Dreamworks Review: The Prince of Egypt

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My opinion right after watching the movie

Well, I do now understand why this film has the reputation it has; it is pretty good. The characters are likable, a kickass soundtrack, and a solid story, but…………….. It never takes a breather. It is pretty faithful to the biblical tale, and thank The Lord it has no pop-culture references And is easily the ballsiest movie in the canon.

Production

Jeffrey Katzenberg has always wanted to make an adaptation of The Ten Commandments and when he suggested to Michael Eisner, he refused, so when he created DreamWorks, it was the first (originally) on the list. It was created through the story process. scene by scene (I do not know much of this, so I will not be going in detail about it). Apparently, it helped them edit scenes and stuff before the actual production began. The voice actors recorded their lines by themselves (no other actors), and was supervised by one of the three directors. Since the film obviously takes things from the bibles, they decided to call in biblical and Muslim theologians, which they appreciated to keep it pretty accurate (unlike Pocahontas). When it came to the character designs, designers, they gave them a more realistic design, and stayed away from the Disney style. A group of artists,  art directors Kathy Altieri, Richard Chavez and Production Designer Darek Gogol went on a two-week trip to Egypt to study the architecture. The task of creating God’s voice was given to Lon Bender and the team working with the film’s music composer, Hans Zimmer. The challenge with that voice was to try to evolve it into something that had not been heard before.”, and they wanted the voice of God to sound like one that we hear in our heads. Katzenberg got composers and lyrics who worked for Disney Hanz Zimmer and Stephen Schwartz.

Story

The film opens to the song “Deliver Us”, which shows a genocide against Hebrew babies so their will not be a takeover, but Youcheved (Ofra Haza) put Moses in a basket and put it on a river, so his life can be saved.

deliver us

Miriam (Sandra Bullock, Eden Ridgel; child) follows her brother along the trails of the river, and watches him get taken by Queen Tuya (Helen Mirren), and hopes they meet again. The song is brilliant, and is a great intro. It reminds me of “The Bells of Notre Dame” from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

Anyways, twenty years later, Moses (Val Kilmer) and his foster brother Ramses (Ralph Fienns) are racing one another on horses, and lets just say the temple is turned upside down by it. I have to say that the relationship between Moses and Ramses is brilliant. They act like actual brothers, and their dialogue together is wonderful.

That si actually pretty humorous. One of the only jokes that made me laugh. Good job Dreamworks.... I know, it is still pathetic, but it is an improvement.
That is actually pretty humorous. One of the only jokes that made me laugh. Good job Dreamworks…. I know, it is still pathetic, but it is an improvement.

Their father the Phraroh Seti (Patrick Stewart) lectures them (more so Ramses) about the mess even though it was more Moses’ fault, since it was his idea. The Pharaoh is more mad at Ramses because he is going to fill in his shoes, and possibly because he is actually the Pharaoh’s son. This shows he has no expectations of Moses.

deliver us

After the brothers pull off another prank, Moses tells him that they are late to the banquet and that no one would notice, but when they show up, everyone notices and their mother tells Ramses that he was just named Prince Regent. The Pharaoh tells the priests to give them their present. They practically gave him Tzipporah (Michelle Pfieffer) as a concubine that they kidnapped. As she almost bites him, he gives her to Moses, who humiliates her.

She is extremely feisty and badass.
She is extremely feisty and badass.

He goes to her chambers to either apologize, have sex, or both, but he soon finds out that she has escaped. He follows her out of the town, and bumps into his long lost siblings. Miriam tries to tell him about his real family, but he does not listen as he thinks she is a crazy commoner. He leaves, but then remembers a song that she starts to sing.

I do not know how he would recognize this because he was an infant. Plot hole much...
I do not know how he would recognize this because he was an infant. Plot hole much…

That night, he has a nightmare about what happened with the Hebrew babies (again, don’t know how he would remember this), and wakes up to confront his father about it. He tells him that it was for the good of the land, which causes him to run off. The next morning, his mother comforts him and tells him that the gods brought him to them. He then goes to wander, and witnesses the Hebrews working like slaves to repair what the two broke. Ramses is in charge of all of this, and Moses asks the man to stop whipping the slave. He tries to pull him off, but the man falls to his death, causing Moses to run away in guilt and shame. Ramses tries to stop him, but it fails.

deliver us

This ends the first act. This is easily the most enjoyable act in the entire film. From here on out, it gets a lot more serious, and is all about plot,plot, plot. There is going to be no easy moments, and it gets pretty dark.

