The Prince of Egypt Review
As the second film for DreamWorks Animation that is also one of their most underrated, The Prince of Egypt is a 1998 animated history film that follows the life of Moses. It is without a doubt one of the best films from the company in my opinion.
This is a technically brilliant film. Just marvelous. The animation has rarely been better from DreamWorks and it is a shame they rarely did hand-drawn as they were so good at it here. This is the kind of hand-drawn animation that is modern, but also very stylized and artistic. The design of the characters is so spectacular because it perfectly fits within this world and Egyptian folklore and mythology. I love how they animated the characters so realistically, they made them look real and depicted them as they were in those days, not pretty like Disney princesses or anything, but very grounded. That was an awesome approach. But the animation of the pictures, temples and towns is also so incredibly detailed and smooth. The color palette is so good here and I absolutely adored the use of CGI as well in that famous water-splitting sequence. It is done so well and so advanced for its time. If I have one minor problem, it is that the body language and movements are sometimes too theatrical, but overall the animation is splendid and one of the key elements to pinpoint when talking about how great this movie is.
But the direction is fine as well and the imagery is so incredibly fascinating. The voice cast, although consisting of too many celebrities, is amazing. They all gave respectable performances in their roles with Val Kilmer and Ralph Fiennes of course being the highlights. The tone is well handled, it is mature and very dramatic and I love how this movie is aimed more at adults, just like ‘Antz’ is. It is a shame that DreamWorks did not continue that practice later on. The movie is very serious with the action scenes being well executed. I also like the dialogue here as it is quite sophisticated and the approach is very smart and not one-sided, especially with the characters, but more on that later.
However, there is one aspect that is easily the best, even better than animation and it lifts the whole movie to greater heights. That is of course the soundtrack. It is so incredibly good. Not only the songs, but the score is very dramatic, powerful and above all memorable. It is also very in tune with its themes and historical period which I always appreciate a lot. But those songs are so good. Yes, there aren’t many particularly remarkable songs here, but the ones that are good are very memorable. Although the last song is the only real show-stopper here, Deliver Us is also good among others as it perfectly opens the movie and is so powerful. But I have to talk about When You Believe. It is a phenomenal song not just for its fantastic scene accompanying it, but also for its terrific lyrics and great vocals. I also like how catchy it is, but also very majestic as well. It is a perfect song for this movie and it is undoubtedly one of the best songs not from the Disney canon and a very much deserved Oscar winner.
It is a technically polished film, but there is just one issue I have nonetheless. That is the pacing. The Prince of Egypt too often feels rushed and even contrived at some points. That is due to its too short running time that is regular for animated features, but this story needed more time. Speaking of the story, some may complain that it has been done and seen a million times, but I appreciate the execution here for making it seem relevant again and somehow even fresh. I love how dramatic it is and always very involving. The dialogue helps it a lot, but overall how they told this famous story is great. The musical numbers come at just the right times and the action is never overwhelming which is awesome. But the movie opens marvelously and it of course closes in a spectacular fashion.
Now, the characters. The character development in The Prince of Egypt is remarkable, even outstanding in some respects. I thought Moses was very well done and although he changed too much at the half point, that was mainly due to that rushed pacing I talked about. But overall he was good. His brother on the other hand is a standout and one of the strongest points in the entire picture. What they did with Rameses is superb not only in how they made a bigger emphasis on the sibling relationship but how they never vilified him. As I said before, the character approach here is very sophisticated. It is never one-sided and never stupid. He is never a villain but rather a man who had a lot to risk and lose in order to protect his family, he was just a casualty and even a tragic figure. All of that would not work if they didn’t do their relationship right. But thankfully they did it wonderfully and the sequences between the two are the highlights, so heartbreaking. The other characters are unfortunately forgettable which is a shame but they rarely had the time and it is great that the main characters are terrific.
Comparing the film to ‘The Ten Commandments‘, I would say that it is inferior because that is a classic movie and way more powerful in scope and execution than this is. However, this is the second best retelling of this story and it is even better than the original in some aspects, especially the character approach and music. But I am so frustrated that this movie never received much recognition because it is one of the best Dreamworks animated films in my opinion and one of their most mature yet. They really started strong with this and ‘Antz‘ and they rarely made better movies.
The Prince of Egypt has absolutely fantastic animation that is so stylized and realistic, the beginning is so powerful and the ending is just spectacular, the dialogue is superb and the soundtrack is terrific with When You Believe being one of the best ever non-Disney songs. It is very rushed and should have been longer plus the supporting characters are forgettable, but the main two are so well developed with Rameses being the standout as he was portrayed in a grounded approach and never vilified. It is not only one of the most mature films from Dreamworks Animation, but also one of their best and most shamefully underrated.
My Rating – 4.5