg.
Okay no, that’s not exactly true. Meg’s a lot of fun and Susan Egan gives a great performance. I suppose it would be more fair to say that I’m annoyed by Meg.
Look, I know I’m all about strong female characters and they are clearly trying so hard here to subvert the typical Disney heroine tropes, even going so far as drawing Megara more in the style of Maleficent or the Evil Queen than Ariel or Belle.
But that’s the thing. They are clearly trying so hard, to the point that it kind of comes off a little bit desperate. Half the time it feels like the filmmakers are waving their arms and yelling “Look! Look! A Disney princess who doesn’t want to be rescued! She’s a tough, independent woman who don’t need no man, Girlfriend!” It’s the kind of the over the top, trying-too-hard-without-actually-really-getting-it kind of feminism I’d normally associate with…with…OH JESUS NO!
And I wouldn’t mind so much, but Disney already subverted the standard Disney heroine. Hard. And it was awesome.
Well anyway, Hercules tries to rescue her and she says she can handle it and he’s all “Whaaaaaaa?” Nessus attacks Hercules but Herc manages to clean his clock without too much trouble. Hercules is clearly smitten with Megara (who nicknames him “Wonder Boy”), much to Phil’s annoyance and Pegasus’…homocidal jealously?
Herc offers Meg a lift, but she turns him down, saying “I’m a big tough girl. I tie my own sandals and everything.” They depart and Meg goes wandering through the woods where she comes across the usual Disney forest detritus.
“Aw, how cute.” says Meg “A couple of rodents looking for a theme park.”
Okay, I may be warming to her slightly.
But it turns out these rodents looking for a theme park are actually Pain and Panic.
This is when we get our big twist. For you see, Meg, who we’ve known for all of three minutes maybe, is actually working for Hades!
Hades casually asks Meg why she hasn’t recruited Nessus to his team and she explains that Nessus made her an offer she had to refuse yay implied bestiality.
Hades says that in punishment he’s adding two years to her sentence and she says that it wasnt’ her fault, and Hercules interfered. When Hades hears that Hercules is still alive?
Well, yeah, but…
Um…well, see that can be explained by…
What is it SMOWE?
Oh, well, he’s new. This is Nit the Nit Picking Nit.
I know, but you see, it’s complicated.
He’s tough to work into jokes, okay? I’m trying!
Alright guys, please. We’ll talk about this later.
Meanwhile, Hercules, Pegasus and Phil arrive in Thebes, which is apparently suffering from unexplained plagues and natural disasters. Hmm. Thebes suffering from terrible plagues and mysterious storms? That actually sounds familiar, why would…oh Jesus.
The people of Thebes won’t give Herc the time of day, thinking that he’s just an amateur, but he gets his chance to prove himself when Meg comes running through the crowd wailing that two boys are trapped in a mine and since Lassie hasn’t been born yet, it’s up to Hercules. He arrives at the mine with a crowd of spectators in toe and lifts the massive rock blocking the entrance to the mine. The two children thank Hercules and run off, but it turns out that they were really Pain and Panic in disguise.
From the shadows, Hades and Megara watch as something comes slithering out of the now opened mine…the best CGI Hydra 1997 had to offer!
Okay, fair is fair. While the CGI hasn’t aged well at all (hell, even compared to earlier Disney films like The Lion King) the Hydra is a very memorable, creepy design that helps distract from that.
Anyway, after a surprisingly violent battle (as in Hercules gets swallowed and then knifes his way out of the hydra’s neck like a fucking chestburster) Hercules decapitates the hydra and the crowd goes wild. But Hades is remarkably blasé about the whole thing, saying “Relax boys, it’s only halftime.”
Sure enough, faster than you can say “Hail Hydra!”, it grows three head and Herc is fighting for his life, slashing at heads left right and centre until…
Now facing a whopping thirty headed hydra, Herc gets pinned against the cliff and is about to be eaten but instead he causes a rockslide that crushes the hydra and seemingly Herc too.
Phil is heartbroken, saying “There goes another one. Just like Achilles.”
Phil, you and I remember the Illiad very differently.
But no, it turns out that Hercules is still alive and he’s carried off by a rapturous crowd, overjoyed that he’s defeated a threat entirely of his own making. Hades is super pissed, Megara is quietly impressed and the muses are feelin’ funky so we now get Zero to Hero, the movie’s big showstopper.
Fucking awesome song. Probably the most flat out fun song in a Disney movie since Under the Sea. We get some of the best animation in the whole movie showing how Hercules becomes the biggest celebrity in Greece while the muses sing the whip smart lyrics over a propulsive gospel tune that you keep thinking has to wind down but instead just gets bigger and faster. It doesn’t let up, constantly topping itself until the crescendo. Great stuff.
So cut to a few months later, and Hades is starting to get seriously antsy because he’s got twenty-four hours before Hercules is fated to foil his big takeover. Having sent every monster in the annals of Greek myth after him and failed, Hades reasons that Hercules has to have a weakness.
No, Hades decides to use Meg to seduce him. We learn that Meg sold her soul to Hades in exchange for her lover’s life, and he then ran off with some bimbo, breaking her heart and leaving her bitter and cynical. Which of course is what happened to every feminist.
Alright, sarcasm aside, this scene is really well done. Hades passes Meg one of the Hercules brand urns he’s been using as target practice and then the camera zooms in close on her face as he whispers that if she does this for him she’ll gain her freedom. She says nothing, but we hear the sound of the urn shattering on the ground as she drops it in shock. It’s very cool.
Meanwhile, Hercules visits Zeus in the temple, and says he’s ready to rejoin the gods. I mean, he’s got an action figure for Christ’s sake, how much more heroic can you get?
Zeus rather sheepishly says that, while his accomplishments have been truly Norris-like, he still hasn’t proven himself a true hero. Hercules asks what more can he do? Zeus tells him to “Look into your heart”, which of course is Disneyese for “Fucked if I know”.
Hercules is bummed, but he perks up when Megara pays a visit to his mansion they go see the sights. Later that night, they’re relaxing in Herc’s garden and she subtly tries to get him to tell her if how he gets his strength. That’s right. She wants to ask Wonder Boy what is the secret of his powers. What powers you ask? How about the power to kill a Gorgon from fifteen feet away? WITH MIND BULLETS?! No, actually she tries to suss out his weaknesses through saucy double entendres: “No trick knees? Ruptured….discs?”
It is utter filth.
Okay, I take back what I said about Meg earlier.
Her first few scenes are annoying but once the character settles down, her scenes with Herc are actually really sweet. She’s starting to fall for him, and really feeling guilty over betraying him to Hades. They’re about to kiss but Phil and Pegasus arrive and bust it up. Phil is furious, and Pegasus is just hurting so bad right that his best buddy would abandon him for some chick.
Pegasus flies off and Meg is left alone in the garden. Now it’s time for I won’t say I’m in Love, possibly my favourite song in the movie (depends what mood I’m in, it’s this or Zero to Hero). It’s an anti-love song, where Meg loudly proclaims that she’s not in love with Hercules, while the muses sing back and basically imply that if you believe that, they have a bridge to sell you.
Hades appears and tries to pump Meg for info on Hercules, but she’s not playing any more and tells him to get another pigeon see?
I…I don’t know why I went Chicago gangster there, sorry.
Unfortunately Phil, who fell of Pegasus and was knocked unconscious and is only now coming to, overhears their conversation but thinks that Meg is still working for Hades. He runs off to warn Hercules and Megara defiantly tells Hades that he can’t beat Hercules because he has no weaknesses. But Hades stares right at her and says “I think he does, Meg. I truly think he does.”
