“I Know Every Mile, Will Be Worth My While”

First, let me apologize for the delay; working retail at this time of year occupies more of my time, and with the Thanksgiving holiday last week, I decided to forego posting.  I’ll probably only post once a week until the new year, and most likely will not post the week of Christmas.  I hope everyone has a good holiday season and find moments for peace and quiet.  Now, on with the show!

Hercules

Based on the Greek mythological tale, it features Tate Donovan as the voice of adult Hercules (and my mind has just been blown because I figured out he plays [Spoiler Alert!] Mac’s father aka the Oversight of Phoenix in the rebooted MacGyver series. I just kept repeating “What!” when I read that.) Danny DeVito is his trainer, Phil, and Susan Egen is Megara.

baby hercules and pegasus
They’re adorable as babies

The film opens with a dusty narrator, but he’s interrupted by the Muses who spice up the prologue of Zeus trapping the Titans and give a gospel flair. Years and years later, Zeus and his wife Hera are having a party for their baby boy, Hercules. Their gift to their son is baby Pegasus. Zeus’s brother, Hades, ruler of the Underworld, stops by for a moment, but returns to his domain for a meeting with the Fates (three [ugly] women who control the lifelines of mortals). He has a plan to release the Titans and take down Zeus, so he can rule, but wants to know from the Fates if Hercules will spoil everything. Short answer, yes. So, for his plan to be a success, he sends his stooges, Pain and Panic (little demons? I don’t know what they are; I thought they were funny as a kid) to kidnap Hercules, feed him a potion to make him mortal, and kill him. They fail at giving baby Hercules every drop of the potion, so he retains his god-like strength, and even ties the shape shifting demons into a knot, laughing all the while. Fearing Hades’s wrath at their failure, Pain and Panic decide not to mention it to the god. An older couple take Hercules in and raise him.

Eighteen years later, we check back in with Hercules, a gangly teenager who can’t control his strength, causing accidents and damage, and is thus deemed a freak by everyone else. Taking pity on their son, his parents reveal that he was adopted and he wore an insignia of the gods around his neck when they found him. He will Go the Distance [Cross Country runners have adopted this as an anthem] and find out where he belongs. The answers lie at the temple for Zeus, which springs to life for Hercules. The statue informs Hercules of his true heritage, but he cannot join the gods on Mount Olympus as a mortal; he must perform an act of true heroism for his god status to be reinstated. To aid his son on his journey, Zeus reunites him with Pegasus and sends him to Phil, a trainer of heroes. Hercules vows “I won’t let you down, father!”

Unfortunately, Phil’s island is a mess and he’s retired. A little bolt of lightning persuades Phil to take on Hercules, who is his One Last Hope. He’s dreamed of training a hero so great, the gods will put a constellation of him in the sky and everyone can say, “that’s Phil’s boy.” Hercules starts clumsy, but he bulks up over the years and soon passes the courses with ease. To prove his mettle, Phil takes him to Thebes. Along the way, they hear a damsel in distress. A centaur (which I thought centaurs were good?) has a damsel in his clutches. Megara, Meg by her friends, if she had any, is sassy and spunky. “I’m a damsel. I’m in distress. I can handle this, have a nice day.” Hercules does defeat the centaur, but he gets tongue-tied around Meg (understandable considering his interaction with females prior to this would have been minimal) Phil and Pegasus drag him away and Meg meets with Hades. She works for the god of the Underworld and he is not pleased with Pain and Panic when he discovers Hercules is still alive. He has a new plan to get the strong man out of his way so he can reorganize the cosmos.

Thebes is a city in chaos; constant natural disasters and monster attacks. According to Phil, a good place to test out Hercules as a hero. He gets his first chance from Meg, who comes running up to him, spouting a story of two boys trapped under a rock. Hercules saves the kids easily, but moving the rock uncovered a hydra. He quickly learns, after being eaten and slicing his way out, that cutting one head off just makes three more grow in its place, so he soon has a mass of heads ready to chomp him. He finally defeats the hydra by causing a rock slide. He’s buried for a moment and Hades is gleeful, but Hercules prevails. After that, he turns Zero to Hero [my favorite song from the movie]; he defeats any monster Hades throws at him and racks up crowds of adoring fans. However, while Hercules reenacts his tales for his father, he’s disappointed to find out he still hasn’t become a true hero and cannot join Zeus on Olympus.

Hades is desperate. He wants Meg to discover whether “wonder boy” has any weaknesses. He owns her; she sold her soul to him to save her boyfriend, but the boyfriend was scum and ran off with another woman. If Meg does this task for Hades, the god will grant her her freedom. She persuades Hercules to play hooky for a day with her (the lion skin Hercules is wearing at the beginning of the scene is Scar from Lion King). The couple has a lovely date, interrupted at the end by Pegasus and Phil. Meg Won’t Say I’m in Love, completely different from most heroines in a Disney movie. Hades appears and doesn’t buy that Hercules doesn’t have a weakness, then realizes, Meg is the man’s weakness. Phil overhears Meg and Hades talking and has to break the news to Hercules. The young man is so in love, he won’t hear it and Phil quits.

Pain and Panic distract and tie up Pegasus so Hades has the man alone. He offers a deal; Hercules gives up his strength for the next twenty-four hours, and Hades will set Meg free (he has the woman bound and gagged). Hercules agrees upon the condition that Meg will be safe. His heart is broken when Hades reveals that Phil spoke the truth. Hades is off to free the Titans, Hercules and Meg are both crying over their heartbreak (Meg’s upset that she’s caused Hercules pain).

While the Titans attack Olympus, Hades sends a Cyclops to take care of Hercules. Even without his strength, he still faces the monster. Meg frees Pegasus and they retrieve Phil to help Hercules. A bit of a pep talk from his trainer, and Hercules defeats the Cyclops, but Meg pushes him out of the way from a falling pillar. Hercules’s strength returns, since Hades’s deal was broken. He rushes to Olympus to save the gods; the Titans are defeated, but Hades gets one last gloat in about Meg. The hero arrives just after Meg’s life line is cut by the Fates. He ventures to the Underworld to save her, making a new deal. A trade; his soul for Meg’s. Hades agrees, but knows there’s a loophole; Hercules won’t survive the swim in the River of Souls; Hades will have both of their souls. As the Fates go to cut his life line, the scissors won’t cut, the line turns gold. Meaning, Hercules is a god. He strides out of the river, pushes Hades in, and returns Meg’s soul to her body.

Hercules-Meg

The pair are whisked to Olympus, where the gods are ready to welcome Hercules to their ranks. His willing sacrifice of his life for Meg’s was the act of a true hero. He gives up god hood to remain with Meg; they finally share a kiss. A final chorus cheers and declare A Star is Born. A constellation of Hercules is flung among the stars and Phil gets his hero.

Since my interests center primarily on British myths, I am not as familiar with Greek myths (I have a friend who has more of an interest and according to her, Disney tamed down the story; but what do we expect from Disney?) The movie has a good message about what a true hero is and Hercules doesn’t let the fame go to his head, which I appreciate; the writers ensured the Hercules remained a truly “good guy.” I remember there was a cartoon that ran for a while on Disney Channel. For me, Hercules wouldn’t rank as high as say, Lion King, but I do appreciate now how sassy Meg is. She is a more modern woman and I love how she is able to take care of herself. She won’t fall into the stereotypical role of being helpless. Yes, she falls for Hercules, but because he is genuinely caring and nice. The Muses are fun. So, overall, an enjoyable watch, but not one I’m going to rush to add to my DVD collection.

I welcome questions or comments.  What’s your opinion on Meg and Hercules?

Next Time: Mulan

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