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Opinionated Guide to Disney's Hercules
Korval

[table of contents]
Love
Cut to Herc bragging about his exploits to Zeus, who is quite happy for him. So Herc then asks if he can go up to Heaven now, but Zeus says that he's not a "true hero." Herc points out that he's all badass and famous and everything, but Zeus says that that's different from being a "true hero." When Herc asks what he has to do, Zeus says that he needs to look inside his heart.

Thanks. That was helpful.

We get yet another avalanche of pop-culture in a cut to Herc's palace. Phil has now become Herc' secretary, and is circling about him, explaining his schedule for the day. Herc himself is posing for a vase painting. While... wearing Scar from the Lion King as a hat. I hate to break it to you writers, but wearing animal skins does not endow you with that animal's power. Similarly, referencing good films does not make your film itself good.

Herc eventually gets fed up and pissed off, saying that nothing matters. He says that nothing he's doing is helping him get into fluffy cloud heaven. Phil tries to cheer him up by saying that he has something special, that he can do anything. Well, that was a serious and semi-touching scene between the mentor and the protagonist. Of course, since we're in Disney's Hercules, something has to appear to destroy it utt-

Smash Cut to fangirls. I guess it's true; fangirls ruin everything. They instantly assault Herc, who is helpless before them. Sure why not, he's only super-strong and neigh-invulnerable. Phil provides Herc a distraction and is able to ward off the fangirls.

But not Meg. She slipped in via the power of Offscreen Teleportation and eventually finds where Herc is hiding. Herc is happy to see her, of course. She lounges about, flatters him a bit, and then asks him to spend the afternoon with her. He's unsure about that due to Phil's schedule, but it takes very little to convince him to do it anyway.

Cut to later that night in... somewhere. It looks like a park of some kind, with statues and so forth everywhere. They talk about all the stuff they did, visiting a restaurant, seeing Oedipus Rex (which I'm sure was written around the time of Hercules. Totally sure), etc. Of course, we don't see any of that, because it wouldn't involve pop-culture references or odious comic relief, just the two lead characters interacting. Why would we want to see character interaction when we can just be told about it after the fact? I mean, it's only a Motion Picture.

Anyway, a pair of birds reveal themselves to be P&P, urging Meg to get the info on Herc. Speaking of whom, he says that he enjoyed "playing hooky," and she wistfully agrees that it was fun. A clever bit of dialog, showing that she's been deliberately dragging things out.

She then falls into his arms, claiming that this is due to "weak ankles." She then asks, very seductively, whether he has any weak body parts; she does this while clawing at him and such. But he says that he doesn't have any. Then, he throws a rock, knocking the arms off of a naked statue. Meg says that it looks better that way, and thus we see how the Venus de Milo came to be. Ha ha, that's not funny.

SYMBOLISM!

A possible kiss is interrupted by a shooting star. Herc then starts talking about how he used to wish he was like other people. Meg then says that he wanted to be "petty and dishonest". Herc doesn't think people are like that, but Meg disagrees. He then says that she isn't, but she points out that he doesn't know her, and again, the double-meaning is not lost. Herc then says that she's an amazing person.

Then Meg backs away into the sharp arrow of a Cupid statue. Wow movie, you were doing so well until you dropped that 3-ton anvil on us. Why couldn't you just leave well enough alone?

Anyway, Herc says that being with her makes him feel less alone, but she says that being alone means you can't be hurt. Herc pledges that he wouldn't hurt her. Which is funny because, if this were actual Greek Mythology, this would be where Hera drives him mad and he kills her. But no, we're in the In Name Only verse, so this line serves only as a mythology gag. She says that she doesn't want to hurt him, but Herc moves in for the kiss and...

This is what it takes to get worse than wrist-mounted sundials...

A bright light appears from nowhere, as Phil and Pegasus have apparently found them. Phil is on a megaphone[!], and Pegasus is now a helicopter. I shit you not, he's using his wingtips to simulate a helicopter's blades.

What is it exactly that goes on in the writer's room at Disney? How is it that someone farting out an idea like this doesn't get told, "That's fucking stupid. That's so stupid, clean out your desk; you're fired." I know they want to have their stupid pop-culture references and all, but how exactly do they not understand that this sort of nonsense is destroying the verisimilitude of the film?

So after some bad Komedy!, Herc pulls a flower off a tree, gives it to her, pecks her on the cheek, then leaves. There's a bit more Komedy! from Phil, but the Daffy Duck-style slapstick is actually plot-relevant now, because it leaves Phil in the park.

