Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I blog about one of the many movies I own. I'm a bit of a Disney rip right now, as we come across their animated epic of 1997, Hercules. This is in my logs at September 12, 2015.
So, when I bought Mulan on Blu-Ray because it got dirt-cheap, I noticed that also dirt-cheap was Disney's animated rendition of Hercules. Since I need the extra $5 anyway to get free shipping on Amazon, I figured, "Why not?" Hercules really is a film that needs more love. As I said in my Mulan ramble, there's a tetrology of films that is generally agreed as being the peak of the Disney Renaissance: the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. And two of those films -- The Little Mermaid and Aladdin -- came to us from Jon Musker and Ron Clemments. Why this dynamic duo isn't celebrated more for being at the forefront of the Disney Renaissance is beyond me.
Anyway, fresh of their one-two punch of Little Mermaid and Aladdin, they went for the hat trick with Hercules. But again, going back to my Mulan ramble, at this stage in the game, the formula had been established. That's why Little Mermaid and Aladdin were so groundbreaking...they were writing the formula. But still, from what Wikipedia is telling me, Musker and Clemments loved the idea of doing Hercules, because unlike the princess tales they'd done previously, here was a chance to do a superhero movie.
Which is why, watching it again this afternoon, it struck me as how similar the plot is to the Christopher Reeve Superman films, particularly 1 and 2. We got Olympus being Krypton, Super-Herc is cast out, raised with all these amazing powers that he doesn't understand, leading him to go an a quest to find himself, where he finally finds Jor-Zeus and learns about his upbringing. It is so close to those films.
So I guess we can say that it's actually based on Superman instead of the original Greek myths. I remember back in college I had a lot of friends studying mythology, and words cannot described how pissed off they were at how far Hercules deviated from the original Greek myths. I mean, let's be honest. This film isn't based on the original Greek myths, as it is based on your fuzzy memories of what little you read about Hercules back in elementary school, and the stuff you made up to fill in the gaps. But no, my friends didn't want to see Hercules as the son of a loving Zeus and Hera...they wanted the original mythological origin of Zeus disguising himself as a swan and raping a mortal woman.
I don't know about you, but I've never watched a Disney animated film and thought, "You know what this film needs? Swan-rape."
Let's talk the voices. Of course, since Disney knew what they were doing at this time, the voice cast is top-notch. I mean, lots of praise was heaped on the film at the time for James Woods as Hades. And it is a fine job. No doubt, again, Disney was trying to recapture that lightening-in-a-bottle that was Robin Williams as the Genie, but Woods as Hades is a great take on the villain. Rather than gravely voiced and menacing, he's fast talking, a schmoozer, a sleazy salesman. It really works.
But the true scene stealer is Susan Egan as Megara. She's got just the right amount of sass and seduction that really made her different from the Disney heroines that came before. She just feels like a much more realized character. Egan first came into the Disney family when she was Belle in the original Broadway cast of Beauty and the Beast. And because of that, the producers didn't want her to audition for Megara. Let's be honest, Belle is kinda sweet and innocent, and Megara...well, Megara is damaged goods. She's seen some shit and it's hardened her heart. Apparently, Egan and the animators based Megara on the classic 1940s dames of screwball comedies, and it works.
The entire film just has a different flavour than the rest of the Disney Renaissance. Some of that comes from its visual design, which is a lot more stylized. A lot of that comes from the music, where they chose to go with an R&B/Soul sound for most of it. Musker and Clements even got to revise an idea they had for Aladdin. Originally, in Aladdin, the street peddler at the beginning that tries to sell you the lamp was going to narrate the film through reprisals of the songs Arabian Nights. Here, we get the Muses narrating the film through reprisals of the song The Gospel Truth. It really works.
Disney's take on Hercules is a fun film, if a tad cliched, especially in the superhero film department. But I liked it.