He travels many miles into the desert and gets rid of his ring and wig to remove any recollection of his life in the palace. He ends up buried in a desert storm. A passing camel bites his hair thinking it is grass and walks away. He sees that the camel has water, and follows it. He saves three little girls (Tzipporah’s sisters) from a group of bandits, and they take him to their village. He somehow ended up in a well, and the girls try to get him Out. Tzipporah sees them doing this and tries to help them, but drops Moses in the well after realizing who he is.

Like a pimp. I love this girl
Like a pimp. I love this girl

He gets saved and welcomed by her father (Danny Glover), and through a montage/song “The Heaven’s Eyes”, he assimilates in the Hebrew culture, becomes a shepherd and ends up marrying Tzipporah. It is a shame that they did not show more of this part in his life. It is a nice song though. In a morning, he is doing his job as a shepherd, but a sheep wanders into a cave, which leads Moses to God. It (I do not want to assume God as a he or she) tells Moses that it is his duty to free the Hebrews from slavery, and bestows his staff with some pf God’s power.  Both Moses and Tzipporah decide to go back to Egypt, and says goodbye to the Midians.

Even though I like her, ti would not have made any difference if she stayed. She does nothing for the rest of the film. Wasted opportunity with her character.
Even though I like her, it would not have made any difference if she stayed. She does nothing for the rest of the film. Wasted opportunity with her character.

So the married couple return to Egypt where they see that the conditions of the Hebrews are worse than ever. They go to now Pharaoh Ramses, and they greet one another with love. Ramses thinks he is there to return to palace life, but Moses asks him to get him to let the Hebrews go, which he ultimately refuses to do, since he does not want to be “the weak link”. While trying to convince his brother, he shows that he has the power of god through his staff, by turning it into a snake. The priests (Steve Martin and Martin Short) “do the same thing” by using imitations through the song “You’re Playing with the Big Boys Now”.

deliver us

Because of this, Ramses orders the work of the Hebrews to be doubled, which causes them to be mad at Moses. Even his own brother starts to attack him, since he never cared before. Miriam tells Aaron (Jeff Goldblum) he should be ashamed of himself and that Moses should not give up on them because God listens and responds to him.

deliver us

As Ramses’ float passes through the river, Moses goes up and yells at him to let his people go. Ramses still refuses and tells the guard to bring him to him, so he can get rid of this Hebrew nonsense, while the guards take out their guns. As they approach him, Moses stays exactly where he was and puts his staff in the water, turning it into blood. This is the first event in the Plagues of Egypt.

deliver us

For days, eight more of the Plagues of Egypt take place, wreaking havoc on Egypt and its people. Moses feels sickened to inflict such horrors on others, but he feels like it is his duty. The other Plagues of Egypt continues, which only anger the brothers more as the other will not give up and is willing to put so much pain to others.  This happens through the effective song “The Plagues”, which shows the animosity building between the two main characters.

Moses goes back to the palace to try to convince Ramses again, who is a miserable wreak. This scene shows how the brothers still care for one another and wishes things could be the way they once were despite all that has happened, but both are determined to get what they want. Ramses’ son says Moses is the one who started everything, causing Ramses to get angry. The next morning, Moses goes through the final Plague of Egypt to kill every first born child.

Poor thing. There are some serious stuff in the bible.
Poor thing. There are some serious stuff in the bible. No joke

Ramses tells Moses in sadness and hopelessness that the Hebrews are free, disgusted by him, which leads to the Academy Award winning “When You Believe”, which is about the happiness of the freedom of the Hebrews, as they march out of Egypt. This is a really touching scene and song, that shows the hope and thrill these people have with them. Unbeknownst to any of them, Ramses and his men followed them to surprise attack the Hebrews in anger and inability to accept defeat.

deliver us

Th Hebrews quickly run from them, but the Egyptians are quickly gaining speed. Moses uses his staff to block the Egyptians with fire, while parting the Red Sea to let the Hebrews through. Ramses’ men are quickly approaching, so Moses uses the staff to wash away all of the guards, but sparing Ramses’ life.

deliver us

They all embrace one another happily for making it through, but Moses is still saddened because he lost his brother in the process, saying “Goodbye Brother”. The large group of Hebrews settle down in the land, and happily ever after.

I am shocked at how close this is to the story in the Bible. Enjoy the good story form this company. It will not be as consistent in the future.
I am shocked at how close this is to the story in the Bible. Enjoy the good story from this company. It will not be as consistent in the future.

Characters

I like practically all of the characters in this movie, but…………. most of them are flat and a wasted opportunity. I say this because they focus so much on the story that most of the characters are mere plot points or serve no purpose, though they do have personality. Again, I know this has to do with because they kept it close to the bible.

