The Prince of Egypt (1998)

(DISCLAIMER: All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

Writing reviews is only partly why I do this blog. The other part is getting to know you guys; finding out your likes and dislikes, your passions and the things that drive you crazy. Learning the things that make you all wonderful unique human beings and then selling that information on to advertisers. And you’re a pretty diverse bunch. In the regular cohort of commenters I’ve met evangelical Christians, Mormons, Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Catholics and a larger-than-I-would-have-thought-possible contingent of furries.
 
"Not my fault. I didn’t ask to be this gorgeous."

“Not my fault. I didn’t ask to be this gorgeous.”

 
And by and large we all tend to get along and I’d really like to keep it that way. Sooo…just to remind everyone, today’s movie is Prince of Egypt, a 1998 animated movie based on the story of Moses. It is not a sacred text, even though it’s narrative is based on one depicted in a sacred text. But it’s a movie. Got that? It’s just a movie. And if I make jokes about Moses, please remember that I’m mocking Moses the character played by Val Kilmer and not the actual prophet and oh God, please, please don’t kill me I have a wife and child who’d kinda miss me oh dear God I don’t want to die.
 
Ahem.
 
So, let’s get a little background. The story of Moses and the Israelites’ escape from Egypt is probably one of the most widely known stories in human history, and only partly because it’s a foundation text of the three big Abrahamic religions. It’s just a phenomenal story, epic, sweeping, full of spectacular miracles and human tragedy. So it’s no wonder that there have been cinematic adaptations of Exodus for almost as long as there’s been cinema. Some stories work best on the page, and then there are some that are just crying out to be translated into a visual medium. When you read about Moses parting the red sea, or the plagues, or the pillar of fire, your first thought is “Damn. I want to see that.”
 
Be careful what you wish for.

Preferably without having to look at any Middle Eastern people.

Prince of Egypt was the first traditional animated movie Dreamworks made back when they were still trying to do CGI and cel animation simultaneously. I’m actually not entirely sure whose idea the movie was. More than a few sources that I’ve read have said that this was a movie Katzenberg had been trying to get made for years at Disney and failing, but in the “making of” Katzenberg actually says that it was Stephen Spielberg who suggested doing an animated remake of The Ten Commandments. Possible that both men just had the same idea of course, but the way Katzenberg tells it he makes it sound like he was wandering in the desert looking for an idea and Spielberg spake unto him. Of course, after years of having his dream project shot down, Katzenberg might have just come up with the Spielberg story as a cover: “Oh, you think this is a bad idea for a movie? Well guess who came up with that idea. Stephen Goddamn Spielberg, that’s who.”

Realising that their new company’s reputation was riding on this movie, Katzenberg and Spielberg pulled out all the stops; A-list cast, a host of former Disney animators at the top of their game and songs and music by Academy/Tony/Grammy winner Stephen Schwartz and the FUCKING ZIM!!

"ZIIIIIIIIIM!"

“ZIIIIIIIIIM!”

This movie was Dreamwork’s coming out party, a clear warning to Disney that their reign as the undisputed kings of American animation was about to come to an end. But with all the time, money and A-list talent poured into this epic, did the final movie measure up to expectations? Let’s take a look.

So the movie begins with a disclaimer asking everyone to just take a deep breath.

"Please, please dont kill us."

“Please, please don’t kill us.”

The movie begins in Ancient Egypt where the air is riven with the lashing of whips and the unmistakable sound of kvetching. As Pharaoh’s troops enter the slave quarters and kill every Hebrew infant they find, Yocheved (Ofra Haza) and her two children Aaron and Miriam hurriedly make their way to the banks of the Nile with a wicker basket. Inside is baby Moses, and Yocheved sings Deliver Us, a hauntingly beautiful lullaby, before setting the basket afloat on the river.

And every goddamn frame of this film is a work of art. Every. Goddamn. Frame.

And every goddamn frame of this film is a work of art.  Every. Goddamn. Frame.

The character designs for this movie are just masterful, hitting just the right balance between realistic and cartoony. This is what Pocahontas was aiming for and failed spectacularly. It’s also, I’m just going to get this out of the way now, the most beautiful film ever created by an American animation studio.

"WHAT?!"

“WHAT?!”

Sorry, not sorry, Walt. Nothing in the Disney canon matches the visuals on display here. Simply in terms of the beauty of the animation and the backgrounds, you have to go to Japan to find anything that exceeds it. I’d give this 25/20 if I could.

The basket drifts down the river, almost getting eaten by hippos, crocodiles and several trillion bacteria before washing up in the private bathing area of Queen Tuya (Helen Mirren, playing a queen of all things). Tuya opens the basket and Moses lays on the charm like a little baby Joe Tribiani.

"How you doin?"

“How you doin’?”

Unable to resist that much sheer charisma, Tuya adopts Moses right there and then. So Moses has gone from slave to third in line to the throne of the greatest kingdom on earth in one morning. Say what you will about Ancient Egypt, but that’s some impressive social mobility they got going there. I also have to make mention of this movie’s fantastic facial animations, like the epic stink-eye Tuya gives her handmaidens when they look shocked at her picking up this baby despite not even knowing where it’s been.

"Bitch you got something to say to me?"

“Bitch, you got something to say to me?”

Fast-forward eighteen years or so and Moses (Val Kilmer) is now a Prince of Egypt…

"Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh..."