You see where he’s going with this, right?
Phil tries to warn Hercules that Megara is up to no good and Hercules reacts rationally to Phil bad mouthing his dame by sockin’ him right in the kisser. Sorry, I don’t know why that keeps happening. Herc tries to say he’s sorry but Phil’s not hearing it and tells Herc he’s on his own.
Meanwhile, Pegasus gets lured away by a sexy Pegasus that escaped from some brony’s deviant art page. He’s lured into a stable where the pegasus suddenly splits in two and sets up shop in your subconscious for the rest of your goddamn life.
Pain and Panic imprison Pegasus, Peter Piper picks a peck of pickled peppers, and Hades hones in on our hapless hero, Hercules.
Hades approaches Hercules and offers him a deal (oh, and this is apparently the first time they’ve met which means that Hercules the Animated Series isn’t canon oh how awful): If Hercules gives up his power for twenty four hours, Meg goes free.
Herc’s no fool, and he can tell that we’re about five seconds away from an appearance by Mr Martin Lawrence, but he doesn’t really have a choice. He makes Hades swear that Meg will be unharmed, and Hades agrees, even going so far as to say that if anything does happen to Meg, Herc will get his powers back. Wow, that’s…nice of him.
Hades then drops the bombshell, Meg was working for him the whole time. Herc is devastated, and Hades flies off to free the Titans now that the planets have aligned.
The Titans attack Olympus and Hera does a masterful job of looking surprised.
Meanwhile, one of the Titans, a Cyclops (because, what there’s a difference?) attacks Thebes and Hercules has to stop him despite now being as weak, fleshy and flabby as an internet reviewer.
It goes about as well as you’d expect. Actually worse. You were probably expecting less of Hercules being used as a hacky sack. Meg frees Pegasus and they go off and catch Phil just before he boards the barge back to his island. They convince him to come back and help Herc, and Phil manages to give him some of that sweet, sweet pep. Determined not to give up, Hercules blinds the Cyclops, ties his legs together and causes him to trip and fall over a cliff. But as he goes over he knocks down a pillar and Meg gets crushed by it while saving Hercules. Meg crushed by a pillar? Oh no! But she’s still hot right?
Of course, because Meg got hurt Hercules’ powers now return to him thanks to that proviso that Hades just stuck in there out of the generosity of his heart. Hercules races to Olympus and turns the tide of the battle, freeing the gods and throwing the Titans into freaking outer space. Hades retreats, but calls to Hercules that it’s too late for Meg. Sure enough, back in Thebes, Meg has passed away.
But Hercules, like the mythical character he’s based on, is not one to accept the death of a loved one.
Of course, this is back when the earth was still flat, so instead of flying backwards around the globe to reverse time Hercules storms Hades’ kingdom and demands that he return Meg. Instead Hades, shows Hercules the river of the dead where Meg is now floating. Oh, and I gotta say the continuity in this scene is atrocious.
So now Hercules over Hades a deal, he’ll take Meg’s place. Hades is all over that, so he gives the following terms “You get her out? She goes, you stay.” <——
Hercules swims through the river to reach Meg and starts ageing rapidly. But just before he dies he becomes immortal, because he’s finally become a true hero. Hercules, now glowing with divine light, carries Meg’s soul out of the river and leaves. I’m sorry, what were the terms of the deal? It was literally just a paragraph ago. Christ, I even marked it with an arrow!
Yeah, he got her out, but he still has to stay! That was the deal? What the hell Disney? Is the moral that you don’t have to honour your promises once you’re in a position of power? That might makes right? That the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must?
Looks like! Hercules just walks out of there, and when Hades tries to stop him, Hercules punches him until his face is filled with troubling symbolism.
Hades pleads with Herc to put in a good word with his Dad, and gets punched into the river of the dead for his trouble. Herc returns Meg’s soul to her. They travel to Olympus where Hercules is given a hero’s welcome and finally reunited with his father and mother.
But Hercules tells Zeus that a life without Meg would be no life at all and opts to remain on earth. Zeus and Hera are cut up about this…for like two seconds tops (hey, like you’d want your eighteen year old son moving back in?) and the movie ends with the muses singing A Star is Born.
Hercules had a pretty disappointing box office take, and it’s now usually remember as one of the lesser Renaissance films. I don’t really disagree with that. It’s fun, and there’s a lot to enjoy, but it’s a pretty light and insubstantial movie all in all.
Nice character designs, and a return to the energy infused, almost Warner Bros esque feel of Aladdin. Some sloppy continuity costs marks though.
The Leads: 14/20
Hercules is a very likeable lead, and Meg grew on me as the movie went on.
The Villain: 17/20
Woods is hilarious.
Supporting Characters: 12/20
Pain and Panic bug me, Pegasus is fine, Phil is okay. Pretty average all in all.
The Music: 17/20
Some really great songs here, some of my all time favourites actually.
FINAL SCORE: 75%
NEXT TIME: Let’s get down to business…
NEXT UPDATE: 05 September 2013
Neil Sharpson AKA The Unshaved Mouse, is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger living in Dublin. The blog updates every second Thursday. Thanks for reading!
‘Sure enough, the hydra suddenly grows three heads and -‘ *end review*
Wait, what?! I feel like I’ve caught a couple of seconds of an end-credits gag right before someone turned the TV off.
Despite having studied classical mythology a fair bit, I still like this movie – mainly because of the character designs and the Muses. Disney took a difficult option with this one: Greek mythology just isn’t for kids. It’s violent, perverted, often nonsensical, and morality isn’t black and white.
The complexity of it is why I’m kind of torn about writing ‘Absolute Legends’ (my Odyssey play for teenagers). I want to be somewhat faithful to the source material, but I have to write it in an accessible way. I want to make it light and cheeky, which lets me work in lots of jokes about how strange mythology can be, but that tone makes it impossible to kill characters off. And of course, I have to write it in six ten-minute scenes because… *drum roll*… it’s going to be next year’s House Drama! ‘Shift’ went amazingly well and they’ve lined me up to do ‘Legends’ next year! Thanks for your generous feedback, by the way.
Great review, as always. I love Nit the Nit-Picking Nit. Good luck with ‘Joanna’, hope you and the bub get well soon and enjoy your holiday!
Good luck with your mythology paper. T would hae been nice if they made this movie a bit more darker and mature, with it’s easy going-ness and humor though. I really like Nit the Nit Picking too.
Thanks. I’m going to try my damnedest to be faithful with ‘Absolute Legends’, but it could go either way. For example, I’ve got Athena as a handicraft-enthusiast drill sergeant dropping sly incest jokes, and I don’t know if that’s going to come off as a clever reference to her actual character and genealogy, or horribly offensive (hi, Lobo!).
Thanks. Better now, thankfully. I just noticed the hydra fragment at the end. Disregard.
Delighted that you got picked to write legends. It will be awesome, I have no doubt.
😀 😀 😀
That “Playstation” pic was pretty lolarious. *thumbs up*
I more have good memories associated with this movie than I enjoy/remember the movie proper. We did “I Won’t Say I’m in Love” for a Disney cabaret I directed and choreographed a few years ago, and it was probably the best/favorite number of the show, esp. since we had a “statue of Hercules” (one of the guys) who kept changing poses throughout the number XD
I can’t wait for the Mulan review. I literally just rewatched it last week and I just love it so much. Also looking forward to the opportunity – since I know it will present itself – to trash the awful, awful sequel.
