Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesday animation: The Prince of Egypt

Ah, how I love hand-drawn animation.  It's been awhile since I've reviewed or even watched a hand-drawn film, but since my graduation requirements are done (I hope; I actually got another e-mail about yet another change I needed to make, so I haven't heard if they accepted the new submission yet), I will be returning to watching and reviewing them!

The Prince of Egypt came out when I was a child, but I actually didn't watch it until I was an adult.  Why?  I'm not sure.  It was one of those movies my parents never rented for me, which is odd because they almost always rented new animated films for us.  Perhaps something about The Prince of Egypt made it look not kid-friendly, and actually, just looking at the stills, it doesn't.  It doesn't have the bright colors or the cartoony designs that you would expect in an animated film for children.  It has a much more realistic and gritty look and tone.  That said, I wouldn't say it's a film for adults.  It's definitely a family film, but it's one of the most mature family films I've ever seen.

My first encounter with this movie was singing the main song, "When You Believe," for a choir concert in high school.  I really liked the song, but I still ended up not watching the film until years later.  The art looked beautiful, but to be honest, I wasn't interested in the story.  I don't really like bible stories.  Now, sometimes bible stories are awesome, and in fact, I love The Ten Commandments which is based on the exact same story as The Prince of Egypt.  I guess I was just concerned that the film would be kind of preachy, which I'm not sure why I thought that considering the film was a DreamWorks film.  Eh, to be honest, I don't really remember for sure why I waited so long to watch it.  I just had something against it.  :b  But rest assured, I have watched it now and am ready to review it!

(Screencaps from DisneyScreencaps.com.)

Overview: The Prince of Egypt is an animated musical film released by DreamWorks in 1998 and based on the biblical story of Moses.  The film was a box office success and received mostly positive reviews.

Art: The art is GORGEOUS.  Wow, I can't think of any hand-drawn film that looks more beautiful than this one.  I had a very hard time narrowing down screenshots for this post because honestly, every single frame in this movie is beautiful.  The colors, the shading, the lighting, the attention to small details, the overall atmosphere and feel, it's all just perfect.  Even the use of CGI, which I usually don't like in hand-drawn films, fits the style unbelievably well.  It actually adds to its beauty rather than detracts from it.  It's also very fluid and smooth and uses creative angles, and the lip movements are very good.  Ah, accurate lip movements, how I love them in hand-drawn films.  I just can't get over how gorgeous the film is.  That said, I can't say I love the style, and by that, I mean how the characters actually look.  I don't find their facial features to be particularly attractive except for Tzipporah and Miriam.  Everyone else looks a little odd.  It might be because the style is more realistic than I'm used to seeing hand-drawn films.  The style isn't bad, though, and actually, it fits the more serious tone of the movie very well.  I just find that I admire the backgrounds, shading, lighting, angles, and other such details more than I admire the actual look of the characters.

Sound: Clear and perfect, as expected for a modern film.  The music is very good, though definitely nothing noteworthy.  In fact, the only song I really like is "When You Believe;" the rest are pretty forgettable and not catchy.  The "villain" song in the movie, though, is probably among the weirdest and creepiest I've ever heard.  I still can't decide whether I even like it or not!  As the voice acting, it's great.  The film features many celebrity actors including Val Kilmer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Patrick Stewart, and Steve Martin, but to be honest, none of them game a particularly memorable performance.  There was never that one voice that I felt impressed with.  They were all very good, but no stand-outs.

Geez...!  What is wrong with this musical number?!  These two have the most cartoony designs of all the characters, by the way.
Story: I think most people know the story of Moses.  This takes a few liberties, but the core is the same.  Set in Ancient Egypt, Moses's mother sends him down the Nile in a basket where he is adopted by the Pharoah's queen.  Moses grows up with his brother Rameses believing himself to be a real Egyptian prince.  Eventually, Moses discovers the truth and becomes a speaker and leader for the Hebrew slaves, demanding that his brother, Rameses, set them free.  Rameses refuses until Moses calls upon God to inflict Egypt with plagues which ends up killing his son.  Finally free, Moses leads his people to a new life.  The film ends right before the Ten Commandments are given, the climax being the parting of the Red Sea.  I suppose that prevents the film from becoming too religious.  In fact, the film does a good job of keeping religion on the down low for the most part.  To be honest, the story isn't really that interesting on its own.  What makes it interesting are all of the strange and scary elements thrown in.  The scene with the plagues is quite disturbing, especially the last plague which killed all of the firstborn children.  It is not violent at all, but you hear this sigh escape them as they die, and hearing that haunting sound over and over is quite eerie.  The realism of the art does not allow for much humor, so every scene that is supposed to be scary really is.  The characters are, unfortunately, not at all memorable.  Really, the important part of the story is the plot.  There is some character development, but it's pretty small and most just helps set up the plot more.  They don't seem to drive the plot; the plot drives them.  It's not a bad thing, but I think that's why it comes off a little boring at times.  You're not really rooting for the characters, just waiting to see how it ends.

I like the rendering of light here even though it's subtle.

I don't know if I would call Rameses the villain.  Certainly the antagonist, but not the villain.  This one part makes me sad.

Personal appeal: I love the art overall even if I don't love the style.  I also like the music for the most part.  The story is where I find myself not enjoying it so much.  It's not a bad story, but the characters are just so bland and two-dimensional that the very first time I watched it, I found myself not actually caring to finish it about three quarters of the way through the film.  I finished it just because, but I wasn't so riveted that I actually wanted to finish it.  I enjoy watching parts of it, but I don't think I would ever want to watch the whole movie again.  It's such a shame because the art is so beautiful.

It's certainly beautiful, but the story is so hard to get through that I don't know if I could say it's worth a watch unless you already love the story of Moses or are a diehard animation fan like me.  The gorgeous art is unfortunately not enough to make this film memorable, and in fact, I think many have forgotten about it completely.  It just doesn't hold up like other animated films from the same decade.  It is overall a good film, but it's a shame that I can't rate it more highly with art like that.  Overall, I give it three and a half peridots out of five.  Beautiful, but really not much else.


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