“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh…”

…who spends his days drag-racing in his chariot with his older brother Rameses (Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes and I swear to almighty YHWH that is his real name). Things get out of hand when the two brothers end of trashing the temple and are brought before Pharoah Seti who is voiced by Patrick Stewart. Hear that Disney? When Dreamworks got Patrick Stewart they had him voicing the PHAROAH OF ANCIENT EGYPT. That is an appropriate use of Patrick Stewart.

This is not.

This? This is not.

Also, it’s been a few paragraphs since I reminded everyone so…

Every goddamn frame.

Every goddamn frame.

Moving on, Pharoah chews out Rameses and basically calls him a disgrace to the dynasty, even though Moses tries to take the blame for what happened (quite rightly). This scene establishes something quite interesting; Moses is very much the favoured son in Seti’s eyes, despite the fact that he’s not his biological child. Now, it might just be that Seti feels he has to be stricter with Rameses knowing that he’ll be the one to succeed him on the throne, but we get two scenes where Seti lets his regal guard down and acts genuinely paternal towards Moses in a way he never does towards Rameses. And this is all in service of the story. Seti shows his love to Moses, a love that Moses then has to reject when he discovers his true origins. Rameses’, on the other hand, spends the entire film trying to win the love and approval of his father. And it really just feels like Seti doesn’t think Rameses is worthy of the throne. And it’s true, Moses does seem to be the more confident and well-rounded of the two, which is doubly impressive when you remember that his mother was also his grand-aunt.

No. Seriously. Look it up. Yocheved banged her nephew.

Moses tells Set that Ramses should be given a chance to prove himself, so at a banquet later that night the pharaoh declares Ramses Prince Regent and puts him in charge of rebuilding the temple he ruined. Ramses then gives Moses a green scarab ring and declares him Chief Architect and I’m sure all the other architects are just thrilled.
Architect

“Gosh, I’m such a dummy. I spent seven years training when I could have just been found by the Boss’ wife in a puddle.”

The temple priests then present their new boss with a “gift”, a Midianite woman named Tzipporah (Michelle Pfeiffer) that they found wandering in the desert. Sensing a real “you come near me, I cut you” vibe from Tzipporah, Ramses instead gives her to Moses and orders her taken to his chambers and yikes this is a sketchy scene. Tzipporah has been kidnapped from her home and given as a sex slave to the local royals and the whole scene is played waaaay to light and jokey for my taste. This is pretty fucked up. Fortunately, it doesn’t last long. When Moses goes to his chamber, he finds that Tzipporah has escaped and left one of the guards bound and gagged in his room.
 
And she got his little dogs, too!

And his little dogs, too!

Moses chases her but when the guards are about to discover her he instead distracts them, telling them that there’s a man bound and gagged in his room and they need to go deal with that.
 
“Huh. Really? That’s usually more of a “Ramses” problem.”

“Huh. Really? That’s usually more of a “Ramses” problem.”

 
Moses follows Tzipporah to the slave quarters where he sees her taking water from two Hebrews, Miriam (voiced by Sandra Bullock) and Aaron (voiced by Jeff…uh,uh…Goldblum?). Now, one of my big gripes with DreamWorks is casting for star power rather than voice acting ability and Prince of Egypt is no exception to this. Sandra Bullock’s not terrible as Miriam but it’s kind of ridiculous to cast such a big name for such a small part and really distracting. Anyway, Miriam recognises Moses and thinks that he’s finally come home and Moses becomes furious at the suggestion that he was born a Hebrew. Aaron steps in and tries to pull the old “she thinks the monkey is the sultan” trick by claiming that Miriam is crazy but she refuses to be silent and yells that she is his sister and that he is the son of Yocheved.
 
"Also our Mom banged her nephew! I know its a lot to take in but you have a right to know!"

“Also our Mom banged her nephew! I know it’s a lot to take in but you have a right to know!”

 
Furious, Moses says that they’ve gone and done it now and that he’s going to ensure that they’re punished for their insolence. But then Miriam sings a reprise of Deliver Us which Moses recognises.
 
“My mind…flooding with…baby memories!”

“My mind…flooding with…baby memories!”

He runs back to the palace singing All I Ever Wanted, where Moses sings about how being a Prince of Egypt was all he ever you get the idea. It’s a great song, let down only slightly by the fact that Amick Byram, Moses’ singing voice, is just a little too polished for my liking. He just sounds like he’s trying to sound good more than carry the emotion of the song across.
 
Anyway, Moses falls asleep in front of a wall of hieroglyphs and has a vision where he sees Seti butchering the Hebrew children and Yocheved placing him in the basket. Since this is something that we, the audience, have already seen, the movie avoids repetition by having the scene done in the style of ancient Egyptian art, where a two-dimensional Yocheved avoids the Egyptians by hiding behind a pillar or running along the ceiling. It’s a beautiful, mesmerising sequence, even if the CGI is starting to show its age a little. I also love how the animators stayed true to the hierarchical proportion of Egyptian art, where the size of the human figures is in direct relation to their social status (Seti is gargantuan, whereas Yocheved and the other Hebrews are tiny, ant-like figures).
 
Shocked, Moses wakes up and realises that everything Miriam told him was true.
 
"Her own nephew?!?!"

“Her own nephew?!?!”

Moses confronts Seti who tries to explain that the Hebrews were becoming too numerous and posed a threat to his reign.
This huge mural

“I never wanted you to find out. In retrospect, commissioning this huge mural was a mistake. I see that now.”