Have a good holiday!
That sequel! My sister and I picked it up a few years ago, being sadly naive about the quality of such sequels. Never have I felt so betrayed by a film.
While Fox and the Hound 2 has to be the worst MIDQUEL, if you can even call it that, Mulan 2 is definitely the worst Disney sequel of them out there.
Haven’t actually seen it (my religion forbids it). Why exactly is it so bad?
Well, for me it was bad because I had never actually seen a direct-to-DVD sequel before, and when I saw the cover, I was all, “Mulan got a sequel? That’s awesome! Yay for more adventures!”
It didn’t deliver on its promises, though. And it was pretty predictable. And they blandified the characters.
This was the review I left of Mulan II on Amazon. I think it covers everything:
I have a relatively high tolerance for Bad Disney Sequels. There are only a handful that I actively dislike. Mulan II is one that I actually feel insulted by.
Firstly. One of the things I respect about the original Mulan is that while Disney didn’t quite get Chinese culture exactly right–afaik anyway–they didn’t go out of their way to condemn it. So while they rightfully show the chauvinism of the male characters as being a bad thing, Mulan actually feels like a character who grew up in the culture. In the beginning of the film, she isn’t despairing over an arranged match; she’s hoping she’ll actually be good at it, and is upset when it looks like she won’t be. This is something that Americans have a hard time wrapping our heads around: that some people actually are okay with having their marriages arranged. (A friend of mine from India fully expects that her parents will find her husband for her, and she is *absolutely okay with this*). Mulan’s sudden change of heart over arranged marriages–not just sympathy with the princesses, but her vehement rejection of the institution–doesn’t feel real. At all. It smacks of Western moralizing. And it’s fine if you personally don’t believe in arranged marriages. I don’t, either. But we didn’t need to agree that arranged marriages are okay in order to sympathize with Mulan when she embarrasses herself in the pursuit of one. Don’t take the opinions of 21st century Americans and force them rather uncomfortably into the mouth of a Chinese woman of indeterminate historical era. I can see Mulan sympathizing with the girls for being upset over getting an unsuitable husband, but I rather doubt that she’d condemn the practice of arranged marriage as a whole.
Secondly, there is the ol’ Disney standby of “I’m a princess, but all I want to be is normal!” that just completely falls on its face here. The whole “Like Other Girls” sequence is just…blech. Did Disney just forget that part of the first movie where they show Chinese peasant women working in what I believe are rice paddies? Or the “middle class” holding down jobs? The atmosphere of the first movie is very mature. People work. People have families that they argue with. People struggle to do tasks correctly and to win admiration. Princesses singing about “No pinchy shoes!” was just…insultingly childish. The people in the first movie had a LOT more on their minds than uncomfortable footwear, so why would we care about this sort of mild inconvenience this time around? The song is also stupidly inaccurate, since those “other girls” they so long to be like were constrained by sexist social conventions. I really rather doubt that most Chinese girls got to climb trees and eat whole cakes (yes, cake, because that’s totally a Chinese thing) and have no worries. NO WORRIES? Yeesh.
Thirdly, the contrived plot. Oh look, there are three princesses, corresponding to the number of Mulan’s single guy friends! How spectacularly convenient. And of course since there’s the other plot of Mushu trying to break up Mulan and Shang that they have to devote time to, which I’ll go off on in a moment, there is literally no time to develop these romances into anything approaching believable. Mei and Yao get the most time and they actually do manage to pull off a cute courtship, but Ling/Ting-Ting and Chien Po/Su are tossed together just so everyone gets paired off. Heaven forfend one of the guys just not be interested in one of the princesses, or vice-versa. Since we all know attraction is based on how good and deserving a person is, and not on things like compatibility. *snort* For the record: Chien Po likes Su because they both like food, and Ling likes Ting-Ting because…she eventually reveals herself to be into sight gags? I don’t know. I forget what contrived thing brought Mei and Yao together…I actually think they were just attracted to each other, which works a lot better than “You like food? I like food! CLEARLY WE ARE MEANT TO BE.”
The plot of Mushu trying to split Mulan and Shang up so he retains his job is just painful. Disney, y’all remember that Mushu owned up to Mulan that he had been putting her in danger for his own glory in the first movie, right? That he recognized that it was wrong and he was kinda a big jerk for doing it? What makes you think that we want to see him do the same thing, and in far less exciting circumstances, a second time around, when he should know better?
And this movie is just. not. exciting. Mulan and Shang have to transport three princesses to another country for arranged marriages, while trying to keep their relationship from falling apart due to misunderstandings. Big whoop! In the first movie THEY FOUGHT OFF AN INVADING ARMY WITH MINIMAL RESOURCES, ALL WHILE MULAN WAS HIDING HER IDENTITY. There’s the threat that Qui Gong will invade China if the marriages don’t occur, but…why are we scared of that? Where is the Qui Gong-ian(?) army scaling the Great Wall, burning down villages, massacring China’s finest troops, surviving an avalanche, and taking over the palace? When actual people from Qui Gong show up, they’re the fusspot king and his nerdy son who plays with a Chinese finger trap toy, who don’t go far in convincing me that Qui Gong could conquer anything bigger than an open field with no animals living in it. The closest thing this movie gets to thrilling is when bandits attack the caravan and make off with Mei, and in the ensuing chase scene Shang falls off a bridge, presumably to his death. Shang’s “death” and Mulan’s reaction to it is the one time there is actual emotional depth to the movie, as well, and it’s not enough to save the movie.
The infuriating part is that the movie knew it had opportunities to be more interesting and they didn’t use them. There is a special feature in which they outline the original idea for the movie’s opening, where Shang proposes to Mulan while they are escaping from a hail of arrows because they’re on a secret mission for the emperor. The opening that was made? Mulan sings a cutesy song to the little girls of her village about being balanced individuals, and Shang proposes–I kid you not–down on one knee afterwards. WHAT?! If you’re going to arrange their match in a completely unorthodox for the time period way, why did you go with this preschool lead-in that leads to a conventional *Western* style of proposal?
Fourthly, one of the princesses in named Ting-Ting. TING-TING. When Mulan called herself the most stereotyped Chinese-sounding male name in existence in the first movie, it was because she and Mushu COULDN’T THINK OF ANYTHING ELSE RIGHT ON THE SPOT. “Ting-Ting” is supposed to be a name someone’s parents actively thought about and chose for her. The first sign you’re doing something wrong is when your character’s name sounds like a racist joke.
Following that mildly racist feel is the idea of the–again, I kid you not–Great Golden Dragon of Unity, who blesses or opposes marriages. Wow. Way to take all of America’s half-baked and wrong-headed conceptions of Chinese mythology and cryptozoology and distill them down into something a grade-schooler would come up with. I repeat: Great Golden Dragon of Unity.
The light treatment Taoist philosophy gets in the movie is also bothersome. It’s also completely unnecessary. The movie pays lip service to the idea of opposing forces–in this case, following one’s heart (Mulan’s shtick) and obeying one’s duty (Shang’s)–eventually coming into harmony, but it doesn’t work. Shang is presented as being entirely in the wrong and Mulan as entirely in the right. It really felt like the people behind the movie tried to think of the most Chinese thing they knew about, came up with “yin-yang”, and tried to shove it into the movie without giving ANY thought to the historical, philosophical, religious, or magical traditions behind Taoism other than the idea that “everything should be in balance, except when our Western ideas about how society should be run are part of the equation, in which case China is stupid and we’re entirely correct.”
