How is Megara not in Disney’s official princess line-up that includes Pocahontas?
If you’ve ever watched or read Superman before, the first half of this movie will feel strangely familiar. Hercules is a son of the Gods. Not just any God, but the son of Zeus, so he gets super-strength as his godly power. Hades wants to rule all of Olympus, home of the Gods, so he goes to some weird fortune-teller people who reveal his future. They say that he can only achieve his goals if he can manage to get rid of Hercules. So, he concocts a plan to turn Hercules into a mortal, but fortunately his servants fail to force-feed the entire potion to Hercules and human parents take Hercules in. Now, Hercules is mortal in the sense that he can die and cannot join the Gods up in Olympus, but he maintains his super-strength powers. This obviously makes it challenging for Hades to kill Hercules, and just when Hades thinks he has found Hercules’ kryptonite, Hercules regains God-hood.
This is the closest of the Disney Renaissance films to going ADHD in order to appeal to the kids. Adults, on the other hand, will probably walk out dizzy or something; I don’t know, this movie has the attention span of a two-year-old. Hercules opens really weak with a terrible song called The Gospel Truth. Beauty and the Beast tried a similar thing by opening with a musical number to serve also as narrative, but compare Little Town (Belle’s Song) with The Gospel Truth, and it should be obvious why The Gospel Truth sucks. In short, you know a song is bad when it repeats its title way too often. Hercules does rebound on the songs though with my favorite Disney prince song, Go the Distance, and a more romantic one in I Won’t Say I’m in Love. Holistically, Hercules does deliver on its songs.
Surprisingly, Hercules’ animation is sort of neglected in this one, which is strange since he is the title character. Teenager Hercules is scrawny but has ridiculous calves, and a lot of the side-views of Hercules distorts his face or makes him seem two-dimensional. With that said, Hercules as a character is serviceable in the movie. He’s one of those stupid but follow-your-heart protagonists, which makes sense since Hercules’ Achilles heel is love. Hades is able to manipulate love interest Megara to convince Hercules to lose his super strength for a day in order to protect her, sort of how Ariel gives up her voice for a pair of legs. Hercules was fine.
Wow, Megara is actually really interesting. I mean, she gave up her soul to Hades in order to save her boyfriend who ends up running off with another woman. You wouldn’t really expect Disney to throw that in a kid’s film such as this one as casually as they did, but had they paid more attention to Megara’s back story and her romance with Hercules, this could have been a really special film. Not to mention, Megara might be the sassiest and curvy animated alto I’ve ever seen. She is definitely my most underrated Disney princess, uh, I mean, female protagonist.
Bringing it all together
As I’ve said, Hercules is a good movie for the kids. It’s lively, tries to be funny, and has good songs. There is a small incentive for the parents with the surprisingly pleasant addition of Megara, and she is essentially the driving force for the interesting plot twists. Do I think that the whole Hercules suddenly gaining God-hood was a little corny? Yeah, I do. But Disney does shake things up enough towards the end to keep you interested, if you can manage to get past all the kid stuff at the beginning and thereafter.
Generic. Hercules is about love over strength, heart over physique, courage over muscle; yeah yeah we’ve all heard this before. If they had maybe focused more on Megara, then this could have been about true love like Beauty and the Beast, but instead, this movie tries too hard to impress the kids.
Hercules is not a bad outing; it’s just not a very memorable one. You probably remember bits and pieces of this movie from your childhood, and that’s because it wasn’t anything substantial. Disney brings some substance with the complicated Megara, but its over-the-top storytelling style extinguishes any ray of hope Megara brought to the table.