Seti embraces Moses and says “Oh my son. They were only slaves.” And Moses recoils in horror, and flees into the night. The next day, Ramses begins work on repairing the temple while Moses wanders amongst the slaves in a daze. The direction of this scene is fantastic. Before now, the slaves have been almost entirely invisible and our view of Egypt has been of the massive statues and temples, the gorgeous alabaster columns and all the wealth and opulence of the kingdom. Now though, like Moses, we are confronted with the system that makes all this possible.
 
On the other hand, how else are they going to get this stadium ready for the World Cup?

On the other hand, how else are they going to get this stadium ready for the World Cup?

 
The slavery, brutality, blood, mud and filth are in the foreground whereas the pristine white temple is far in the distance. When Ramses speaks to Moses, he (and we, the audience) can hardly hear him over the cracking of whips and the screams of the Hebrews. Moses’ eyes and ears have now been opened and he can never see or hear the world again as he once did. Finally, Moses snaps when he sees an overseer whipping an elderly man and pushes him off some scaffolding to his death.
 Shit just got real
 
Moses flees the city and Ramses tries to stop him, saying that sweeping one little murder under the rug ain’t no thang. But Moses tells Ramses that he can’t go back, and tells him to ask “the man who I once called father” why that is. Moses then flees into the desert and is it time? I think it’s time.
Every

EVERY

GODDAMN

GODDAMN

FRAME.

FRAME.

"No words. Shouda sent a poet."

“No words. Shouda sent a poet.”

"Jodie, what the hell time do you call this?"

“Jodie, what the hell time do you call this?”

"Sorry Mouse. I was in Dublin on the 23rd and I am STILL hammered."

“Sorry Mouse. I was in Dublin on the 23rd and I am STILL hammered.”

One of the influences on the animators was French engraver Gustav Doré, my absolute favourite artist to the point where I got one of his pieces tattooed on my back.
Six hours. Cried like an infant.

Six hours. Cried like an infant.

 
After days of wandering in the desert and near death, Moses finally reaches a watering hole where he sees three girls being harassed by some brigands. He helps them out and then passes out and falls down a well so the girls pull him out with the help of their big sister, who turns out to be Tzipporah. Tzipporah is the daughter of Jethro (Danny Glover), high priest of Midian. The Midianites accept Moses as one of their own and over a montage set to Through Heaven’s Eyes, we see Moses remake himself as a new man, going from Prince of Egypt to humble shepherd.
Hes lambing. Lambing in the name of the Lord.

He’s lambing. Lambing in the name of the Lord.

Over the montage, Moses and Tzipporah grow closer until finally he asks her a very important question.
"So...were absolutely sure youre not my aunt?" "Heh. Youre funny." "Hahahaha...answer the question."

“So…we’re absolutely sure you’re not my aunt?”
“Heh. You’re funny.”
“Hahahaha…answer the question.”

Batman and Catwoman are married and it seems like everything’s comin’ up Mosehouse. But then, while searching for a lost sheep in the mountains, Moses comes across a burning bush who tells him to take off his shoes because he stands on hallowed ground.
 
“I don’t want to be “that bush”, but I just hoovered in here and your shoes are literally encased in sheep faeces."

“I don’t want to be “that bush”, but I just hoovered in here and your shoes are literally encased in sheep faeces.”

 
The bush is voiced by Val Kilmer because the filmmakers reasoned that Moses would hear God speaking in his own voice (coincidentally, Val Kilmer also thinks that he hears the voice of God whenever he speaks). Moses asks the bush who he is and the bush simply replies “I AM THAT I AM”.
 
“Sorry, I’m not trying to be a dick. It’s just that you would literally go insane if I told you my real name.”

“AND WHAT I AM NEEDS NO EXCUSES”

 
Yahweh tells Moses that he has heard his people’s cries and that he has to back to Egypt to free the Hebrews and so Moses and Tzipporah haul camel back to the Middle Kingdom.
 
Under Ramses, the plight of the Hebrews has grown even worse as he tries to build a kingdom whose glories eclipse those of his father.
 
 
Wouldn’t be the last time Daddy issues caused problems in that part of the world.

Wouldn’t be the last time Daddy issues caused problems in that part of the world.

 
Ramses is at first delighted to see Moses who he thinks has come back to take his place by his side. Instead, Moses tells Ramses to let his people go and that if he doesn’t, God’s going to start trouble. And you don’t want that. Dude’s got a temper. To show Ramses that he’s legit, Moses transforms his staff into a cobra and waaaaait a minute.
 
Fire? Snakes?
 
Are we…are we sure that Moses is working for God? ‘Cos those are two things I normally associate with…the Red Rooster. No, no. That’s ridiculous. Because then God leads them out of Egypt and everything turns out great for the Jews OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!
 
“Mouse? Please stop trying to blow up six millennia of Judeo-Christian tradition with your insane fan theories.”

“Mouse? Please stop trying to blow up six millennia of Judeo-Christian tradition with your insane fan theories.”

“BUT IT ALL MAKES SENSE!!!”

“BUT IT ALL MAKES SENSE!!!”