Fifthly, why was this movie even made, aside from the obvious answer of “to make money”? What does it add to the Mulan story? In the first movie Mulan got what she wanted. She proved to herself her worth as a human being, and kept her father and country from harm. She even got the bonus of hot guy liking her on top of her journey into self-esteem. What hole in Mulan was there to use as sequel fodder? In the third Aladdin, the movie could use Aladdin’s status as an orphan and the insecurity that would give him to lead into the story of finding his father. Mulan, at the end of the first movie, had no such weaknesses to exploit. She had her family, her honor, and her self-worth. Her story arc was complete. Mushu likewise didn’t have a story left in him. Why try to force one on them? What’s the point of this movie, besides prattling on about how enlightened the concept of marrying for love is, and cashing in on Mulan’s popularity?
To sum: Mulan II is awful. The characters don’t experience any growth (Mushu, in fact, backslides in the character development department) and there is no strong antagonist to pit them against. The romantic relationships are almost completely lifeless, the songs are uninspired, and the artwork isn’t even that impressive. The humor is forced, the emotional impact is extremely limited, and there is very little exciting or engaging about the plot. The franchise went from honestly exploring Chinese culture to openly condemning it. It’s a painful, offensive, and pointless waste of time. The whole movie felt like Barney and a romcom had a baby and then that baby dressed up as Mulan for Halloween. If you want to entertain the kids, let them watch the first movie. The only good reason for watching this movie is to make fun of it.
“There is a special feature in which they outline the original idea for the movie’s opening, where Shang proposes to Mulan while they are escaping from a hail of arrows because they’re on a secret mission for the emperor. The opening that was made? Mulan sings a cutesy song to the little girls of her village about being balanced individuals, and Shang proposes–I kid you not–down on one knee afterwards. WHAT?! If you’re going to arrange their match in a completely unorthodox for the time period way, why did you go with this preschool lead-in that leads to a conventional *Western* style of proposal?”
Not to mention that in the Chinese culture of that time period, wouldn’t it have been required for Shang to ASK Fa Zhou, Mulan’s FATHER, for her hand in marriage?
It’s one of my favorites too. If all goes to plan, I’ll be doing something a little special for the Mulan review.
Consider yourself lucky that you haven’t seen Mulan 2.
It slaps the first movie in the face by taking its moral at the end completely out of context. The first movie is not about telling us that gender roles are wrong and that reversing them is right. It’s all about Mulan finding herself and deciding these things for herself. The sequel goes the complete cliche route and tells its audience to do whatever the heck they want, when they want, while at the same time, insulting our intelligence about Chinese history. And that’s being nice to it.
Not to mention these delightful cliches:
– Mulan’s hilarious misfit friends are along for the ride, for no reason
– Mulan’s misfit friends just so happen to find three girls exactly like them
– Shang is dead from, you guessed it, falling off a waterfall
– Tricked you, he isn’t really dead.
Really? I look forward to this…it’s such a great movie
The first one’s great. We were talking about the direct-to-DVD sequel.
Yeah, what the others said. Mulan 2 contradicts so much about what the original is about. Everything about it is weak, but it is not the worst of the Disney sequels.
Am I the only one who hummed the old start-up noise when I saw the PS1 logo?
I re-enacted the robot voice from the commercials — Does that count?
You were not.
@Gram Pol I did the same thing.
Happy anniversary and another great review. I agree with everything you said, and it is sad that you’ll be on a break but it is good for you. It is getting hard to run my DreamWorks Reviews (which everyone should check out and comment on) and I only did 3. Good luck and see you in September.
This film is one of the weaker Renaissance films, as it has MANY plot holes and the characters could have been more developed, though they are very enjoyable. The songs are pretty fun and that is exactly what this movie is; fun. It is not better than Aladdin in any area, but it is close. The animation is really nice to look at and is a different style for Disney. It would have been nice if they developed the plot and characters more and stayed away from the Superman formula.
Again, good luck and happy anniversary. You all can check my DreamWorks Reviews (Did Antz, Prince of Egypt, and Road to El Dorado already. Sorry, self promotion can’t hurt.
Self promotion is our bread and butter round here. I don’t really get much time to read other blogs but I did enjoy your Prince of Egypt review. Got to look at that movie again.
Oh, you read it? Thanks. I am in the middle of high school and need something to do, so ala, blog. You and others have inspired me.
No Jayden-san. Inspiration in you, whole time.
Please let us know what you think of it when you see it. It’s one of my all time favorites
This movie is an affront to Greek culture. Being Greek and being a passionate fan of Greek mythology, I cannot forgive it for its utter mistreatment of the beliefs of my ancient ancestors. Oh yeah, and this one is also a big reason why when I tell people that I’m Greek Orthodox (for those of you who don’t know, the Orthodox Church split from the Catholic Church in 1054 and was rooted in the Byzantine Empire, think Catholic and you’re close enough to understand) they occasionally respond with quips like “How many bulls did you sacrifice to Zeus last year?” Goddam morons.
Anyway, I used to hate this movie a lot more until I rewatched it last year and found I kind of liked it. Probably more accurate to say I liked aspects of it. I love Meg (Susan Egan is just an amazing talent) and I Won’t Say I’m in Love is by far my favorite song of the movie. I mostly like the other songs (and amazingly even though Go the Distance is not that great, it has easily the most tolerable adult contemporary cover of any of the 90’s Disney songs, excluding Can You Feel the Love Tonight and You’ll Be In My Heart since those were done by the artists who wrote the songs). Hades is fine (James Woods kind of bugs me and it drives me nuts that they couldn’t ONCE make the FREAKING GOD OF DEATH at all scary). I do appreciate the general look of the film (though the designs of some of the Gods really bugs me, particularly Poseidon who you only briefly glimpse on Olympus and just looks like an utter dolt).
On the flip side, I can’t stand Pain and Panic, Phil is annoying (I normally like Danny DeVito but not here), Hercules hiimself is a subpar lead in my opinion, and, oh yeah, THE MYTHOLOGY OF THIS MOVIE IS ABSOLUTELY BONKERS. Really can’t get past that in the end. It’s not the worst Disney movie I’ve seen (that honor goes to Black Cauldron, the only one that I legitimately hated watching) but it’s definitely towards the bottom.
Congrats on one full year Mouse, here’s hoping the next year is as great as the first! Enjoy your time off!
Thanks dude. I intend to.
I understand why Greeeks and fans of mythology get very upset and offended with it. I heard Greece bashed it when Disney wanted it’s premiere there. Americanization I guess. While this film has some issues, it is definitely not the worst nor best. The worst is Chicken Little.
Haven’t seen it or Home on the Range yet. Let’s see how it plays out.
Yeah, remember how I said Pocahontas would look like The Lion King compared to those two……. that bad. Good luck when you get there.
Honestly…I’m not sure if I would agree there….Chicken Little is sadly full of stupid puns, modern jokes and pop culture references, but so is Hercules. If you ignore all the stuff they piled in Chicken Little, you actually get a fairly heart-warming story, which sadly got ruined by trying too hard to be like DreamWorks of all things. If you ignore all the pop culture references and inaccuracies in Hercules, you get a bland story, with a bland hero which is full of plot holes. Not saying that Chicken Little is a good movie, but I think it actually could have been a good one, while I see nothing salvageable in Hercules.
