The mouse hits a low point with movie #36 in the Disney Animated Marathon!
Screenplay By: Ron Clements, Don McHenry, Irene Mecchi, John Musker & Bob Shaw
Directed By: Ron Clements & John Musker
Usually even the most average of Disney animated features give me plenty to be happy about. It’s been a long time since I watched a Disney animated feature that gave me so little to say in the positive realm. The last Disney film that didn’t impress me much was I believe 1948’s Melody Time. I’m sad to report that the streak of quality Disney films ends with 1997’s Hercules, provided of course that my faulty memory isn’t forgetting another subpar film in the mix.
From the very onset I was less than enamored with what was on my screen and the feeling only deepened the farther along I traveled into Hercules’ depths. I don’t want to lambaste Hercules to no end, instead I will focus on a few specific items that didn’t work for me and led to a movie that I couldn’t stand.
First and foremost there is the visual aesthetic, and a Disney movie has never looked so drab and empty. Hercules looks like a great piece of art that has had the color removed or its amazing backdrops reduced to bare bones skeletal structures. Each new scene looks the same as the last, there’s no variety to be found, nor did the landscapes draw me in. Instead with each passing moment I waited and waited for my screen to come alive with something, anything to make me care about the aesthetic. That something or anything never came and until the very end I felt like I was watching a barren husk of an animated movie instead of animation from possibly the greatest animated studio the world has ever seen. This is made even worse by the dragon sequence, a sequence that I believe was digitally created (feel free to tell me if I’m wrong), because the creature never fits in with the world around him and is noticeably fake. Whether you want to talk about character rendering, locations or creature creations, Hercules fails in every way that a film can fail visually.
A movie that is lacking visually can be picked up by a decent and engrossing story, but in that department Hercules once again falls short. There isn’t a cohesive story to be found in Hercules, there may be the skimpiest trappings of one, but in reality Hercules is a series of hollow set pieces. “Watch Hercules do this, watch Hercules do that.” But, why should I care what Hercules does, he’s not interesting and I was never given a reason to care about him or his adventures. In some sad attempt to bolster the story a definitive pop culture tint is added to Hercules, one that never agreed with me. After a few minutes I wanted the ’90’s pop culture references to simply stop.
That brings us to the final piece of my treatise on Hercules, the characters. This is the one bright shining beacon in Hercules, but that is only because of the characters of Hades and the voice work of James Woods. Sadly his character isn’t enough to save the film or make me like the characters as a whole. I already told you that Hercules is as bland as can be, but the rest of the non-Hades characters are entirely forgettable as well. Then there is the character of Megara, an annoying shrill of a woman who is essentially the anti-Pocahontas. There isn’t anything to like about her, and she’s especially repulsive due to the anorexic skinny curved figure that Disney puts on her.
To say that I was disappointed by Hercules would be an understatement. I had fond memories of this film and looked forward to revisiting it, and it turned into a visit I wish I had never embarked upon. I waited and waited for something to justify the warm feelings I had in my memory, but I was left shaking my head at every turn and questioning how the genius behind Pocahontas, Aladdin and The Little Mermaid could be responsible for this monstrosity. Hercules even let me down in the song department, and that is a first for a Disney film, no matter what I have thought of other Disney films I always enjoyed the music. When it comes to Greek mythology in popular culture I’ll take Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and I suggest you do the same.