 
Okay, well Ramses is not impressed and commands his two court magicians, Hotep and Huy, (Steve Martin and Martin Short) to show him the power of their gods, which they do in a villain song called Playing with the Big Boys Now. Interestingly, the movie makes clear that Huy and Hotep are frauds who are just using Vegas stage magic and passing it off as divine power. But in Exodus, the magicians are the real deal, they actually do have supernatural powers, it’s just that their power is weaker than God’s. Ramses speaks with Moses privately asks him what this is all really about. And again, the movie shows us how Ramses and Moses now live in different worlds. Moses sees this…
Down
And Ramses sees this…
up
When Moses persists, Ramses becomes angry and coldly says “I do not know this God.” He then orders the slaves’ workload doubled.
 
Aaron and the other Hebrews are a little, uh, a little, uh annoyed? But Moses gathers them together at the side of the Nile as Pharaoh’s barge goes past and calls on Ramses to let his people go. Ramses orders his guards to seize Moses who then raises his staff and turns the entire river to blood.
 
One of the things I love about this movie is the little details. For example, in Exodus it’s made clear that the ten plagues only effect the Egyptians and not the Israelites. Now, the movie doesn’t have time to make this explicit but it does show it in other ways.
 
Look at the part of the river around where Moses is standing. Neat, right?

Look at the part of the river around where Moses is standing. Neat, right?

 
Pharaoh orders his magicians to repeat the trick and they whip up a bowl ofKool-Aid and Pharaoh agrees to pretend that that’s just as impressive and sails off, presumably until the river scabs over and he has to get out and walk. Aaron complains that nothing’s changed and that Pharaoh still has power over them and Moses replies “Yes, Aaron, it’s true. Pharaoh has the power. He can take away your food, your home, your freedom.”
Clearly he hasn’t been listening to Mel Gibson. Then again, no one should.

Clearly he hasn’t been listening to Mel Gibson. Then again, no one should.

He then goes on to say that Pharaoh can take away their lives, their children, their dogs, their loincloths, their little hats and can even strap a slave on each foot and force them to crawl around like human roller-skates. But he can never take their faith.

“Uh huh. Uh huh. And…would some kind of exchange be possible?”

“Uh huh. Uh huh. And…would some kind of exchange be possible?”

And then, in the words of the great prophet Wayne Johnson, he who was known unto the people as “The Rock”, it is time to layeth the smacketh down.

My favourite song in the whole movie, hands down, is The Plagues. It’s a dark, ominous, chant steeped in religious symbolism and themes of obsession and Stephen Schwartz wrote this, really?
The devil, you say.

The devil, you say.

It starts off quiet and sinister with the appearance of the second plague, the frogs.
Frogs
Rupert
Then, as the plagues increase in number and severity the chorus gets more furiously insistent and the lyrics drive home just what Pharaoh is up against: “I send a pestilence and plagues/ Upon your cattle, on your sheep
Upon your oxen in your field/Into your dreams, into your sleep/Until you break, until you yield”.
 
And the beat just hammers it relentlessly. This is the power of God as something terrifying, unstoppable, merciless. Meanwhile Moses begs Ramses to see reason as he watches his beloved former childhood home succumb to fire, disease and darkness. And underneath it all, there’s the chorus, never letting up. More plagues. More pain.
Until you break. Until you yield.
 
But Ramses won’t give in. Because like Moses, he too has all-powerful father who he can’t forsake. The two men are more alike than they realise, something the movie makes visually explicit.
 
“Joker’s just a mad dog. I want who ever let him off the chain.”

“Joker’s just a mad dog. I want who ever let him off the chain.”

At last, with Egypt shrouded in darkness “so thick that it could be felt” (mmmmph there’s some fantastic lines in Exodus) Moses visits Ramses to try and get him to see reason. He finds his brother sulking in the darkened, nearly deserted palace. Ramses remarks that Moses has always brought him trouble, and recalls a time when he goaded Ramses into switching around the heads of the various Egyptian gods. This caused the priests to lose their shit and  fast for two weeks.
 
Although between you can me, some of the priests could use a little fasting. You get me?

Although between you can me, some of the priests could use a little fasting. You get me?

Moses tells Ramses that he needs to let the Israelites go, like, now. Those other plagues? Those were just God’s way of introducing himself. That was a friendly handshake. Now, the real pain starts. But Ramses replies “I will not be dictated to. I will not be threatened. I am the morning and the evening star.” (mmmmph there’s some fantastic lines in this movie). Ramses then says that his old man had the right idea how to deal with uppity Hebrews and says that it’s time the crocodiles got another feeding. Realising that he’s been left with no choice, Moses returns to the slave quarters and tells the Hebrews to daub lamb’s blood over their doors. He says that the angel of death will visit Egypt but, if he sees the blood on their doors, he will pass over.
"Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh..."

“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh…”

 
So now we get one of the eeriest and most beautiful sequences of the whole movie where the angel of death, represented as a glowing white vapour, enters the homes of the Egyptians and kills the first born of every household, including Ramses’ own son. Moses visits his brother again as he prepares his son for burial. Ramses refuses to even look at Moses, and simply whispers “Your people have my permission to go.”
Until you break. Until you yield.

Until you break.
Until you yield.