And Home of the Range…that’s at least a really good movie for pre-schoolers, if nothing else. I think the movies are mostly hated so much more than similar not so good Disney Movies because Home of the Range would have been a disgraceful ending for traditional animation and Chicken little made us fear for the future of the Disney studios.
Yeah, both are not very good, but Chicken Little has some plot elements that are never mentioned again, ala the baseball game plot, and is one of the most contrived movies in the canon. It also has bland and unlike-able characters, while Hercules has some likeability. Everything is confused in that film, but Hercules is kind of confused as well. Both could have been good movies if they developed the plot and characters better. I do agree with you about those being some of the reasons who HotR and Chicken Little are hated. It also helps about the F2000-PatF era was not a good one for Disney and those two are at the bottom of the barrell
Great review and happy first anniversary as well!
Can’t wait for your blog to resume in September!
Thanks. It’ll fly by, I’m sure.
Despite its flaws, I loved this movie growing up and still do today.
I half agree regarding Hera, and think it would have been interesting had she been the wicked stepmother of a MALE lead this time. Also, from what I’ve seen Hades really isn’t that evil in the mythology, and even in this movie, we’re never really given a reason to think that him taking over Olympus would have been a bad thing. However, how would Hera as a villain really have been handled in a Disney movie without them having to bring in the fact that Zeus was a womanizer?
Ever notice that Hades doesn’t have an aura? I wonder if he himself had been exposed to the potion too at some point…
What is that band you keep referencing? I’m sure I’ve never heard of them, or at least don’t recognize them.
Actually, the animated series isn’t canon becaue Hades didn’t KNOW Hercules was alive until Meg TOLD him, not just because they don’t meet until 3/4 of the movie was over. Though Nit raises some good questions. By the way, do you have more Taran Wanderer 2 jokes coming anytime soon?
I think Phil meant that Hercules was just dead in general, not that Achilles went the same way as him; do you remember how frustrated he was about his heel earlier when he and Hercules meet for the first time?
One of my favorite lines had to be when Hades said “Whoa, is my hair out?!” 😀
I guess Hercules becoming a god trumped all deals regarding death with Hades, though I’m more critical of how the Fates didn’t freaking KNOW that Hercules’s thread was NOT going to CUT IN HALF!
No kookaburras joke for Hades?
I’m a little surprised that Hercules didn’t get a sequel, but if there had been, I would have liked for them to explore Hades’s character further with the story of him and Persephone. Then again, since when did any of the recent sequels explore anything meaningful? Bambi 2 doesn’t count because it’s not a sequel; it was misnamed as one.
I won’t lie, the wait is going to be tough, since Mulan is in my top 5 list of Disney favorites, but you deserve a vacation like everyone else. I thoroughly enjoyed this as always, and look forward to when you start this back up next month.
Oh and I forgot to ask: why did you take down your blog asking to be nominated?
Well the closing date came and went and I didn’t want people wasting their time. I’d take down the button on the side but I’m in a mobile home in Wexford with no internet.
The band is the Spice Girls.
If you were being sarcastic, I’m an idiot and I apologise.
OK, NOW I know who they are. I have a Spotify account now and I have a playlist for mainstream music, and I added some of their songs. After hearing them, holy cow! They are awesome. And it turns out I actually had heard their music before, I just didn’t know it was them. It’s that way with a lot of musicians for me.
I’m stopping the Taran jokes. There comes a point when justified retaliation becomes bullying and I thought it better to quit before I crossed that line. I kinda had to bash this review out in a hurry and I missed the Kookaburras joke. I’ll have to go back later and stick one in.
Understandable. Would have also been forcing it a little, since he didn’t take the bait to respond to anything.
Yeah, I understand where you are coming from when it comes to that, though apparently he is a bully on ImdB. The last thing you need is some random on the Internet accusing you of harassment.
re: Taran. That’s commendably adult of you.
re: kookaburra. It is a wise blogger who does not overuse a meme! 😉
So… I was actually looking up some old stuff online and miraculously came across this charming little treasure.
Please DO NOT stop the “Taran Wanderer 2” jokes on my account.
I find it absolutely rich that someone would dedicate so much time to trying to get to me — I would never accuse you of bullying or harrassment, mostly because I’ve never even bothered to read so much as a sentence you’ve dedicated to me… since I couldn’t care less… and if your “critical journalism” should depend on your ‘sophisticated’ followers amusing themselves with overly-theatrical and rather juvenile bashings of a random and casual detractor on the former IMDb message boards (um, remind me just who you are again..?), then by all means, go on.
It’s never troubled me in the least — I think a “friend” on IMDb once mentioned your lengthy (and hardly insughtful) ‘dedication’ articles to me and I forgot about them within seconds… that was the impact all your ‘hard work’ had on me.
Your friend here said it well: it’s not like I took the bait. I was hardly aware, interested, concerned or bothered. Just glad you got it all out of your system (whatever ‘it’ was — again: don’t care). Cheers!
Taran, I apologise. I was just starting out, I was overly sensitive and I completely overreacted. You helped me develop a thicker skin and I thank you. Wishing you all the best, Mouse.
I accept your apology, and in return I too apologize for whatever I might have said to trigger such a response from you back then. I realize I had a tendency to be quite forceful defending my point of view at IMDb, and would often write with the sole intention of making some users’ nerves boil, but I honestly never understood why my opinions seemed to actually matter to so many during those days. It baffled me.
All the best to you as well,
Wait are you serious?! That’s the Spice Girls! They were our generations Beatles! Wow. Aaron Sorkin is right about us.
Ok, I did know OF them, I just never really listened to their music. I remember seeing that my mom had a cassette with their photo posted on it, and that’s pretty much it. That was a long time ago, so I just didn’t recognize them
I might have truly have hated Hercules if the whole thing sounded like 90’s pop music. I know what your saying is a joke, but it reminded me of Walt Disney’s hesitance to make the vulture’s song in Jungle Book a Beatles homage, for worry it would date the film.
Did you see the link to the Silly Symphony short in the Snow White review? It was a Disney cartoon about Persephone. I found her and Hades’ portrayal in it in relation to this movie pretty interesting, if you missed it, I posted a link in my comment which may hopefully still be active and not removed by the Man.
Man, fuck the man, man.
I prefer to leave him to slowly wither away and die as a miserable virgin who has never known any form of love, affection or even the remotest hint of sated lust, myself.
While I’m totally with the Greeks about the inaccuracies of this movie, what really gets me about this are the plot holes. You might have noticed by now that plot holes are kind of a deal breaker for me. And the ones in Hercules are so big, you could drive a truck through. For starters: How is it that Hades didn’t notice that Hercules was still alive? He is the god of the Underworld, he should know exactly who passes through and who not. Why doesn’t Zeus (or Hera) visit Hercules earlier? He is a good, there is no reason to wait for him going to his temple. And what is the point of sending him to Phil, when all his heroics don’t matter? Why can Hades defeat the other gods easily, but when Hercules frees them, they are suddenly able to fight back? And those are just the big ones.
Next point is that Disney was so careful purging the story of everything “bad” for children but overlooked the obvious problem: That it might not be a good idea to tell them that people who die end up in the clutches of a Disney Villain who throws them in some sort of eternal whirlpool. Honestly, I enjoy Hades much more in the House of Mouse than in this movie.
Concerning Meg – I know what you mean, but she is actually the only character in the movie which even interests me, because she has this really heart-breaking backstory. I totally want this movie to be about her. (In any case they should have waited with the shocking reveal that she works for Hades much longer).
