Tuesday, September 4, 2012

D52 - Week 35 - Hercules

Kevinese, God of Frivolity

Talk about a change of tone! I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, though. I'm having trouble imagining what "Hercules" would've been like if it had been done in a darker, brooding way. And I bet it was an intentional decision to depart from the traditional film style we usually see used to tell tales of Gods and Goddesses. So I kinda like it this way.
The main problem with telling the story of Hercules is making him a sympathetic character. How are we supposed to relate to a God - well, a mortal with God-like powers, anyway? This is handled well enough by making Hercules a clumsy geek who can't handle his own strength, but there's still something missing. I find him too...goody-goody. Quasimodo was perfectly kind-hearted, too, but a better job was done with explaining why Quasimodo had that personality. He was taught and conditioned to believe he should be thankful to be protected from the outside world. But is Hercules a good (")person(") because Zeus and Hera made him that way, with their Godgenes, or was he raised to be perfectly proper by his parents? I understand there was a midquelly cartoon series (that I don't remember ever seeing) and I think maybe a direct-to-video movie based on that series which explored the Disney Hercules's teenage years, and maybe that answers this question, but the theatrical movie itself doesn't. I bring this up because there's something about having to just take it on good faith that a character is "good" just because we see him being polite to people. It's a bit shallow, character-development-wise. It basically makes him your Boring Disney Prince, doesn't it?
At least his love interest ... no, I don't want to call her that. The woman he immediately finds attractive and after brushing aside snide sarcastic remarks from and somehow decides his life is worth risking for after one date, is at least herself an interesting character. She actually has a backstory, which explains her personality! She has a flaw, for which she redeems herself near the end of the movie!  I find myself wishing I could've been watching a movie titled after her, instead. It's funny how the "sacrificied her soul for a guy who ended up leaving her for another" backplot is casually mentioned as if it's some not-too-important aside, when really that sounds far more interesting than the "proving himself worthy just for the sake of proving himself" story of Hercules. But oh, Kronk from The Emperor's New Groove can get HIS own spin-off. Tuh!
So whereas The Hunchback of Notre Dame has the feel of a grandiose broadway musical, Hercules comes off as a Saturday morning cartoon. You got your pop culture references, your silly jokes that seem funnier when you're a kid than when you're an adult. Which do seem especially sugary after having just seen "Hunchback." But it is a Saturday morning cartoon designed and animated with the brilliance of flair of a theatrical feature. What keeps me eyes glued throughout is how much I love how stylized everything is. Philoctetes (whose suggestion to just call him Phil is a symbol of the way this movie treats itself as a whole) is a squashy-stretchy character who wouldn't be too out-of-place in a Steven Spielberg cartoon. Hades could be seen as a very parody of villains modeled after their voice actors. Megera has amusingly dynamic hips! As for pegasus? Well, ya gotta have a hammy horse. The hydra? Auhhh... you're getting there, CGI character incorporation! Almost! I could've done without Panic and his reminding-me-of-Phineas-or-is-it-Ferb-you-know-which-one-I-mean head, but Pain provides the funniest line in the entire movie, which is funny for how truly unexpected it was.
How about the music? It's fun and stuff. Again, the stuff of Saturday mornings. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, of course. It's just hard for me to say anything particularly glowing about it so soon after the darn-near-perfection of Beauty & the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. But I will say that I prefer the lively gospel R&B much more than the Michael Boltony power ballads.
There is something pleasing as well about being able to watch a Disney movie that isn't tied to a specific book or actual historical events, because when things do get frivolous and wacky, I don't feel as much that it's an affront to its source material. There weren't any Greeks who found this genuinely insulting to their ancestors' beliefs, were there?

Question: I'm a bit confused about the Zeus-statue. When it comes alive, is that, like, Zeus talking through the form of the statue? Like a long-distance ancient form of a hologram? Or is it just a sort of representation of his being, like a... ghost, even though he's still "living," or what? What I mean is, after Hercules meets up  with Zeus again "in person" on Mount Olympus, will Zeus be able to recall the conversations he had while as a statue-figure?
Video meme idea: YouTube video strategically cut so that Pegasus appears to be having the hots for Rainbow Dash or Fluttershy.
Favorite character: By picking Meg, is this my first time choosing a female character as my favorite? I'm...not sure. But anyway, my only complaint is that she wasn't voiced by Bernadette Peters.
Least necessary character:
Overall: Mostly thanks to the unique and fantastic visual style and some of the more interesting side character, I do find it a mostly enjoyable junk food romp through the world of Greek Gods and Goddesses. If only I had a reason to like the title character...

Amanda, Goddess of Humility... HA! No, I'm joshin ya.

Did you know that this movie was extremely offenseive to the point that the Greek government did something about it?  Google it. For realsies.

I'm quite a bit confused myself about what could possibly be offensive about it.  It's so dang fluffy.  I mean this perfectly perfect victim of circumstance decides to quit being a victim and start being a grown-up with a briefcase and a job where someone precedes his name with Mister, falls in puppy love along the way and when his hard work pays off the end.  Is... is that even a story worth telling? Guy works hard, gets a good life.  Sounds like a boring fable that your dad tells you that's a poorly masked autobiography.

Well anyway, while Hercules himself isn't particularly interesting with his boyish good looks and his extreme naivete, the characters that surround him are fleshed out and fantastic.  I love Megara.  She's such a brat, but not so far as to be a bitch and anyway, she's got her quickly glossed over reasons.  I love Hades who for being on fire most of the time sure is a slimy git.  He's so resentful and I completely get that he's coming from that Mommy-loved-Zeusy-best crybaby corner.  His sidekicks are more annoying that endearing, but kudos to the screenwriting department for at least getting them introduced enough for us to remember their names.

Now here I disagree with Kevin in that he thinks the best story would be about Megara and I agree that it would be a great story, but I'm more interested in Phil's story.  I would love to have seen Phil's previous failures (especially considering in the version I heard Deseus did in fact slay the Minotaur).  What makes a satyr dream of fathering a godly figure?  How did he learn his trade so well as to teach others how to hero?  Does Phil secretly have Daddy issues as much as Hercules does?

I can't possibly go without mentioning the style choice.  I love it.  It looks just like that old pottery that we all saw in our ancient history books.  It's such a change from the hyper-realism that we got in Hunchback.  The Disney Character Cameos were a great deal easier to pick out (though still not as pronounced as Aladdin) and that makes for a fun mostly brainless viewing experience.  I for one am an advocate of frivolous, fluffy entertainment.  The music is equally upbeat and while I can't figure out what gospel has to do with ancient Greece, I'm not about to look a sassy black horse in the mouth.

Favorite Character: Rock Titan. "ZOOOOOOOOOOOSsss!" Lulz
Least necessary Character: Disappointingly, Hercules' adoptive parents.  Maybe the story would have been more about Herc and less about his supporting cast if we had seen anything worthwhile about his parents and his relationship with them aside from the fact that they found him while searching the rocky hillside for some delicious goat meat. Okkay we don't know why they were out on the rocks, but maybe we should have.  I just can't believe that they were out there on a pleasure walk during the wee hours of night.

Overall: Brainless, fluffy, inoffensive except to Greeks, has a bouncy beat.  Worth watching while eating pizza on a night when you don't have to be anywhere particular the next day.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, if I recall correctly, Greeks *were* kind of offended by the way this film distorted their cultural heritage. The Greek government outright forbade Disney from premiering the film on Pynx Hill for precisely that reason, anyway.

    There's not a thing in existence that someone somewhere doesn't take deadly seriously!


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