He is a great protagonist. At first eh is carefree and adventurous but after finding out who he is and accidentally killing someone, his personality changes to a more serious and fetermined man. He is still a gool guy, but I wish he did not completely lose his personality before hand; it is like they are two different people. He is a developed character and does his job as the main character well.
He is a great protagonist. At first he is carefree and adventurous but after finding out who he is and accidentally killing someone, his personality changes to a more serious and determined man. He is still a good guy, but I wish he did not completely lose his personality before hand; it is like they are two different people. He is a developed character and does his job as the main character well.
Ramses
Ramses is the more serious and responsible one out of the two. He liked to have fun with Moses, but he had it harder because he is the future Pharaoh, and does not want to be the weak link. This carries over to when he actually is leader and will not let go of the Hebrews for this reason. He is the antagonist (because they stayed close to the bible), but his reasoning makes him a bit more sympathetic. He is a good character.
Tzipporah
From here on out, the characters are not as developed and are a wasted opportunity. Tzipporah is the biggest example of this. She is brave, determined, and extremely sassy, making her an interesting character, but she is only there to be the love interst and does not contribute to the plot much. It is probably again because they stayed close to the bible.
Miriam
Like Tzipporah, Miriam had unrealized potential. She is nice, kind, sympathetic, and hopeful, but like Tzipporah, is not in the film enough to make a big impact. She is a good supporting character and supports Moses well. It would have been nice if their relationship had a bit more focus.
Aaron
Aaron has even less of an impact than his sister. All we know about him is that he is Moses and Miriam’s older brother, and is not that sympathetic. Nothing else to say about him.
Pharaoh Seti
Pharaoh Seti is in the film to show the basis of Ramses’ character arc. He a strict, serious leader, but cares for his family. He dies after the first act.
Queen Tuya
Queen Tuya is extremely loving and supportive. She knew Moses was a Hebrew when she picked him up from the river and adopted him. Nothing else to say because she dies after the first act.

Animation

When it comes to the animation, there was not much information I could find. They did go to Egypt for sketches and inspiration,m and used a specifically realistic style for the characters, but that is it. The animation in this film is beautiful. The backgrounds, character movement and designs, are well done, and so are the special effects. What I do have to say is that there is an overuse of CGI in the film, which can get distracting.

Music

The music is a completely different topic. Stephen Schwartz and Hanz Zimmer were in charge of the soundtrack, and it is brilliant. They kept the Egyptian sound, but added their own twists to it. Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey sung the Oscar winning song “When You Believe” in the end credits, which peaked at #15 in the Billboard 100.

Another Disney technique. Using pop artists to sing songs from the film to use as a pop hit. At least it is good
Another Disney technique. Using pop artists to sing songs from the film to use as a pop hit. At least it is good

The soundtrack did well too, it reached #25 on the Billboard 200, and topped the Top Contemporary Christian chart. The music is extremely well-received.

There are many great songs in this soundtrack. The two most known “Deliver Us” and “When We Believe” have meaningful and bold lyrics with a memorable score; this is in the other songs as well, like “The Heaven’s Eyes” and “You’re Playing with the Bog Boys Now”, but they are not as memorable. All of these songs are unique and good in their own way.

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Reception at Release

The Prince of Egypt was released in December 18th, 1988 and was a bigger success than it’s predecessor. It was almost as popular as the films from the Disney Renaissance. It was a critical success, with people praising it’s animation (the mixing of traditional and CGI animation), the fun developed characters, great story, and pushing animated films to bigger boundaries with its adult tone. There was no complaints of it being inaccurate from what I have found. The soundtrack was successful and could compete with some from the Disney Renaissance. Some found that this film was trying to copy Disney and that the film took itself too seriously. The animation was really praised. In the box office,  it was second in the box office during its first week, and fell to fourth for the second and third weeks. It  grossed $101,413,188 domestically and $117,200,000 internationally, overall grossing $218,613,188, making it a financial success. It covered it’s $70 million budget. The movie was banned in certain places like the Maldives and Malaysia for the depiction in the media of Islamic prophets is forbidden in Islam, and being “insensitive for religious and moral reasons”.

This film did get many nominations; an Academy Award (Won another for Best Song), 4 Annies, and 2 Golden Globe Awards. The one that won was for “When You Believe”

Reception Today

Like Antz, the novelty for this film has worn off and is ignored by the company (I’ll discuss the reasoning for this and the immediate successors of this film soon), but this film is still remembered by the overall audience more than Antz and the other traditionally animated films. It is not considered a DreamWorks classic, being overshadowed by Shrek and the other CGI films. It is the most successful and liked traditionally animated DreamWorks film.