And yes, I pretty much HATE this movie…not as much as I hate Oliver and Company or The Black Cauldron, but it’s very much on the bottom of my list, and I honestly thing that the only reason it gets a pass by so many people is because it happens to be a Renaissance movie. I take the Aristocats over this one any day!
Them’s fightin’ words, missy!
Yup. There’s a reason I had to create a new recurring character for this review.
I hope we see him again when you reach The Princess and the Frog (what? I said that plot holes are a deal breaker for me).
Yeah, this movie probably has the biggest plot holes in the canon. Hades not knowing Hercules died is so pathetic. It is weird how everything Hercules learned did not matter and he did not stick up to his deal with Hades. I don’t see how it is much better than Pocahontas. This and Poca is the weakest Renaissance films and yes, over Rescuers Down Under. This only has higher critical reception than Hunchback because it is “funny”, “Funny” does not make something “Good”. Plot holes have a big part in my opinion of a movie. Some movies don’t anger me about it as much as others.
Yeah…thinking about it now…I don’t see Hercules not dying as a plot hole. He became a god through his sacrifice and willing to die for the one he loved, and well…gods technically cannot die. So Hercules couldn’t have taken Meg’s place in the underworld if he wanted to, even though he was going to.
It would be awesome if Cinema Sins made a video for Hercules.
I thought Hades needed the Titans to take on Olympus. If I remember correctly, the Olympians could only handle him once the Titans were out of the way. Though why Zeus couldn’t make short work of them like the first time’s a bit of a wonder. Bad back maybe? Or maybe the Titans weren’t working together before? I’m bettin’ on the first guess.
Noooo! I have to wait until September to read the Mulan one? I finally find a piece of genius…. Ah well. I can’t tell you how hilarious I find all of this, as well as educational. (Am I correct that you didn’t do a Brave Little Toaster review? I need that in my life… TAR AND SUGAR, BABY!) Enjoy your vacation, and don’t stop writing once you return, or I will be that sad, disappointed face that haunts you in your subconscious, along with the old-timey Disney terror.
Would you believe I’ve never seen Brave Little Toaster? Thanks man, I’ll be back in September, don’t worry.
No worries, mouse, I’ve never seen it either.
Wow, I’m surprised you didn’t “hatchet” this one lol, as is the case with most reviewers looking in retrospect at this movie.
You summed it up in the first few paragraphs: the movie is fine enough, but it’s not the most memorable or interesting.
“Hercules”, congratulations: you are in the middle! 🙂 (Well, mostly–like I said, some reviewers do enjoy gutting this one from time to time for its strange combination of design, music and characters…)
Congratulations, Mouse, on completing an entire year of Disney blogging! Here’s to making year two even better! (I’m trying to be adult and not whine about no updates until September because it’s cool, I understand real life gets in the way sometimes. *wibble* )
I’ve warmed to up to parts of this movie, but I don’t think I’ll ever like the movie itself, if that makes any sense. And never mind the plot holes; THESE are my gripes:
1) I’m not into gospel music. Nothing wrong with the style; it’s just not my thing. And having that many gospel-style songs in one movie does not endear me to it.
2) This movie is formulaic, in that they stole the formulas from Superman/Moses and Rocky and smushed them together. Not only bemusing results but highly predictable to boot.
3) Annoying characters like Zeus (makes me root for Hades every time Zeus opens his mouth), Pain and Panic. Gah. (Although, I have to say I take a wicked pleasure in hearing Matt Frewer get tormented, given how horrendous his performance as Sherlock Holmes about 10 years ago was. Sherlockians never forget and never forgive!)
4) I was a fan of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys at the time. Shut up, I was a teenager and the men wore leather pants. Anyway. I was crushing hardcore on the character of Iolaus and . . . there is not one mention of Iolaus to be found!!! Shameful.
On the other hand . . . For a cliché, Meg’s pretty cool. Hades is a funny villain; kinda refreshing to have a fast-talking, shmoozy baddie instead of a drawling, sophisticated one. And holy crap, a main character dies and it’s no fake-out! OK, yeah, she comes back to life but she was freakin’ DEAD for a good few minutes there! And Hermes — yes, he’s a schmoozer too but there’s something about him that I just like.
Mulan is one of my all-time favorite movies in the DAC so… I guess I can wait til’ September.
As for Hercules? For me, it’s one of those movies that I kinda enjoy while I’m watching, and then pretty much forget about it. I know alot of people really hate it, but I think it’s alright. Hades is definitely the thing I enjoy the most about the film. He’s just so charismatic and likable! (Which is probably something you shouldn’t do to your villain, but oh well)
Hope you are still checking in on comments; I’m a bit late to the game. Anyway, since you brought in Nit the Nitpicking Nit, I will say that it’s kind of obvious that this was hurried–not the content, but it probably has more typos than any other review you’ve done. Just a gentle suggestion that you might want to proof it a bit when you get the chance.
I wanted to respond to some of the comments:
1. Regarding the DTV sequels, there are a couple that are somewhat worthy. Little Mermaid 2 is actually pretty sweet and Tara Charendorf was fun as Ariel’s daughter–but it’s hard to get past Ursula having a random sister nobody knew about. Lion King 2 is generally thought to be pretty good. And Rafiki gets to sing. But yeah, most of them are dreck.
2. Regarding Home on the Range–I think that one reason it’s disliked is that it was the first Menken score since Hercules and should have been much better. It was in development hell for a long time. I remember being excited when I found out that another Menken-scored movie was going to FINALLY come out and then–we got that. Fortunately, “Enchanted” (which also spent forever in development hell) is a thing. Mouse, since you did set a precedent of doing some live/animated mix, i.e., non-canon classics, I might suggest that going back and doing “Pete’s Dragon” wouldn’t be such a terrible idea (somebody suggested it in the Rescuers review). The dragon was animated by Don Bluth, after all, and the character may well have been his best work for Disney. Candle on the Water is a classic song too.
Having said that, Enchanted is also worthy since it was a movie that actually WAS worthy of a Menken score.
3. The F2000-PatF era DID have a couple of masterpieces. Lilo and Stitch certainly. Emperor’s New Groove too.
Emperor’s New Groove, ROCKS! It’s a gem. People need to give it a chance. It’s so g-d cool and fun, effortlessly 🙂
I never understood the love for Lilo and Stitch, sorry. I always felt it was overrated.
L&S has a lot of things going for it, most notably the self-aware subversion of the Happy Meal bait character. And they KNEW that he’d be Happy Meal bait anyway! It was brilliant. And there’s quite a bit of depth in the custody story. Absent mothers are one thing. Completely absent parents–of a six-year-old–not typical Disney style. The Hawaiian vibe is cool and laid-back. The whole thing created an illusion that Disney animation was going to be OK anyway.
Then Brother Bear and HotR happened…
Hi five for Emperor’s New Groove love!
“Why do we even have that lever?
Guilty as charged. Real rush job.
I think the disappointing Menken score is a small part of why most hate it. Also because it was supposed to be the final hand-drawn film, and it has a paper thin plot, characters, and the humor is awful.
Out of the 2000’s era, I’ll say the good ones out of the bunch are Lilo and Stitch, Bolt (though forgettable), Princess and the Frog, and Emperor’s New Groove (though it lacks substance). Treasure Planet is debatable. I don’t know if this or the Dark era is my least favourite era.
I might include Meet the Robinsons also. The characters were interesting and the resolution was clever. And does Tangled fall in that era or does it start a new one?
I haven’t watched Meet the Robinsons in 2 years, but I did thin it was mediocre/okay. The ending was interesting though.
