Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Prince of Egypt ★★★1/2

Image result for the prince of egypt dreamworks

    We are told at the beginning of Dreamworks' "The Prince of Egypt" that the film remains true to the essence, value, and integrity of the story at hand (that being the book of Exodus and Moses), and this is verifiable to a certain extent. In fact, we have a picture here that not only indulges into themes scarcely aligned with children's animated features, but one that has a tone and mood brimming with a hint of fear; a fear that can only be attributed to God's wrath. (Which can be quite a profound experience for any adolescent.)

    Although the focus of Exodus does tend to highlight that of Moses and his journey to enlightenment, it is the actions of God and his intentions that really strikes us most. I mean, everyone with a personal faith of some kind pines to feel this relationship with their believed creator of life, and Moses is a persona that brings this seemingly impossible connection to existence. The few scenes in which our main protagonist actually interacts with God are surely the most important, and undoubtedly the most difficult for the actor in the moment. (In this particular instance it is Val Kilmer who, much like Charlton Heston in Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments," ironically voices both.)

    Several scenes become overdramatic at times (most notably when Moses commits a punishable act, and the brotherly separation that it causes thereafter), yet the film never forgets to inject a quiet moment of reflection or internal conflict, as Moses struggles to accept his real heritage and subsequent role in God's plan. This film is a delicate piece of work, if for no other reason than the fact that it is simply the first insight into the morals of God, which must be accepted by this single man, as he comes to realize how thoughtless the actions of the Egyptians actually were.

Image result for the prince of egypt movie Moses

    This is somewhat of a breakthrough for children's entertainment, especially considering the depth of the subject matter and the lack of promotional tie-ins--the latter of which being influenced by the decision of Dreamworks co-founder Steven Spielberg. Its reliance on tawdry humor is at a minimum, and although symbolism is conveyed in rather simplistic manners, it is this sense of "compactness" that works so well. Character's allude to certain philosophical views with phrases such as: "Sacrifices must be made for the greater good" and "I cannot change what you see," all in an effort to condense a historic and life changing event into one epic showing; a notion that could hardly be expressed by last month's lovable Disney release entitled "A Bug's Life."

    The texture of the picture is truly a wonder to behold, as it essentially becomes dictated by the mood of the scene. Soft, muted color tones are utilized in moments of elation, and dark shadows encompass the atmosphere when things seem to become more serious. (This can certainly be ascertained during the night of God's wrath, in which he takes the life of every Egyptian firstborn, as the only visible color becomes a series of red streaks--or lamb's blood--which helps to protect the Jewish people amidst a background of pure darkness.)

    What makes this film even more compelling is its musical composition, which comes in the form of several symbolic songs and a masterful score composed by Hans Zimmer. It is obvious that Dreamworks intentionally pulled out all the stops in what becomes their first hand-drawn animated feature film. The question now becomes whether or not they can continue the magic. (An indefinable quality which only the likes of Disney and Don Bluth have been able to capture and share many decades over.) However, one thing is for certain: As long as Spielberg has a hand in the production, success becomes generally inescapable.

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