Final Score

Story= 9/10

Characters= 6/10

Music= 10/10

Animation= 8/10

= 33/40 = 83%

Next Time……

Review: August 7th, 2013
Review: August 7th, 2013
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18 thoughts on “Dreamworks Review: The Prince of Egypt

  1. Loving your articles and your growing style of reviewing!

    I haven’t seen this movie because my personal religious beliefs also say that God and prophets shouldn’t be portrayed or depicted in film. But from what clips/trailer I’ve seen from this, I can say that the animation does indeed look AMAZING!

    And I have yet to hear the soundtrack, but I’m hoping that all the praise that everyone is giving it doesn’t go to waste.

    1. I understand your reason for not watching it, and thanks for all of the support nonetheless, since I need all the help I can get.

      The soundtrack is the typical Egyptian style. The movie is not one of the best, but one of the better animated films. Thank you again

  2. Good review, I’m glad you liked the film. As I mentioned before, I consider this to be possibly the most underrated animated film of all time, it’s certainly the most underrated Dreamworks film. What I didn’t mention is that this is not only my favorite Dreamworks film, it’s my fourth favorite animated film. Period. Not Joking. The list goes Spirited Away, Up, Millennium Actress, Prince of Egypt. That’s right, I love this movie more than ANY Disney movie (though Beauty and the Beast isn’t far behind).

    So to touch on a few points that I think you misunderstood or glanced over. First of all, I don’t see a plot hole with either Moses remembering the song or the dream he has. It’s entirely possible to have residual memories from when you were an infant which you may not consciously remember but that you will recognize nonetheless. As for the dream, my interpretation is that God sent him the dream to show him what the Egyptians had done to the Hebrews. Second, I can’t believe you just glanced over the Burning Bush scene and the parting of the Red Sea. Those two scenes contain some of the most glorious animation I’ve ever seen, some of the most beautifully ethereal music, and my favorite interpretation of God in any form of media I’ve ever seen. You didn’t really touch on it so I’m not sure if you’re aware but what they did for God is have Val Kilmer (the voice of Moses) provide the most prominent voice of God, but they also had all the other cast remembers record the lines as well and layered their readings through Val Kilmer’s. The result is that the voice of God is primarily heard as Moses’ own voice but with the voices of everyone he has ever known as undertones. Absolutely brilliant. Third, while I do agree with you that the majority of the characters are fairly static, I think it is actually for the best. The movie knows that the focus of the story is on the relationship between Moses and Ramses and so that’s where almost all of our character development in the movie lies. Where I disagree with you is that I don’t consider the other characters flat. Not having an arc doesn’t necessarily make them flat or boring, in this case we have some rather wonderful vocal performances that give the supporting characters a great deal of likability and presence.

    So that’s my two cents about the film. I think it’s a brilliantly touching and moving retelling of the Biblical story of Moses and by far the best thing Dreamworks has ever done. I’ve seen it many times and I will see it many more.

    1. It could be possible that God made him remember the dream, but it seemed like he was about a month or 2 old, so it would not be likely. Those two scenes are beautiful with great animation (they actually needed CGI for them), but in other scenes, you could tell DreamWorks put it there so they would not have to draw it. I did hear about the voice of god, and how they had the other voice actors record it as well, but I was not aware that it was supposed to mean that each voice he ever heard was an undertone for familiarity, That is smart. I still like the majority of the characters, but they don’t really do much, but I know that was to stay close to the biblical tale.

      It is definitely the most creative and one of the best DreamWorks had. This is when the company actually had creativity and balls to make things more mature and adult. It is kind of sad what they’ve turned to; even though they have some gems. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  3. (Pssst — your article says that the movie was released in 1988. I think you meant 1998.)

    I had a low opinion of this movie before I saw it. Then — long story short — I was forced to watch it and I was captivated. I watch it every year, around Easter. Is it the best movie out there? No. Is it DreamWork’s best movie? . . . . maybe. It’s certainly the one of the best animated (if not THE best) with the best songs and most serious tone. (Although I’ve got a major soft spot for “Road to El Dorado” and a smaller one for “Sinbad.”)

  4. Spot on! It’s a great movie, but I wish they had done more especially with the female characters. I would have liked less dancing in the desert and more Miriam. And sometimes the movie goes so big that it becomes ridiculous. The biggest offense is in my eyes the whale. No, a giant wand of water isn’t enough, we just have to add a totally misplaced whale just to show how big it is.
    I think this is actually the best take on Moses story, mostly because it explores the fact that he has to go against his brother.

  5. This is a favorite of mine. I love the burning bush scene and while the sea is a little silly if you overthink it I still think it is beautiful. The only part I don’t like is the palace priests and their stupid song. I would give it an A

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