Outside, Moses finally buckles under the weight of all that has happened and collapses in tears. This, for me, is the single most vital scene in the entire movie. I’m not going to get into whether Moses’ actions (or God’s) were justifiable. I do think that, when you’re trying to free an entire race of people from slavery and the threat of genocide, very little can be considered morally out of bounds. And I do think that the blame for this rests very much on Ramses’ shoulders. But there still has to be recognition that what has been done to the Egyptians is heinous in the extreme. Any hint of triumphalism on Moses’ part would utterly ruin the character and destroy any sympathy the audience has for him (or should, at least). By having this scene, we at least get to see the effect that this has on him. That, as a good and decent man, he is crushed with the guilt of what he has had to do in service of his people and his God.
Moses wept
And so, Moses at last leads his people out of Egypt while Miriam sings When You Believe, which won Schwartz an Oscar. The adult contemporary version by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey is far too saccharine for my taste, but the one in the movie is actually genuinely uplifting. And there’s one bit, after the big swell where it goes quiet except for a small child singing a Hebrew prayer of thanks…onions. Shut up. Funnily enough, the song contains the line “There can be miracles, when you believe” which was originally “You can do miracles, when you believe” until the coterie of religious scholars that DreamWorks hired to consult on the film politely but firmly told them that, unless your name is God?
No. No you cannot.
 
So the Hebrews reach the red sea and everyone is looking at Moses all “so what’s we do now?”. Then, they hear a horn being blown and see Pharaoh’s army on the mountain getting ready to charge.
 
Army
 
"Want me to take care of this?"

“Want me to take care of this?”

“Oh cmon, thats extreme even for me!"

“Oh c’mon, that’s extreme even for me!”

A pillar of fire then descends from heaven and blocks the way of the Pharaoh’s army and God tells Moses to raise his staff over the water and the Red Sea parts. It’s a stunning sequence, but again, one of the greatest things about the movie is the little details, like the wry smile Aaron gives the other Israelites before they go through the parted sea. It’s just a nice “Yeah, I know. This looks safe, right?” expression.
 
“See the way half the sea goes one side, and uh, uh, half the sea goes the other side? That’s chaos theory.”

“See the way half the sea goes one side, and uh, uh, half the sea goes the other side? That’s chaos theory.”

Another lovely detail is how, when the Hebrews walk along the sea-bed, they have to blindfold their livestock. I just love that the film-makers actually took the time to think about little details like that, it makes the whole movie so much richer.
The pillar of fire goes out and Ramses, now in full on “too stupid to live” mode, drives his army into the red sea after Moses.
 
“Okay guys? I know I do a lot of stuff that seems morally questionable from a modern perspective…but c’mon. Try and tell me this guy didn’t have this comin’.”

“Okay guys? I know I do a lot of stuff that seems morally questionable from a modern perspective…but c’mon. This guy had it comin’.”

God causes the red sea to flood again and Pharaoh’s army is wiped out with the exception of Ramses, who’s left howling on the banks of the red sea like a wounded animal.
 
Moses continues on his way, and there is much joy and singing and dancing amongst the children of Israel.
 
"Tsk. Dance party ending. Typical DreamWorks."

“Tsk. Dance party ending. Typical DreamWorks.”

And so the movies ends with Moses returning from Mount Sinai with the two stone tables and cuts to credits right before things get really, really awkward.
 
Murder a few thousand

“Okay guys, item one. One God and only one God. He was very clear on this; no idols, no statues and especially no golden cows…ARE YOU FRUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!”

***

The Prince of Egypt is a movie that, like Hunchback of Notre Dame, I didn’t really like as a kid but has grown and grown in my estimation in the years since. Visually, it’s damn near flawless. As a movie, a personal story of two brothers, it’s fantastic. It’s only the second movie DreamWorks ever made and seventeen years later they still haven’t topped it. Not only one of the greatest animated features ever made, but in the very top echelons of Biblical movies, right up there with The Gospel According to Saint Matthew and Ben Hur. If you need any further proof, even my wife (who tends to react to displays of overt religiosity like the little girl in The Exorcist) adores this film. If you haven’t seen it, see it. If you have, see it again. If you’re watching it right now, hook up a second TV so you can watch it twice simultaneously.

 

Scoring
 
Animation: 20/20
 
The most beautiful traditional animated feature to come out of the states.
 
Leads: 18/20
 
Val Kilmer gives a subdued, but very human portrayal of Moses.
 
Villain: 19/20
 
An absolutely brilliant, complex villain, tragic and human but capable of terrible evil.
 
Supporting Characters: 18/20
 
Yeah. Yeah. God is Good. Yeah. Yeah. God is great.
 
Music: 19/20
 
Not quite on par with their work for Hunchback of Notre Dame and Lion King, but still one the best soundtracks in either Stephen Schwartz’s or Hans  Zimmer’s discography.
 
FINAL SCORE: 94%
 
NEXT UPDATE: 11 June 2015
 
NEXT TIME: June is animé month here on Unshaved Mouse, and we’re going back to Studio Ghibli with From Up on Poppy Hill.

Neil Sharpson aka the Unshaved Mouse is a playwright, blogger and comic book writer based in Dublin. The blog updates every second Thursday.

 

 

139 comments

  1. ‘“Okay guys, item one. One God and only one God. He was very clear on this; no idols, no statues and especially no golden cows…ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!”’

    I pretty much laughed my ass out of this because I only have a few chapters left until I finish the Torah and good god this describes everything. Also laughed my ass out at the Exodus God And Kings joke. I think that movie’s casting choices can be described by exactly one quote: ‘If you are from Africa, why are you white?’

    Yeah, I love this movie, probably in my Top 10. …that being said, I wonder what would happen if they made a movie based on the Infant Gospel of Thomas (look it up).