I thought Tangled-Wreck-It Ralph was a part of the Post-Renaissance as well, but from the way critics, general audience, and Disney themselves talk about it, Tangled started a new age, since it and WiR made A LOT more money and critical reception.
Oh, and I also have a soft spot for LM2 because the animation is actually fairly decent and because most of the original voice talent (except for Eric and Flounder) returned–even Buddy Hackett. Pat Carroll even returned to do the voice of Ursula’s random sister. It was one of the first DTV movies and easily the best. You could tell they were actually trying to do something decent. That one is actually worth checking out.
For LM2 I just can’t get over the broken logic of “Melody can’t enter the sea for her own safety -> NEVER TELL MELODY ANYTHING EVER ABOUT ATLANTICA EVER (but don’t, like, move to another castle that’s NOT ADJACENT TO THE WATER or anything).”
Want a seat on the Return to the Sea fans bandwagon? Also, am I the only one who kind of liked Morgana?
It’s pretty well implied Ariel found it hard enough to handle putting a wall between herself and her former home (considering that scene in which she solemnly dips her toes in the small fringe of the tide that isn’t blocked off) so moving inland might have been tough for her. Not explaining anything to Melody was kind of silly though. I’d think even “stay out of the water or the killer semi-cephalopod will get you” would suffice, if Ogopogo and related legends say anything.
I find this one to be filler material. I only watch it for Hades and Meg, although Meg is a bit too sexy at times. Hades is hysterical but he’s not really a villain for me. The crappy portrayal of Greek mythology also annoys me because I actually love mythology so that looses a point for me. Hercules is boring in general
Like most of the commentators here on this blog, I too am a fan of Greek mythology and the inaccurate portrayal of the myth of Hercules in this movie doesn’t quite ruin the movie for me. However, the plot holes in the film don’t help either. Overall, Hercules is probably the second weakest film in the Renaissance behind Pocahontas despite being enjoyable and entertaining. It ranks among the middle tier of the animated canon. Hercules himself is rather bland compared to the previous Disney male leads like Aladdin and Quasimodo. Meg, Philoctetes, and Hades are my favorite characters in the film. The music is kind of meh except for Go The Distance and I Won’t Say I’m in Love. The movie’s animation style is actually really unique and different (another reason that makes this movie stand out from the others in the canon). It could have been a better film if it didn’t have any big plot holes that, for the most part, remain unexplaned.
BTW, how come Megara isn’t an official Disney Princess? I know there are several reasons why but come on. She falls in love with what can almost be called the Prince of Gods (kinda), Hercules. If Zeus is the king of gods, then Hercules is the prince of gods and therefore Megara should be a princess, despite being a complete mortal unlike Hercules. However, similar to Princess Eilonwy from The Black Cauldron, she isn’t the main protagonist in the movie and isn’t, as you already mentioned, drawn like your average Disney heroine. Another reason as to why she’s not in the DP lineup could be the somewhat disappointing box-office gross of the film, making her an unpopular character compared to the other heroines. Disney doesn’t quite consider Megara to be a very marketable heroine, either.
Maybe a goddess can’t be a princess?
I agreed with what you said though Hercules made more than The Little Mermaid and Mulan is not a DP. She is also too adult (character wise) compared to the other DP’s. It is kind of BS when some of the other princesses have the same qualifications or unqualifications as she does. My Shrek review is up if anyone’s interested.
Hercules came close to a decade after TLM. Ticket inflation rates would have helped Hercules earn more even if attendance were lower than that for TLM. Also, Ariel was just the fourth DP and TLM ushered in the Renaissance Era. Whereas Hercules was considered one of the weaker movies of the period and Meg wasn’t the lead unlike Ariel/Belle or as instantly popular as Jasmine, the first DP of color.
If I remember correctly, Meg wasn’t even featured on the animated series.
She was featured twice. Once as a teenager, which was stupidly retconned in ep so Herc and Meg would forget their first meeting, and once as his wife discovering his yearbook for a flashback ep, complete with an okay song at the end. I’m pretty sure they’re on YouTube if you’re curious.
If the series could bring back Hades with no worries of violating canon, then I wish Meg could have been a more recurring character as well. Was Susan Egan too busy to commit to the show or something?
This is why I love you, Mouse; you never fail to surprise me. I really dislike this movie, REALLY dislike it, but it does say something that I like it better than certain movies to come *glares at the 2000s era* Meg is awesome, Hades is awesome, (though damn do I miss a traditional villain), and everything else I REALLY dislike. This is the only time I actually like the “sequel” (well the TV series) a lot more.
Enjoy your break, you deserve it.
Aw, I love you too. (don’t tell my wife)
I’m sad to see so many negative feelings about this movie, which I actually like very much. I even prefer it over “The Lion King”! I too am a mythology fan, but that’s also how I know that Greek mythology contains plenty of stuff, which Disney just had to change or even even leave out completely. Did you really expect them to show Zeus being a sex maniac, or Hercules killing his own children? It’s not like Disney hasn’t changed stories before, so why does “Hercules” get all this hate? And as much as the gospel music gets hated, I like many of the songs too.
And as for the “plot holes”
1: How did Hades not know that Hercules wasn’t dead?
My answer: Good question. The TV series shows us that Hades shows us eexactly who are dead or not. But he also knew that Hercules was alive in the TV series.
2: Did nothing that Phil teach Hercules matter?
My answer: Of course it did. While it was sacrificing himself for Megara, that made Hercules a “true hero”, he did a lot of good stuff before he became a god again. And he probably wouldn’t have accomplished that without Phil’s training. Phil was also a good mentor figure, that Hercules really needed at the time.
3: Why didn’t Hercules stick to his deal with Hades?
My answer: Oh, come on! Would you have? Hercules had gotten Megara’s soul back and become a god. There was no need for him to stay in the Underworld with Hades.
This is movie is a huge guilty pleasure movie for me. It has serious story and character flaws, but I do enjoy the songs (“Zero to Hero,” in particular), the supporting characters, and Hades.
Tumblr has a “Faces of Bahia” exhibition:
I hope that someday you review the other big animated film that was released in the same year as Hercules. Y’know, that animated musical with the reddish-haired, blue-eyed protagonist who goes on a quest to find out who their birth family is with a pendant as the sole clue to their whereabouts. That one where said protagonist learns that they may actually be a long-lost royal heir and are tutored on how to fit the part better by a rotund instructor, while also meeting a snarky love interest who’s secretly manipulating them to achieve immoral ends but renounces their evil ways after falling in love. That one with the undead villain who wants the protagonist dead and keeps on sending minions to kill them but is far better at comic relief than genuinely menacing villainy? That one that ends with the protagonist deciding to give up a luxurious life with their birth family to be with their love, and is frequently derided for taking a LOT of liberties with its darker source material?
…I jest, I jest. Watching Anastasia really was a bizarre experience, though; not only can you make a drinking game from the number of blatantly ripped-off Disney scenes in it, but I can almost swear that Disney did their own ripping-off here too with Facilier = black/brown-skinned Rasputin and Flynn Rider = CGI Dimitri!
