Blast From The Past: Hercules (1997)
Well, “Blast From The Past” is traveling back another decade to 1997. As I studied the list of movies from 1997, it occurred to me that I loved most of these movies. With classics like Air Force One, Men in Black, and Liar Liar, I’m reminded of how I fell in love with storytelling in the first place. However, seeing as I was a kid in 1997, one of the standouts from the list is none other than the Disney animated film, Hercules. Featuring the voice talents of Tate Donovan, Danny DeVito, James Woods, and Susan Egan, the story follows the story of the Ancient Greek god named Hercules.
The movie begins with the narration being interrupted by the Muses, who take over from there to reveal the story of Hercules. There is joyous celebration on Mount Olympus whenever he is born, and as the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that one god, Hades, is not keen about this kid. He learns from the Fates that if Hercules is out of the picture, then his plan to overpower Zeus when the stars align in 18 years can succeed. This leads to his minions, Pain and Panic, stealing the child and making him mortal. They are unsuccessful in making him completely mortal, so Hercules still maintains his supernatural strength. It isn’t until years later that Hercules learns his true identity, which leads him to find Phil, the hero-training satyr. Together with Phil and his faithful steed, Pegasus, Hercules battles monsters and learns what it takes to be a true hero.
Now, this film came in what I consider to be the second Golden Age of Animation for Disney. Seriously, you had The Little Mermaid in 1989, Beauty and the Beast in 1991, Aladdin in 1992, The Lion King in 1994, Pocahontas in 1995, and Mulan in 1998. With heavy hitters such as these, it’s easy to forget some of the films that were released in between them, and I feel like Hercules fell prey to that. However, let me say that the story is of just as good quality as the others listed.
At its heart, Hercules is all about a kid who just wants to find where he belongs. He goes on this journey, and when he finds out his background, he finds out he can go home to Mount Olympus by becoming a hero. This discovery leads him to becoming strong and famous, but it still leaves the question of what makes a true hero. That’s the question that is begging to be answered through the entire film.
The one interesting aspect of watching these movies I loved as a kid is that I now see them through an adult’s eyes. Through that lens, I found Hercules to be absolutely hilarious. There are an abundance of quips and ironic statements throughout the film, and I know I didn’t pick up on half of them as a kid. Through that same lens, the intensity of the mythology hit me. Hades is sarcastic and entertaining in the film, but the whole concept of the underworld and the Fates is a little unsettling for a child.
All in all, though, I really enjoyed revisiting this film. Alan Menken is proved to be a musical genius once again through Hercules, and I’m reminded of why “Go The Distance” was nominated for an Oscar. The narrative was entertaining and moving, and while some of the lines are delightfully cheesy in a 1990’s kind of way, it was still spot on emotionally. So, I leave you with a recommendation to watch this underrated animated classic again and with Zeus’ final thought, “For a true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.”