We then get a love song between Meg and the gospel choir. And as much as I hate the gospel choir (and I really hate them), this idea actually works. To the degree that anything in this sequence works, but that's for later.

Meg is singing about how she has terrible judgment and should have learned from last time. But the choir points out that she's in love. And they have a song battle over it. The refrain is Meg singing that she "won't say I'm in love." In the end, she says that she "won't say I'm in love."

As clever as this song sequence is, and it's probably the most effective song in the film (not that there's much competition for that), this is the point in the film where I gave up on it. To understand why deserves a digression.

Watching a film is supposed to be like riding a rollercoaster. Each part flows smoothly into the next, and a thrilling experience is had by all. There are times however that the film does something that you find utterly unacceptable. That completely shatters your Willing Suspension of Disbelief. The rollercoaster has an accident that sends you flying unceremoniously off the ride and into the crowd below. After that, you can no longer tolerate anything else that happens, because you're not on the coaster anymore.

I call those "Deep Wang moments." They are sudden and irreversible. The film has utterly crushed your interest, and the only thing you can do is watch and hate at the film. I was Deep Wanged in Stardust when our "hero" Tristan enslaved a woman he just met to give to his prospective girlfriend as a present. In Star Trek 2009, I was Deep Wanged by the entirety of the Kobayashi Maru scene, which made me want to see everyone involved die a horrible, lingering death.

In this film... that didn't happen. There is no one scene or moment that I can say really crushed me. Instead, what this film suffers is death by a thousand cuts.

When you start watching a film for the first time, you have a finite reserve of patience and goodwill. Every time the film does something bad or annoying, some of that goodwill is expended. When this patience runs out, the film is no longer good for you. Small problems that you might have ignored when you were still tolerant of the film's BS now become painful. A botched or immature gag that you might have been willing to let slide becomes odious and tiresome. A Deep Wang moment is effectively when a movie destroys all of your goodwill in a single blow.

This is the point in this film where my patience was entirely exhausted. If the film hadn't spent so much of my goodwill on it's relentless pop-culture gags and slapstick-fail, it might have gotten away with this. But because so much of my reserve of patience had been exhausted, this scene shoved me over the edge.

The problem with this scene is ultimately that there's no reason for these two to be in love. Go ahead, give me one reason why Hercules loves Meg. I'll wait.

Actually I won't because there is no answer. The best the film can do is say that Herc thinks that being around her is "amazing" and makes him not feel alone. Why he thinks either of these is never explained. Meg does have a reason, namely that Herc is very forthright and earnest with her. But honestly, I don't really buy that, because she was pretty cynical about relationships due to past experiences. It's strange that she would change that quickly after one little talk.

Indeed, we skipped the part that could have explained this. You know, the actual date they went on. We didn't see them at the play or the restaurant; we only heard what happened after the fact. All we can say is that they had a good time. It's just lazy storytelling and lazy romance. We didn't even get a falling-in-love montage.

Beauty and the Beast is pretty much the gold standard for romance in Disney films, with The Princess and the Frog coming in a close second. In those films, we see actual character development. Hell, we spend the lion's share of the films watching the couple interact. Those movies are about the romance. This movie? It's just tacked on. It's here because it's expected to be, not because it makes sense to be. And certainly not because the writers have any idea how to properly do it.

Aladdin got away with this. It was funny with humor that made sense and was delivered by actual comedians. So when they have the male and female leads hook up after fairly little interaction (though at least they got a duet), I can accept it. It isn't good that this happens, but because I had patience to spare, I could tolerate it for the sake of the rest of the film.

And it's not like this film didn't have time to actually develop a relationship or something. They spent almost 15 minutes on backstory; if they had cut that down to 7 minutes, they'd have had plenty of time to make this more reasonable.

But either way, this film crushed my patience and goodwill under an avalanche of crap. So by the time it hit the point where it really needed that goodwill to allow me to accept it, there wasn't enough left. And thus, this is where I stopped caring about the movie.

In many ways, I find that death by a thousand cuts to be worse than being Deep Wanged. At least with that, you can point to something that could have been fixed; the movie might be salvageable. With the thousand cuts method, it's basically a sign that the film has a sickness that cannot be cured with anything short of a full rewrite.