Plans may be afoot…
Excellent review as always Mouse, I admit that when I first saw this movie years ago, I hated it. However, when I watched it again last week, I was surprised that I kinda liked it-good, but certainly not great. The 2 characters I really like are Hades and Meg but the rest of the characters are forgettable. I hated all the pop culture references, they weren’t even funny, at least Aladdin had some amusing bits. I know I’m hard on that one too for excessive pop culture references. I’m on the fence on the animation style, I know they were trying something new but I just wasn’t visually wowed. Sleeping Beauty tried a new animation style and I still consider it the most gorgeously animated film to this day. Hercules art just didn’t do it for me. As for the music, I actually enjoyed most of it, I liked “The Gospel Truth”, “Zero to Hero” and “I Won’t Say I’m in Love” is one of my favorite Disney songs. You didn’t mention what you thought of Phil’s song, “One Last Hope”? I thought it was awful, it could have been awesome like Mulan’s “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, but no such luck. Speaking of Mulan, I need to give it another watch, it’s been awhile. I remember liking it but not loving it, but your glowing review makes me want to watch it again:-)
You absolutely should .
Zzzing! Also, you’ve read the Dinosaur review, right? Bluth and Disney borderline plagiarizing each other are par for the course.
Geez, you make that one time I tried to comment on The Hangman’s Daughter on my sister’s computer that taught me I actually did have some sanity to lose look like a walk in the park. Way to show me up, Mr. Bigshot. Because writing a brilliantly hilarious review blog and writing fantastically eloquent literature didn’t already. *sighs* You’ve earned every glorious explosion that bout of fireworks brought. Also, let’s re-light them for getting all the way to Frozen! *lights pyrotechnics which climax with a poem-reciting dormouse with an umbrella*
Not the farm, Lawrence! Think about your American Gothic-esque Chinese ancestors, man! You can’t lose the farm! Also, I’m with you about the Genie, that guy probably has my favourite character arc in Aladdin’s story. Also, the shot at Greece’s economy. Classic. And I dunno, with your writing skills, I could totally see you using your degree and knowledge to make a pretty sweet folklore book.
Hey, I kind of like the Spice Girls. Maybe I’m just too young to have found them annoying in their heyday. Man, I wonder if any people who are babies now will be confused at pot shots at One Direction. Then again, the one direction pop music seems to be going is down the pipes, so I somehow wouldn’t be surprised. …Yeah, this’d be about the time everyone in the room shoots Judge Doom-style eye daggers at me. Sorry. Y’know what’s also nostalgic? The Kevin Sorbo Hercules reference. Man my mom loved that guy.
I’d give Zeus a break. It’s awfully hard to keep things in pants that one doesn’t have. Love your theory, you’re on a roll with movie-saving. Especially Hera’s final word in the review, that was gold. I guess Disney didn’t want to feature a literal bastard as one of their movies’ leads. Especially in one of the least edgy movies of the whole franchise. Actually though, did Zeus ever have to give Hercules the same talk sperm donors have to give their children about being wary that anyone they run into could potentially be a biological half-sibling?
Hello, Nit! The one blog character who’s managed to crawl backwards through continuity to bug me in your earlier reviews because he’s that annoying! Heh. No wonder no one likes him. I have to wonder why he didn’t mention Superman being a DC comic not a Marvel one and… I guess he didn’t because he decided to parisitize me instead. Lousy little thing.
Isn’t Phil technically a faun, not a satyr? I guess the distinction is kind of blended, but if Hercules can be in a Greek myth as Hercules, not Herakles, there can be a faun, right? In any case, Phil is pretty obviously less horny in this story, apparently Philoctetes was in love with Herakles in one of his myths. Also, he apparently was stranded on that island for whining so much about getting a snake bite. No wonder the guy was cranky.
I kind of like Meg’s love interest role though, she and Hercules are one of the few main couples in which the male character all out has more class. I think this is about the first time since I think Cinderella which didn’t make the love story between royalty or give the couple some aspect of the hard-working, rugged male underclass hero and polished, elegant beauty near-cliché . And this time the male half’s more than just a prop. Maybe Beauty and the Beast could count as well (though the Beast is still an outcast with no domain until the end of the story). And yeah, Esmerelda probably works better. Maybe Meg gets more points with me just because I’ve seen Hercules more than the Hunchback of Notre Dame, so Esmerelda’s more off my radar. Though wait a minute, Mouse, are you, a supposed self-respecting rodent, letting Meg get away with lumping your kind in with lagomorphs of all things? I’d think comparing you to the likes of Oswald would be fightin’ woids. Guess you’re the bigger mouse, eh? Also, fun fact, playing Panic in a Disney theme park is considered one of the most hellish experiences a park cast member can be in. Apparently getting squashed into that suit is more painful than dressing as the embodiment of pain itself.
I love your continents’ interactions. South America’s meek little semi-naive guy schtick never gets old. Funny you should mention anachronisms and pop culture references talking Hercules. Apparently, tie-in merchandise regarding celebrities (such as gladiators) goes back to at least Ancient Rome (maybe not Greece, but still, older than one would think) and would have been included in a more serious swords ‘n’ sandals movie (name escapes me), but was left out for being seemingly anachronistic. Stranger than fiction, eh? Speaking of action figures, I always remember kid me being very confused that Hercules stated he was an action figure to prove his grandeur while Woody called Buzz one to dispel his delusions of grandeur. Context sure can change statements to a stellar degree.
I Won’t Say I’m In Love is a pretty cool song, the only song from Hercules that made the honoured role of making my iTunes library. Though I’m kind of sore that it ruined my 19th year by subliminally influencing me to fall into a crush that went nowhere. That and The Longest Time. Memo to me, maim Dodge later.
You think DeVito put you in gangster mode? In any case, don’t apologize, that was funny! Loved his advice to Hercules after Meg died as well. Disney sure will never be able to live down that story resolution, will they? And cheese, of course! The bane of my father’s father’s existence! Of course it could destroy the mightiest man around! Curse your bacteria-enhanced deliciousness! *waves fist*
I wonder if demi-godly powers include being able to reach the bottom of a cliff effortlessly? Also, I’m just noticing that Meg’s deceased soul appears to be between those of a victim of a neck-snapping and a soldier who’s been mutilated a la Venus de Milo. Creepy, man.
It cracked me up how Disney’s first line in quite a very long time I think was basically confirming that might makes right. Ahh, classic. Also, yeah, Hercules kind of does really only get a happy ending because Hades was the bigger man/god/whatever and stuck to his deal. And yeah, Hercules couldn’t be dead in the river being immortal, but Hades getting out of the river was, to quote Panic, an “if”, so shouldn’t Hercules be able to be at least imprisoned there? Yeah, this probably shares Aladdin’s problem of having an ending as full of holes as… Swiss…… cheese. Oh my goodness, you were right about Hercules’s weakness!! You sly old mouse, you!
Fun fact: Max Von Sydow voices Zeus in the swedish dub of Hercules.
Maleficent? I … guess … if you say so. I look at Meg and see Jafar’s sister.
And “Aladdin, but too much” is a PERFECT description of this movie.
My son made a reference to the Hercules movie today so I had to check if you did a review! It’s been ages since I’ve seen this one and I’ve only watched it once. It wasn’t a film which grabbed me and begged to be watched multiple times (like Mulan or Aladdin). Hades was by far my favorite character. James Woods did a magnificent job voicing him. I do remember the catchy music in this one and when I read the song titles, I could hear the music in my head. I’m a bit curious about the rest of the scenes on that satyr urn, because that’s just the kind of gal I am. I’d also forgotten Danny DeVeto voiced Phil!
As a Greek, I find it kinda weird that everyone believes that we hate this movie. Yes, it received negative reviews when it was first shown here, but I think that we have slowly started to grow fond of this movie. I know plenty of Greeks who like this movie as well.