Featured Blu-ray Review: Hercules
August 9th, 2014
In 1989, The Little Mermaid ended Disney's slump at the box office. However, the good times didn't last forever. In fact, a decade later when Hercules came out, there were signs the studio was slipping back into a slump. Hercules missed expectations at the box office, but does that mean it was a bad movie? And is the Blu-ray worth picking up?
The movie begins with a narrator describing how Hercules was the strongest and mightiest of the heroes, he doesn't get very far before he is interrupted by the Muses, who proceed to give the background information in a song and dance number. The short version is... The Titans caused unending chaos on Earth till Zeus locked them in a vault. After the song is over, we see Zeus and Hera throwing a party for their new son, Hercules. All of the gods give Hercules gifts, including his parents, who given him Pegasus. The only god who isn't happy is Hades, and he has a plan to get revenge. In 18 years, the planets will align and Hades will release the Titans, who will kill Zeus. However, as the Fates say, this plan will only work if Hercules doesn't interfere. He sends his two minion, Pain and Panic to deal with Hercules, but turning him into a normal, mortal man using a special potion. The plan doesn't entirely work. They kidnap the baby, but before they can give Hercules the entire portion, they are interrupted by a husband and wife who decide to adopt him as their own.
Flash forward a little more than a decade later when Hercules is a teenager. He still has all of his godly strength, which he uses to help his adoptive parents. Unfortunately, he can't always control his strength and this has gotten him into a lot of trouble with the locals. After destroying the agora (marketplace) he is nearly run out of town. His parents show him the medallion that was around his neck and he decides to travel to the Temple of Zeus to find out where he is from. When he gets there, he prays to the statue of Zeus, which then becomes animated. Zeus tells him he's a god, but the only way to get back to Mount Olympus is to become a true hero. To do so, he must find Philoctetes, the trainer of heroes. To help him get there, Zeus reunites Hercules with Pegasus. When they get to Philoctetes, a.k.a., Phil, he's retired. It isn't until Zeus zaps him that he agrees to train Hercules.
His first big test comes in Thebes, where he rescues Megara. It is love at first sight for him. For her, not so much. We soon learn she's working for Hades and when she mentioned Hercules, he goes a little nuts. Understandably so, after all, Pain and Panic said Hercules was dead and now his big plan is in jeopardy.
This is the first time I've seen Hercules, but given its Tomatometer Score, I had high expectations, despite its lower than expected box office numbers. I was disappointed. I did like the style of the movie, even if the animation isn't great. There was some early digital animation here, as well as computer assisted animation for the 2D stuff. This technology wasn't fully developed yet and it makes the movie look older than it is. Speaking of aging poorly, there were far too many pop culture references thrown in the movie and that has caused it to age very poorly compared to other more classic films. Even the less timely pop culture references felt out of place in the movie. The writing wasn't particularly sharp either. Phil was given quite a few one-liners that failed to hit their mark and James Woods performance as Hades wasn't enough to save some of the more cliché lines.
To be fair, Hercules isn't a bad movie and it is entertaining enough to keep its target audience engaged, but I don't think adults will want to see it over and over again.
There are not a lot of extras on the Blu-ray. First up is a nine-minute making of featurette, while there is also a music video and Zero to Hero sing-along mode. I know it wasn't a huge hit in theaters, but I was expecting more than this.
On the other hand, the technical presentation is excellent. There is a high level of details and very sharp lines, which is important for animation. The colors are incredibly vivid and the blacks are deep. I didn't see any compression issues or digital artifacts. This is a great upgrade from the DVD. The audio isn't quite as large of an upgrade, but it is still very good. The dialogue is clear and there's plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers when called for. It is not the most active track I've heard, but still good.
The Blu-ray combo pack costs $18, which is a little high for shovelware, but not outrageously so.
Hercules wasn't as good as the Tomatometer Score would indicate, at least not in my mind. That said, it should still entertain its target audience. The Blu-ray isn't loaded with extras and the price isn't great, so keep that in mind.
Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Filed under: Video Review, Hercules