Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Divine Prince

I decided to include a new section dedicated to the handful of animated films I've seen somewhat recently and I'll also most likely use it to include some countdowns of Miyazaki, Pixar, and classic Disney.

The Prince of Egypt (Brenda Chapman and Steve Hickner,
Animation Conversation
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Dreamworks' The Prince of Egypt (1998) is of course the biblical story of Moses, baby in basket, adopted, burning bush, "set my people free", it's a pretty popular tale. The Dreamworks film reimaging of the tale focuses on Moses' growth into a young man and his gradual disconnection from his brother (who is a prince of Egypt by birth) and the bonds that become broken, sort of a Ben-Hur (1959) kinda thing.

I might as well get some criticisms out of the way first. First, I think the main thing I have trouble with the movie is pretty much the same thing I have a problem with the bible in general, God, especially in the Old Testament and this story, isn't that great of a guy. There is this monstrous act perpetrated by Moses' adopted father in the film where Moses finds out he had Israelite children killed, one of the main reasons he leaves the city, but God does the same thing later on in the movie but apparently Moses has no problem with it, though it's the plague that the film stresses the most significance on it is still glossed over rather quickly. It's one of my main problems with the story in general (and a lot of stories about the Christian god from the Old Testament in particular), plus if he has all this power why doesn't he just free these people himself? Instead of cause needless suffering, most of which of people who don't deserve it? To test one man's faith, Moses? or the people in general? All those Egyptian children he killed certainly weren't being tested because they have no choice anyway.

I would say the Ben-Hur thing is kind of just a rip off of...well Ben-Hur but to be honest those moments were some of the better parts of the film (same with Ben-Hur so I suppose it's there because it works). I'm much more interested in Moses the man than Moses the Hand of God and when I'm able to focus on those aspects of the movie I think it works rather well. Plus I find the idea that a figure like Moses comes to liberating these people by his will and character over being told by some authoritarian being a lot more inspiring and I'm thankful at times the film is still able to do this, plus build a pretty decent relationship with Moses and his brother, I actually feel for not only their love for each other, but for his brother, a surprisingly tragic figure and perhaps the best character in the movie. He's a man trapped by his own traditions and ultimately destroyed by them and unwillingness to adapt or accept something outside what's been imposed by the ways of his family.

The music I found to be a mixed bag, the score is generally pretty great while the lyrics and vocals of the songs can be rather forgettable. The overall voice acting and talent is pretty impressive and the animation, which is where the movie especially shines, is of course great. While perhaps I may not find the age old tale as beloved as some the film is for the most part continuously engaging and to its credit, I'd say nothing less than gorgeous. I don't think I'd persuade people away from The Prince of Egypt, but it isn't something for me. Press me and I'll give it some sort of arbitrary rating, but for now I don't think that's necessary since I don't see the weight in those kind of things. Should I have some sort of number or star rating system? I always feel those kind of things say so little.