    1. I have a sneaking suspicion that the casting directors of Exodus: Gods and Kings were secretly in cahoots with the casting directors of The Last Airbender. They have secret underground meetings with banners covered in swastikas and phrases like “COLORED PEOPLE HAVE NO PLACE IN AMERICAN CINEMA!!!”

      1. I’m afraid they’ve not only affected the world of cinema.

        *glares at Iggy Azalea* YOU! Who hired you?! I spend my entire life defending pop music but you ruin all of my arguments just from your existence! Why?! *snaps fingers, Icky Australia vanishes and I cry*

      2. Swastikas? Yeesh, did these guys even try to picture where Hollywood would be without all its Jewish talent?

        As for Clair’s question, I think Charlize Theron and Freddy Mercury might like to have a word with you. I’d say the real question is “if you’re from Africa prior to European/African interactions, why are you white”?

        Though the answer is still “I’ve honestly got no business”.

      3. ^ Ever heard of Mean Girls?

        Also, I am aware of the existance of white people in other regions of the world. I was being sarcastic. …correct me, I’m not a big Queen fan but wasn’t Freddy Indian?

      4. Actually, kanahamonako, I knew someone who worked on The Last Airbender’s production, and the way the film wound up with its cast is rather hilarious.

        See, what happened was that Nicola Peltz’s dad was a billionaire who was owed a favor by some studio executive, so she got cast in the role of Katara. All those interviews Shyamalan gave about how amazing her audition tape was? That was just him drumming up publicity. Her audition tape apparently sucked. Anyway, since she got cast, the reasoning went that someone who looked like her had to play her brother Sokka, which is how Jackson Rathbone got cast.

        Pretty much the only actor that actually auditioned well was Noah Ranger for Aang, but he spends a lot of the movie talking to CGI effects that aren’t there. That’s hard for an adult actor, let alone a kid in his first role.

        At some point, someone in production realized that with Aaron Carter cast as Zuko, “Oh, shit. We got four white kids in lead roles in a Pan Asian-themed movie.” Carter left, so somebody decided to cast Dev Patel because he was hot off Slumdog Millionaire’s success. That was important because they needed some kind of big-name actor, and Carter was the biggest one they had. As a result, the Fire Nation was tweaked to resemble Dev Patel, which is how the film wound up with a “white kids vs. evil brown people” aesthetic, unfortunately.

        From all accounts, my friend told me Shyamalan apparently fought passionately with executives over the film. He had actually watched the TV show and wrote the initial script, but apparently, there was so much executive meddling, Shyamalan just eventually gave up and collected his paycheck.

      5. Yeah, she made an entire post about it in the AvatarSpirit forum back in 2014 that pretty much crashed the site. Her original posts were removed due to the traffic, but various sites did copy what she said about the production. Here’s one link:

        http://www.mnightfans.com/the-true-story-of-the-last-airbender-revealed/#sthash.SUoqoMAe.dpbs

        Just ignore the Shyamalan fanboy-ing commentary and read the quoted segment. She gives a pretty good summation of what went wrong with production.

    2. Speaking of which, have you heard about Mulan being slated for a live action remake? My reaction was pretty much ‘God, no’ (Disney’s getting pretty desperate in my opinion) but I think they’ll be smart enough not to cast white people. Though, with my rotten luck they’ll cast Korean and Japanese actors with about 5% Chinese blood in them from their grandaunt. (That being said, will not complain if George Takei gets a cameo)

      1. It’s the one with the clay sparrows and Jesus cursing all his playmates to death. Basically ‘The Gospel According To WBC’.

      2. No dragons, but it honestly is the Gospel According to WBC.

        ‘V. 1 And Joseph called the young child apart and admonished him, saying: Wherefore doest thou such things, that these suffer and hate us and persecute us? But Jesus said: I know that these thy words are not thine: nevertheless for thy sake I will hold my peace: but they shall bear their punishment. And straightway they that accused him were smitten with blindness.’

        ‘VIII. 1 And as the Jews were counselling Zacchaeus, the young child laughed greatly and said: Now let those bear fruit that were barren (Gr. that are thine) and let them see that were blind in heart. I am come from above that I may curse them, and call them to the things that are above, even as he commanded which hath sent me for your sakes. 2 And when the young child ceased speaking, immediately all they were made whole which had come under his curse. And no man after that durst provoke him, lest he should curse him, and he should be maimed.’

        (Note: Anybody who doesn’t like the usage of queerphobic slurs even in accident should probably turn away…though, I’m pretty sure this was unintentional, but just in case.)

        XVI. 1 And Joseph sent his son James to bind fuel and carry it into his house. And the young child Jesus also followed him. And as James was gathering of faggots, a viper bit the hand of James.

        …seriously.

      3. Ha! In Ireland, in certain parts of the country people of certain generations would still use “faggot” for a piece of wood. There’s also an expression “acting the faggot” which just means “acting the fool” (older Irish people did not know any homophobic slurs because there were no gay people in Ireland). I just remember one time I was staying with my seventy year old grand aunt in rural Kerry (I was around eight) and I was running around the kitchen like a lunatic. She jokingly told me tho stop acting the faggot at which point I stopped, and very seriously told her that she was not allowed call me that.

      4. The sudden transformation of what used to be completly normal words in the English language into slurs amuses me.

        Like, whenever people are complaining about Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent in Mary Poppins I immediately go ‘My cockney accent is fine enough thank you very much, oh, wait’ (I kid).

