Reviewed by Dustin Putman
(Release Date: August 12, 2014) Arriving a year after the underappreciated, somewhat somber "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," 1997's "Hercules" returned Disney to the fold of adventure comedyalbeit with a dark streak of its own. This very loose adaptation of Greek mythology stars Tate Donovan as the voice of the heroic title character, the part-god/part-human offspring of Zeus (Rip Torn) and Hera (Samantha Eggar) whose immortality is stolen when he is only a baby by way of a potion concocted by the vengeful, Underworld-dwelling Hades (James Woods). Raised on Earth by two kindly mortals, Hercules nonetheless grows up retaining his superhuman strength and wondering where he came from. When the truth is revealed at the temple of Zeus, he and former flying horse friend Pegasus set out to track down the one person who can train him to be a hero, pint-sized satyr Philoctetes (Danny DeVito). Foreboding threats lurk on their journey with the appearance of the brash Megara (Susan Egan), a woman who sold her soul to Hades and must now do his bidding. There are a number of memorable characters in "Hercules," from the feisty, eventually regretful Megara to fast-talking villain Hades, but the film is more lightly enjoyable than at all consequential. The songs, sung by a Greek gospel chorus, are up-tempo but generally bland, while the plot wanders far and away off the path of the original stories (let's just say Hercules and Megara did not live happily ever after). Still, "Hercules" does lay claim to a certain good-humored and imaginative charisma. It's a solid family picture, just not a great one.
"Hercules" dashes its way onto the glorious high-definition scene with a marvelous 1080p transfer showcasing boldly emphatic colors and great depth of field. The film is not in 3Dand thank goodness for thatbut the image is so detailed and crystalline that it often appears as if the viewer could reach right into the mystical animated environment in front of him or her. Ever-so-slight banding pops up right at the start within the glow of the gods, but otherwise this strikes as a fresh, rejuvenated picture that puts its DVD counterpart to shame. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is vigorous and effectively modulated, filling the home theater space from all directions. This is a lively track with not a negative thing to say about it.
- "The Making of Hercules" Featurette (9:29, SD)
- No Importa La Distancia" Music Video with Ricky Martin (4:47, SD)
- "Zero to Hero" Sing-Along (2:47, SD)
As Disney continues to release their animated catalogue titles to Blu-ray, it is such a joy to be able to collect them all with the superior picture and lossless sound that does them full justice. "Hercules," the 37th in their theatrical animated classics line, isn't one of the Mouse House's absolute best, but it is an astutely written entertainment with a keen aesthetic sense and a fun ensemble of characters. Special features are on the lighter side, but the main event is the movie and the sparkling high-defness of it all. For Disney collectors, picking "Hercules" up is a no-brainer. Highly recommended.