I’m sure most of us have a certain film or films that we consider disgustingly underrated and wish more people would check out and talk about. I have a few myself, with my list including Ed Wood, Living In Oblivion, and today’s subject – The Prince Of Egypt – released by Dreamworks in 1998, which I without hesitation think of highly as one of the best animated films of the past quarter century.
It tells the story of Moses from the book of Exodus, a tale most will be at the very least aware of, told to us through a really engaging plot that’s pretty straightforward, so audiences both old and especially young; the latter being the demographic it’s targeted at; should find it easy to follow, but that’s not to say it’s basic and simplistic. On the contrary, this movie is packed with heaps of depth and detail.
Val Kilmer takes the helm of Moses, who is solid at first but quickly improves and becomes a brilliant character who goes through an arc of various stages, and Kilmer reflects each of these stages nicely; a rambunctious young man, a lost soul, a content shepherd, a leader of the people; his development is fascinating, and I’m with him all the way.
Ralph Fiennes as Ramses is very complex. Determined not to be the weak link, he shows a vast range of emotions in his internal struggle; stubbornness, ignorance, hunger for power, over confidence, disgust, vengeance; he just runs the gamut, and all of these elements really come across in both the drawings and Ralph Fiennes’ outstanding performance. It’s one of my favourite of his, and one he doesn’t get enough credit for, another damn fine notch in his storied career.
There’s such a strong conflict running through Moses and Ramses. Because they grew up as brothers, they share a fierce bond and that gets in the way of both men’s actions when they meet face to face, as they evidently both wish for the past, nostalgia running wild as they reminisce the old days. All this adds an extra layer to the situation, with regretful emotional attachment playing a big factor.
The supporting cast wonderful is too, including Michelle Pfieffer, Patrick Stewart, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldbum, Steve Martin and Martin Short. It’s a loaded ensemble, who all feel like meaningful choices with nobody seeming out of place.
One thing I like is that the film never feels too in your face preachy or shoved down your throat at all in regards to the religious content. It’s perfectly balanced, so no matter if you are a person of faith or not, it doesn’t overshadow anything. With or without religious context, the story is still good and that’s most important.
As for the animation? Good lord, this film is gorgeous. There’s such a vivid scale, where the team really take advantage of both 2D hand-drawn and 3D computer designs, blending them together to produce stunning set pieces featuring rich lighting, sharp shadows and intense colour contrast.
It’s just unbelievable, fitting for something of an epic calibre, and aside from a couple of moments where it can noticeably look a touch shabby, the character and camera movements are for the most part so slick and fluent.
The music is glorious too. The score composed by the one and only Han Zimmer is fittingly large, and the selection of songs are real good too, from the palpable Deliver Us to the utterly catchy Heaven’s Eyes.
The film contains so many sublime scenes that are pretty memorable, and quite a few especially stand out to me. For example, there’s the dream sequence, done in a traditional Egyptian artistic fashion, it’s very unique and looks spectacular, and they don’t do it simply to be stylish, it actually serves a purpose in showing Moses the truth about his past.
The burning bush moment is so magnetic and flooding with atmosphere that it makes the desired impact, selling it effectively through Moses’ reactions, and the accompanying music track is beautifully lush; in fact, one of my favourite instrumental pieces from a film ever.
The plagues scene is so grand and epic, but holy moly, the first born sequence is hands down one of the most fiercely spine chilling, goosebump-inducing things that I’ve ever witnessed in a film. It’s the moment that really sealed the deal for me and elevated this from really good to extraordinary, and it transitions seamlessly into When We Believe, an absolutely sweet number, and between these two moments, it’s 10-15 minutes of pure perfection.
Wow, so it’s obvious that I had a lot to say, and for good reason. Prince Of Egypt is a powerful experience, and if it’s something you’ve not watched as of yet, then you’re doing yourself a major injustice.
By a country mile, it’s best Dreamworks animated movie ever, In fact, to be brutally honest and perhaps controversial, I find it better than at least half or maybe even two thirds of all Disney animated features, and to further stoke fuel to that fire, I genuinely believe this stamps a more provoking impression than The Ten Commandments epic starring Charlton Heston, which is already an outstanding cinematic classic in its own right.
I have very little issue with Prince Of Egypt, and it’s a real shame it doesn’t get more recognition, because in my mind it is an underestimated masterpiece, One of the best of its kind to have emerge in the last few decades, and its impact will undoubtedly stay with me for decades to come.