      5. *facepalm*

        That might be the second most horrifying politically correct insult to call a lesbian next to ‘cocksucker.’

    3. Ah, no, I think white people can do rap well (see:Eminem, though I don’t approve of some of his songs) . I’ll just put it like this:

      Reasons I Don’t Feel Guilty About George Harrison Being My Favourite Artist

      -Used Indian culture respectfully
      -Did not use fake Indian accent while doing Eastern style music
      -Actually did some research and talked with people who originated the music

      Reasons I Don’t Feel Guilty About Iggy Azalea Being My Least Favourite Artist

      -See above; reverse it all.
      -Also, Twitter messages with some…unfortunate wording that she happened to just randomly delete after the media refound them again. Without apologizing,

      Then again, I think most of her critics in the media are pretty racist and hypocritical themselves *cough* Azaelia Banks *cough*

      1. I can see how she’s talented, but as far as I’m aware she’s had some pretty transphobic lyrics in the past, so in terms of black artists I prefer Rihanna. (Kill me.)

  2. Excellent review Mouse, as per usual. I myself also adore this movie, having grown up with it and all. It’s absolutely stunning from a visual, storytelling, and artistic perspective. By far the best version of the Book of Exodus put to film in my humble opinion. 😊

  3. I am not a religious person, yet not only is The Prince of Egypt my favorite Dreamworks movie, it is my favorite animated musical and favorite American traditionally-animated movie. Yes, I like this movie better than any of Disney’s animated musicals, and any non-CGI movie (other than Whisper of the Heart, which is why I made the distinction of American, and I still prefer Wreck-It Ralph and Up to either).

    This is another movie I never watched until I decided to watch more movies, and I was just blown away by everything. The songs, the animation, the masterful way the story was told, it was all great. I don’t know if I could point out anything you didn’t already mention, so to sum up what I’m saying, I’ll just say “Yes” to this whole review.

  4. I’ve never seen this movie before as my personal religious beliefs are that I don’t believe God or prophets should be depicted in films/TV/plays, etc. But from the screenshots I’ve seen of this movie over the years, I do feel it’s probably one of the best, if not the best, animation out there.

  5. Ohhh, finally, someone who appreciates the beauty of the animation, and all those little touches (my personal favorite is when Moses looks at Queen Tuya after embarassing Tzipporah and she looks away, disappointed, and the light flashes off her gold headdress. Just. Perfection.) and who also gets chills listening to The Plagues!

    I watch this every year, usually the night before Easter. I think it’s easily DreamWorks’s best film, ever. And I have no doubt that in another reality — maybe the one where we got Kingdom of the Sun instead of Emperor’s New Groove — this was the start of their overthrowing Disney.

  6. What does everyone think of the prequel, “Joseph, King of Dreams”?
    My only real problem is not giving the priests supernatural powers, as that changes God vs. Satan into God vs. man. It also encourages the belief that the Egyptians were not helped by aliens. The aliens were demons in disguise.
    The animation is overly realistic in my taste, but this is still in my top ten list for best animation in a film (American Tail is my number 1). This is easily my favorite Dreamworks movie, and one of my favorite animated films that is neither Bluth, Disney, or Pixar.

    1. To be fair, Satan is scarcely mentioned in the Old Testament. Also, I think most Jews today think both good and evil come from God, though the evil will always be used for good (a growning number of Christians are starting to believe this too)

      1. Tvtropes of all places has a very, very good breakdown of how God is depicted in the major faiths. Be warned, some of the concepts are pretty head-trippy.

      2. I’ve actually read most of those articles, I like TV Tropes a lot. If you’re a Unitarian Universalist, almost nothing is trippy, haha. (Except for Satanism, and I mean real actual Satanism. I still don’t get the moral principles.)

      3. Are they going to list ‘What Happened To The Mouse’ as an example by referring to your Black Cauldron review?

    2. Joseph, King of Dreams was also a great movie. It kind of made me sad that Dreamworks didn’t make any more adaptions of religious stories, since they’ve shown that they can make great ones.

    3. “Joseph, king of dreams” is of course not as strong as “Prince of Egypt”. But as the story about Joseph might be my favorite from the entire Old Testament, I still have to like it very much.

    4. “What does everyone think of the prequel, “Joseph, King of Dreams”?”

      It was okay. It definitely doesn’t reach the power and weight of TPoE but I could watch it once a decade and not really complain.

  7. You made me remember two things about this movie: How much I loved the music, and how breath taking the animation was. One of my favorite scenes has always been when the sea crashes down onto the Egyptians and you just see how helpless and desolate it all is for them…call me morbid but I liked that even as a kid XD and the Plagues has always been my favorite song, too! I love how this movie portrays the brotherly relationship between Moses and Ramses and think that also is a huge reason why it’s a cut above the rest of the Moses cinamatics I’ve seen. I didn’t realize there were so many stars in the voice cast! I feel like even the weakest performances worked in this, considering how heavy the subject matter is. Aaaand yeah, love every song in this movie, have had a lot of these songs on repeat at one time or another in my life.

    Honestly, I’m not a huge Dreamworks fan. This movie is the only one that I adore from their filmography, and I think rightly so: But being Christian may have something to do with that, who knows.

    Anyways, yay anime month! I can’t wait – I use your reviews to decide which Studio Ghibli movies to watch, unfortunately am a newly introduced fan to that Studio’s works.

    Great review, as always Mouse!

