Hoping that the audience for cartoons about Greek gods has not already been satiated by Disney's HERCULES (1997), the folks who produce the live-action TV series "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess" have repackaged their characters in an action-packed and
occasionally charming, but very poorly animated, straight-to-video feature-length film.
Hercules (voice of Kevin Sorbo) is the legendary half-man, half-god whose mission is to avenge all wrongs, including those committed by his cruel, impetuous godly relations--namely, his father Zeus (voice of Peter Rowley), and his half-siblings Ares (voice of Kevin Smith), Artemis (voice of
Josephine Davidson), and Aphrodite (voice of Alexandra Tydings). Hercules and his sidekick Iolas (voice of Michael Hurst) believe they've witnessed a kidnapping when they see Zeus taking Hercules's mortal mother Alcmene (also voiced by Davidson) aboard his chariot to return to Mount Olympus.
Zeus's wife Hera (Joy Watson), is angered, and causes an earthquake that frees the Titans--four giants who once ruled the world but lost control to Zeus.
Aphrodite asks Hercules for help, but he is loathe to do any favors for the gods. Ares fails to interest Xena (voice of Lucy Lawless), a pal of Hercules and former warmonger turned do-gooder, in their plight, but Xena is forced to help the gods when Artemis changes Xena's sidekick Gabrielle (voice
of Renee O'Connor) into a huge bird of prey and refuses to change her back until the Titans are defeated. Hera intends to rule the world with the Titans as her army, but her plan is foiled when the Titans, interested only in absolute power, dispose of her. While each Titan wreaks havoc on his or
her particular milieu--earth, air, fire, and water--Hercules, Xena, and Iolas fight them bravely. Xena realizes that Gabrielle's presence as a bird could come in handy; they succeed in snatching the Titans in her talons and dropping them into the huge crevice left by the earthquake. The gods are
grateful for their help, and Artemis returns Gabrielle to human form. Hercules, however, must face the fact that his beloved mother never required rescuing from his estranged father Zeus. Rather than a kidnapping, Hercules had witnessed only the makings of a romantic tryst between his parents.
Against Hercules's wishes, Alcmene has chosen to leave her earthly home and join Zeus on Mount Olympus.
HERCULES AND XENA: THE BATTLE FOR MOUNT OLYMPUS will qualify only as a must-see for die-hard fans of the two syndicated series, who will be pleased that the story remains true to the characters (especially as regards the warm friendship between Xena and Gabrielle), albeit in a watered down form
suitable for children. The title song (sung by amphibian characters, blessed with feline ears) explains the conflict between the Titans and the family of Zeus so that those unfamiliar with Greek mythology can make sense of the story. While this song and others that appear in the film are not
unpleasant, they are largely forgettable.
The film's worst problem is the mediocre nature of the animation. Clearly, little effort was put into developing interesting backgrounds, or any illusion of three-dimensional space. The excessive angularity of the characters (Hercules being the most extreme example) renders them stiff and
unexpressive. These flaws may matter little to fans rooting on their favorite heroes, but is likely to turn off viewers who aren't "Hercules" or "Xena" cultists. (Violence.)
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