Dark animation: ‘The Prince of Egypt’

In their early years, DreamWorks studios first dabbled in 2D animation. Their movies were incredibly well drawn and were successful when they first came out in theaters. As years went by, however, these films were lost in the wake of their new works and many people have disregarded them since. One of these films was a part of my childhood and I believe it’s one of the most underrated films of DreamWorks’ studios. It is “The Prince of Egypt.”

I honestly don’t recall seeing the film in theaters. At the time it was released, I was only five years old. I was raised in a Christian family, however, and they loved seeing the tale of Moses play out for me and my younger brother. When it was released on VCR they bought it so I could watch it at home. I have watched many times since then and I still love every part of it. The story is fantastic, the music is gorgeous and the animation is breath-taking.

The story is one that many Christians are familiar with, but for those who don’t know I’ll give the basic highlights. Moses was a man chosen by God to lead the Jews, in slavery at the time, out of Egypt and into the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. They don’t show the arrival of the Promised Land in the film, but they do show how it came to be that Moses freed his people. It starts with his life in the Egyptian palace, after narrowly escaping genocide at the hands of the Pharaoh and is adopted by his wife the Queen. It shows how he grows and how he becomes the hero that he is regarded as in the Bible.

Many people disregard this film in the long run as it is a children’s movie about a Biblical tale. The film contains many musical numbers that tend to throw people off, and once it was out of theaters many people seemed to forget about it. I find that there are few things in this film that are forgettable. This film is the very definition of “epic.” It has epic animation, epic emotions, epic acting and the music is pretty epic, too.

The soundtrack for the movie was a collaborated effort between Hans Zimmer and Stephen Schwartz. Zimmer is known for his composition work in many famous movies such as “The Lion King,” “Gladiator,” “Inception,” “The Dark Knight,” and the entire “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie series. Schwartz’s previous film work includes “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Pocahontas,” and “Enchanted.” However, Schwartz is more often recognized for his work on the hit Broadway musical “Wicked.” Their combined effort makes for a soundtrack of fantastic songs both with and without lyrics that set the scenes perfectly. My favorite track is tied between Schwartz’s award-winning song “When You Believe” and Zimmer’s “The Burning Bush.” Both songs have an incredibly soothing and loving feeling that you just can’t get enough of.

The movie itself contains a star-studded cast that includes Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Patrick Stewart, Sandra Bullock, Michelle Pfieffer, Steve Martin and Jeff Goldblum. Their acting in this film is amazing, and it’s even more amazing when you realize that they were acting through their voices only. You can feel the deep emotions of each character as they go through their hardships and tell the story of Moses in a way that makes him and the rest of the cast seem truly human, rather than just characters of legend.

The animation is what really sells this movie. Every scene is expertly made and had incredible fluidity. The animators give the characters an incredible range of emotions to match the voices of their actors. There is also their work on the visual scenes that are so large that it’s a near perfect match to their Biblical inspiration. The visuals are stunning and each shot is set up so you can see exactly what you need to see, to help you better understand the film and its characters. In the scene depicting the plagues of God’s wrath, not only does the work make your skin crawl but it also shows the incredible emotion of the main characters as they are shown in a battle of who is right and who is wrong.

My favorite part of this movie is the fact that they show the relationship between the protagonist Moses and the antagonist Ramses. They were raised as brothers and the film refuses to let you forget that. The entire movie is based around this relationship and they use it very well. It creates an incredible drama between them when Moses asks for Ramses to let his people go and a huge rift starts to form between them. It is clear that Ramses, while he is the villain, is human. The movie shows just why it is that he will not release the Jews, and you can understand his turmoil as he is forced to declare war against his brother. When he experiences the loss of his only son, who died on the night of the plague of first born deaths, you can feel his grief and your heart breaks for him.

If I had to point out any issues with this movie, it would be with the comedy. It shows up here and there throughout the film, and each bit seems forced. The film is rather serious, save for those moments that make it easier for children to watch. Other than that, the film is incredible to watch for those of all ages and religious affiliations and I would highly recommend seeing it.

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