Anyway, back to the film, such that it is. Hades emerges from a statue, asking for the info. Meg says that he needs to find someone else to get his info. Why, I don't know; she could just tell him what she found, since she found that he had no weaknesses. I mean, what's he going to do with that intel? But no, she says something defiant for no reason.

Hades reminds her that he owns her, in his own roundabout way. And James Woods is pretty much the only thing keeping me even slightly entertained in this film.

Phil wakes up and starts listening in to their conversation. Of course, rather than listening to all of it so that he can make a full and complete report of her duplicity and Hades's plans, he only hears one snippet of Meg talking about her allegiance to Hades before he runs off.

Right after Phil leaves, Meg declares that she won't help him. Hades wonders about her being this way over some guy, but she says that he's different. And now, finally, Meg says the one line that could have ended the conversation before it began and without all this animosity. Of course, the fact that she tells him about Herc's lack of weaknesses now, after all but admitting her love of him, tells Hades that she has now become his weakness.

Cut to Phil meeting with Herc, who keeps stopping him from saying anything. Meanwhile, Pegasus is lead away by... Twilight Sparkle? Naturally, the pony turns out to be P&P, who quickly subdue Pegasus.

Phil finally starts talking to Herc. Of course, because this plot was written by monkeys, Phil neglects to mention any actual evidence of what he saw or what she said. All he has to say is, "I saw Meg talking with Hades, plotting against you;" it's really that simple. But no, he hurls insults at Meg until Herc smacks him across the stadium. Yet another one of my pet peeve tropes: when people don't say the reasonable thing due to what can only be considered complete idiocy in-universe, and out-of-universe is due to abysmally lazy writing. After all, why bother coming up with a reasonable way to make the plot work, when you can just make the characters say stupid things.

Phil leaves because of his crippling inability to say the thing that would convince Herc of the truth.

Hades appears. After some light banter, he asks Herc if he would take a day off of the hero work. Naturally, Herc refuses. So Hades brings out Meg, bound and gagged with smoke. He says that he'll let Meg go if Herc gives up his powers for a day. Herc, in a surprising show of competence realizes that Hades is planning something big and that people will be harmed. Hades says that it's war, so there's a chance of that. Then, Hades says that they don't matter, that Meg's life must be more important than the faceless masses.

Then Herc tells him to swear that she won't be harmed. Hades says that yes, she will be unharmed, and is kind enough to exposite that if she is harmed, he gets his strength back. And Herc agrees.

Now, if this were a good movie, this would be where the literal Deus Ex Machina would arrive in the form of Zeus, who would let Herc know that he just failed his Secret Test of Character. Because I'm sorry, but I'm not buying him as a "true hero" if he's willing to let people die just to save his beloved. Yeah, the sadistic choice sucks, but isn't doing the hard thing because it's right part of what being a hero is all about?

Hades bashes the de-powered Herc around for a bit, and then... releases Meg.

OK, WTF is this? The deal was Herc would lose his super-strength for 24 hours and Meg will be unharmed and goes free. The deal was not that Meg goes free immediately. Why would he let her go at this point, especially when he tacked on that stupid rider about her being harmed causing the deal to be broken and Herc getting his strength back?

Equally importantly, the Fates were really clear on this point: if Herc fights, Hades loses. Whether he had super-strength was not discussed. So why not make the deal that Herc has to spend the day in a cave, and if he leaves the cave for any reason before the day is out, Meg is forfeit. Well, because that would stop the plot, and we can't have that. I mean, the writers might have to expend some fucking effort or something.

Anyway, Hades tells Herc that Meg was his pawn the whole time, and even provides evidence in the form of P&P. They humiliate Herc a bit, then Hades rides off to go do his thing.

So let's review: Meg could have just told Hades that Herc didn't have weaknesses, but instead told him that she was in love. Phil could have told Herc about Meg's duplicity with Hades, but didn't bother to bring that part up. Herc just did the unheroic thing and agreed to the villain's demands just to save his beloved-for-no-reason. And Hades now has sabotaged his own plan by making bad deals with obvious loopholes.

This story now officially has an Idiot Plot. Every main character in the film is an idiot, because if even one of them had any kind of sense, the film's plot would not work.

19th Nov '11 10:34:28 PM flag for mods
comments
I think it was referred somewhere that the lion skin Herc was wearing in-universe was the Nemean Lion. It's just drawn to look like Scar for the sake of shoutout.
Psyga315 20th Nov 11
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