Critic Consensus: Fast-paced and packed with dozens of pop culture references, Hercules might not measure up with the true classics of the Disney pantheon, but it's still plenty of fun.
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The seventh in a line of animated hits begun in 1989 with The Little Mermaid, Disney Studio's Hercules adds a few zingy twists to what is rapidly becoming a formulaic approach. Much brighter in tone than its immediate predecessors The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pocahontas, possessing a satirical edge close to Aladdin, and a pop music score reminiscent of composer Alan Menkin's Broadway hit Little Shop of Horrors, the story continues the grand Disney tradition of liberally removing the darker elements from classic tales to create a frothy delight suitable for children and adults and sanitized for their protection. This time, the story is drawn from Greek mythology and follows the adventures of Hercules, the son of Olympian gods Zeus (Rip Torn) and Hera (Samantha Eggar) who is reduced to a mere mortal by the treachery of the jealous Hades. In order to return to Mount Olympus, Hercules must prove his courage and worthiness, something that is not easy as he is more klutzy than heroic in nature. Young Hercules (Josh Keaton) is cast out of Olympia after drinking a botched potion concocted by Pain (Bobcat Goldthwait) and Panic (Matt Frewer) the henchmen of Hades (James Woods, who portrays the Lord of the Underworld as a nasty, backbiting Hollywood producer). Though the drink failed to kill him, it did render Hercules mortal; he is therefore sent to Earth with no memory of his true calling. As a teen, Hercules is awkward and unpopular; wanting to know more about himself, the young hero (portrayed by Tate Donovan) visits a temple of Zeus and there learns the truth from his father, who also tells him what he must do to reclaim his immortality. Hercules will be trained in heroism by the pudgy, decadent satyr Phil (Danny DeVito), short for Philoctetes. Obstacles come in the form of mythical monsters and the slinky Megara (Susan Egan), an unwilling minion of Hades who must seduce and decieve Hercules to earn her freedom. Matters are complicated when she falls in love with her handsome quarry. As in other Disney animated features, the supporting characters are more interesting and fun than the hero. Innovations include the use of a gospel/soul quartet as the divine Muses rather than the traditional Greek chorus and some sharp satire aimed at the Disney empire's marketing strategies. The Muses begin the tale and periodically appear throughout the tale. Eschewing the subdued but rich colors favored by previous features, Hercules artwork is much brighter and based on the clean-lined drawings of British caricaturist George Scarfe who functioned as production designer. … More
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Critic Reviews for Hercules
Chock-full of celeb cameos, puns and contemporary camp, the movie is annoyingly hip.
Another benchmark achievement for the Aladdin team of Musker and Clements.
Audience Reviews for Hercules
It is irritating enough that they alter most of the original legend just for the sake of doing so, but the real problem here is that the jokes and pop references to modern times and American culture are far from smart and get tired fast, with the third act being a silly, unexciting mess.
"Hercules (1997)" is a very fun kids film that get's pretty dark and mysterious at times, and is also very bright and colourful family fun. Having all of these elements and being able to do them well is definitely an accomplishment, so just leave it to the team at Disney to do it. This film is ultimately about love and strength and both ideologies are represented very well here. Although the films premise dwindles from it's core every now and then, it still makes for a very entertaining and well-written Disney film. It is not among Disney's best, but it is one of the most fun. "Hercules (1997)" is a blast!
For some time the animated Disney films didn't really hit me with much inspiration, by that I mean none of their outings grabbed my attention, the ideas just didn't excite me. Then along came this adventure based around the magic of Greek mythology and I was hooked. An animated Disney version of Harryhausen's mythic visions? count me in. So off I went on the day of release back in 1997, Swiss Cottage Odeon, North London (for some reason I remember, probably because this Odeon was unusually HUGE!).
A simple tale of Hercules life from birth up to his teenage years. The loss of his immortality and God status at the hands of Hades, his young life as a mortal and how he manages to become a God again with the help of various friends in typical wide eyed Disney manner.
The two things that attracted me to this kiddie flick were 1. the Greek mythology as already said, and 2. the visuals on display. Disney seem to go through different styles over time and this films style is really nice in its stark angled way. It comes across like a Geddy Tartakovsky project, reminiscent of his 'Star Wars: Clone Wars' series but with less CGI and generally a bit softer in tone. The colour palette is really vibrant too, so rich and alive, its really beautiful to watch going from the warm pastel golds, yellows and beige of Mount Olympus and Thebes to dark shades of blues, purples and black of the underworld. Loved the underworld!, wanted more time down there.
Apart from the animation the characters are a big part of any film like this and would it be any surprise if I told you the bad guy was the best?. Yep its true, once again the villain shines through and in this case James Woods makes Hades a very likeable guy. Not only does he look really cool with a brilliant design and a virtually monochromatic colour scheme, he also has a really awesome flaming blue hairdo which is such a sweet touch. It is of course the deadpan sarcastic fiery verbal from Woods that he's famous for and he doesn't disappoint here...minus the profanity of course.
The only other character that stood out for me was Philoctetes perfectly voiced by De Vito, casting genius. In general the Gods all looked quite good visually but I was unsure about that heavenly glow they all had, I see what they were going for but it kinda looked tacky. The Titans were a tad cliche looking (dunno what I expected) and didn't blow me away, also a shame they used full CGI for the Hydra which looked awful. Not sure why Hercules was drawn the way he was because he looked a bit pug ugly to me, anyone notice how big his ears were?!. Also I didn't really like the little imp minions of Hades, typical stereotypical Disney sidekicks purely in there for silly laughs, oh wait its a kids flick isn't it...dang!.
Talking about the Hydra, not sure how that worked, Hercules was cutting off its heads one after another yet it kept on coming back for more. In the end some falling rocks killed it? even though it had its heads cut off multiple times?. On the same note, Hercules is suppose to have retained his super strength BUT he's mortal (watch the film), yet in the film he's still comes across as immortal even after that was drained from him.
All in all I did enjoy this Greek outing as I expected I would. Yeah sure its not perfect by any means, the animation is a wee bit dated now naturally but I can't complain about that really. The CGI moments were obvious and terrible...down to age again. I didn't like the soppy songs throughout, yeah I know its Disney but they really felt unnecessary and jammed in...plus they sucked!. I really think these lovey-dovey songs are no longer required for these type of films, its a very old fashioned concept which to be honest I'm glad is fading out...call me uncultured I guess. But I did quite like the little montage showing Hercules victories and his merchandise taking off, Air-Herc hehe nice touch.
|Phil:||Yeah, I had a dream. I dreamed I would train the greatest hero there ever was. So great the gods would hang a picture of him in the stars for everyone to see. And everyone would say, "That's Phil's boy." That's right. Ah, but dreams are for rookies, kid. A guy can only take so much disappointment.|
|Hades:||Well, Well! It's small underworld after all!|
|Meg:||Ugh, What's the matter with me? You'd think a girl would learn.|
|Hades:||I have 24 hours to get rid of this bozo while the entire plan I've been planning goes up in smoke and you are wearing his MERCHANDISE!|
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