HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:79
It seems like this is the year for our favorite Demi god. We have Kellan Lutz playing him, we’ve had the Rock tear up the landscape as the invincible super hero and now we have a Disney classic version of old Herc for the Blu-ray collection. Arguably one of Disney’s worst feature films, next to “Brother Bear”, “Hercules” is a rather weird mix of Disney fumbles, as it tries to be just a bit too hip and “jazzy” for its own good, and has a tendency of missing the gags rather than turning into a slam dunk hit. Maybe it’s because of the new management during this time period, or maybe it was because “Hercules” was in uncharted territories (this is the first time that Disney ever decided to mix it up with religious mythology vs. the older fairy tales), but who knows, it’s an acquired Disney taste for sure, but not without merit. Especially for the kiddies.
We all know that Hercules was a bit of a sordid tale fill with naughtiness, violence and stupidity (seriously, most gods in Greek, Roman or Norse mythology have the brains of a peanut I know), but that’s not problem for the Mouse House as they give it a nice squeaky clean polish and make it “Disneyfied”. Our hero is not born from Zeus being a philanderer, but rather the offspring of Zeus (Rip Torn) and Hera (Samantha Eggar), born into full godhood. While it’s a time of celebration for the Olympians, it’s a time of scheming and skullduggery for Hades (James Woods), god of the underworld. He’s intent on taking control of the god’s celestial mountain and rule in Zeus’ stead. According to the three fates, his only obstacle is Hercules (Tate Donovan) himself, who will supposedly thwart the plan if he fights that day. Sending his two minions, Pain (Bobcat Goldthwain) and Panic (Matt Frewer) to kidnap and the child and turn him mortal with a potion (which must be drank to the last drop), so that he can be killed. In a turn of fate, Hercules drinks the potion but not the very last drop, which turns him mortal but leaves him with is incredible strength.
Now being mortal, Hercules has to roam the earth as an ordinary human (or at least one with lots of strength and pectorals), until he finds out that the only way to return to Olympus is to become a true hero. Setting out on his quests to become a true hero and attain his godhood, he must train under the tutelage of hero trainer, named Phil (Danny DeVito) and ends up falling for a very feisty human woman, Megara (Susan Egan). Now the catch with Meg (there’s ALWAYS a catch) is the fact that she’s kind of in indentured servitude to Hades himself, who decides to use Meg’s feminine wiles to pry out wonder boy’s secret weaknesses. Everything appears to be going to plan until Meg falls in love with her prey, and the game changes for all players. Now Hercules must strike a deal with the devil to save the woman he loves, AND keep Olympus from falling pretty to the evil Hades schemes.
I’m not one who hates the movie, but it’s definitely one of the great studio’s lesser titles to date. The problems with the story seem to be many fold, even though it has potential. The things that really MAKE a good Disney movies more than they are, is the music and the side characters. We HAVE several side characters in the form of Pegasus, Panic, Pain and even Phil, but none of them are very memorable. Pegasus is the best of the batch, but that’s mainly because he doesn’t open his mouth, while Danny DeVito plays……well….Danny DeVito and Panic n’ Pain are fairly forgettable. None of them are offensively bad, or even make you roll your eyes, it’s just that they’re so bland that they don’t stand out one way or the other. As for the music, we have the famed Alan Menken helming the score, which should be a guaranteed success, but for some reason was sluffed on a the narrators to sing most of the sings in a sort of “Jazz meets soul music” sort of sound. Like the side characters, I just can’t really remember the songs as they blurred together in one incompressible jumble. Meg does have one song that she sings that stands out, but the rest just faded into the background.
The first two acts of the film are a bit hit or miss, going over his legends as a hero rather quickly and trying to force Meg and Hercules together in the standard Disney way, but it’s not till the third act where you really start to get engaged with the story, and I started really enjoying the movie. That third act alone almost makes up for the flaws of the first two, but makes you really wish that there had been more of that type of thing going on in the previous acts.
Tate Donovan plays Hercules well enough, he’s not remarkable, but not forgettable either, and Rip Torn does what only Rip Torn can do as the lightning god of Olympus. The real standouts were Susan Egan as Megara, as having her be the fireball personality jazzed up the usual “damsel in distress” mantra that Disney loves so much. She had depth to her and sense of multi dimensionality that was attractive and intriguing. The second savior was James Woods, who just REEKS of being a villain. If there’s one thing that James Woods can pull off with ease is playing the role of a jerk (which he seems to do quite often). Now these flaws I’ve mentioned don’t make the movie a BAD movie. It’s actually really hard for a Disney feature film to be bad (unless it’s the direct to video sequels), but these temper my usual enthusiasm for their classic animation films and brings it down to just an average movie.
Rated G for General Audiences
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=23906[/img]While “Hercules” may suffer a bit in the story department, it certainly doesn’t disappoint with the video transfer. Being that they are only filmed two years apart and reviewed within days of each other I took a good look at the problems that were present in “Tarzan” (the banding and macroblocking) and went over “Hercules” with a fine toothed comb, looking for the same anomalies. Thankfully “Hercules” looks near spotless, lacking all of the bad and including all of the good from the “Tarzan” release. The colors are strong and vibrant, pushing lots of blues and yellows and reds into the picture and the fine detail is excellent. I looked at the animation and there’s no digital DNR going here (which is the bane of animated films) so the lines are strong and firm, with no jaggies or missing lines from digital manipulation. It’s not really a fault of the transfer, but being that the film blended traditional animation with CGI you can see some of the age from some of the CGI monsters, specifically the Hydra. It just looks out of place compared to the rest of the art. Black levels are very good, which is a blessing, considering how many dark and gloomy scenes of the underworld we have to deal with. Overall it’s a gorgeous looking picture that will certainly please even the pickiest videophile.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=23914[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track that Disney has graced us with keeps up neck and neck with the video encode as the track brings the film to life. I noticed right off the bat that the LFE for the film isn’t a wild crowd stirring thunderbolt, as it really only comes out to play in some of Hercules more heroic and action oriented scenes. That being said, I find the tracks attention to detail and incredible sense of immersion more than enough to make up the deficit. The dialogue is crystal clear and locked firmly in the front center channel, accentuated by some very detailed use of panning effects and the inclusion of non-stop surrounds. From the minute the film starts you can hear the directionality of the film with perfect replication of ambient noises from all direction, when the battles start up you can hear the sizzle and pop of each of Zeus’ thunderbolts and even the ambient hiss and crackle of Hades’ fiery hair.
• From Zero to Hero Sing-Along
• The Making of "Hercules"
• "No Importa La Distancia" Music Video
“Hercules” is a bit of a mixed bag, and one that’s been a black spot on Disney’s record for the last 17 years. The story is good for kids, but lacks the depth and strength and previous and succeeding films did for themselves. It’s not exactly an accurate portrayal of the legendary Demi god, and its real redeeming features here are the stellar audio and video. I’d have to say that this one is definitely “for the fans” as it’s really a hard sell to those of you who aren’t Disney completionists, or don’t have kids in the house. Still it’s a decent watch and will act as a good babysitter on a Saturday night. I’d have to recommend it to the fans, and give a “check it out” for those who are on the fence.
Starring: Tate Donovan, Susan Egan, James Woods, Danny DeVito
Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker
Written by: Ron Clements, John Musker
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DD 2.0, Spanish, French, Portuguese DD 5.1
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Blu-ray Release Date: August 12th, 2014
Buy Hercules Blu-ray on Amazon
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