    1. Which Studio Ghibli movies to watch: all of them except Pom Poko. That one is bad. The others all range from “very good” to “possibly not just the best animated film of all time but the best film of all time, period”

      1. Oh it’s memorable. It just sucks. One of the characters literally turns to the camera at the end and directly explains the film’s message to the audience

      2. Eh. Pom Poko was funny, I found if you took it as more of a comedy you could get more enjoyment out of it. Tales from Earthsea was by far the worst for me. Confusing plot and unlikable characters, the dregs of humankind, all mixed together in a shallow, drunken stupor.

        That one was for you Mouse 😉

    2. Personally, when I went through and watched all the Ghibli movies (and Disney and Dreamworks), I watched them in release order.

      1. Important question: did you manage to see The Castle of Cagliostro and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind while you watch the Ghibli films? Those are Miyazaki’s first two films and while neither is actually a Ghibli film, they’re both great. Cagliostro in particular is an amazingly great adventure flick, supposedly it partially inspired the creation of Indiana Jones (thought that may be an apocryphal story)

      1. I will scream with absolute joy if the second movie is anything by Satoshi Kon, Mamoru Hosoda, or Makoto Shinkai

      2. Yes, my marathon started with Cagliostro and Nausicaa. Cagliostro was Miyazaki’s first movie, so I figured I should watch it anyway, despite not being familiar with Lupin III beforehand. Nausicaa can be seen more as a proper start for Studio Ghibli IMO, and the DVD has their logo so why not. Also, I feel it’s a better movie than Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

      3. I don’t like Nausicaa a ton, it’s good but Princess Mononoke is practically a remake that improves upon it in every way. Castle in the Sky is one of my all time favorites

  8. OK, I have to point out this detail. Mouse, you hit the nail on the head when you said that this movie has so many perfect little details. This is my favorite: http://imgur.com/biURX45. It’s just this wonderful moment that perfectly conveys the miracle that has occurred, a reminder of the power God possesses. I get goosebumps every time (also at the burning bush scene which has just an incredible score to it and beautiful animation to boot).

    There’s just so much about this movie I love. All of the songs are fantastic (Through Heaven’s Eyes is probably my personal favorite), as you said the animation is just perfection, and I love how Moses and Rameses relationship as brothers is made the focus of the film, it humanizes everything in the best possible way.

    On a personal note, this movie has actually shaped my faith. You touched on it briefly in your review, the fact that Val Kilmer voices both God and Moses because the filmmakers rationalized that Moses would hear God’s voice as his own. What you didn’t mention is that it wasn’t solely Kilmer’s voice, they actually had almost all of the actors involved in the film record those lines and then mixed them together, with Kilmer’s being the most prominent. I think this is probably the most accurate depiction of the voice of God in history, we are all made in God’s image, thus a part of God is in all of us. So when we hear him speak, we hear ourselves, and we also hear the voices of those we know and love. That is just beautiful.

    Thanks so much for reviewing this one Mouse. Looking forward to the Poppy Hill review, it’s lesser Ghibli but Ghibli’s standards are so impossibly high that basically means it’s only “very good” instead of “absolute masterpiece”

  9. This movie. Oh my God this movie.

    Strangely enough, though, in the Bible Aaron did pretty much all the talking for Moses, and because of this movie I can’t stop thinking of conversations between Pharaoh and Jeff Goldblum.

    1. I totally agree with you in saying every frame of this film is a piece of artwork. My personal favorite is this gem.

      Whoever even visualized this moment was a genius.

    2. Yes, I wondered at the representation of Moses being an eloquent speaker when he was said to have a stutter caused by a burning coal offered to him as a choice as a boy in the Egyptian court. A dish of gold and a dish of burning coal which G-d manipulated for him to take hold of the coal, rather than the gold to fool the court into thinking that he couldn’t be a threat. But that doesn’t seem to be popular a look for Moses, people don’t seem to want to see that

  10. What can I say that you haven’t said already, Mouse? This movie is EXCELLENT!!!! I freaking love it!

    I think the different point of view they took with this movie, by focusing on the relationship between Moses and Ramses (both fantastically voiced by Val Kilmer and Ralph Fiennes, respectively), was very clever and different from any other interpretation of the story up to that point. The animation is gorgeous. The music is beautiful. The characters are great. And the story is just timeless. I really wish Dreamworks would make more movies like this.

    Roger Ebert said in his review of this movie that if Cecil B. de Mille, the director of The Ten Commandments, had seen The Prince of Egypt, “…he would have gone back to the drawing board.” Roger just might have been right. But we’ll never know for sure.

    P.S. Love your ending caption. You totally nailed it!!!

    1. As far as I know they used the brothers angle in Heston’s version too. I do regret that I didn’t spend more time on Fiennes’ and Kilmer’s performance. They were both amazing.

      1. Well, if they did, it’s not NEARLY as focused on as it is in PoE. In Nostalgia Critic’s Old vs New of Ten Commandments vs PoE, he points this out and also mentions that if you were never told that Moses and Ramses grew up together and had fun together, you never would have guessed it. I could be wrong, seeing as I haven’t seen Ten Commandments in a LONG time, but from what I’ve seen and heard, this is true.

  11. I love this film so much. This is what Pocahontas and Hunchback should’ve been. This film is rid of any Disney touches and it works.
    The Plagues is just. Ugh. I constantly repeated that song over and over again and its just ugh.
    Everything in this film is so perfect just yes.
    But I disagree on it having the best 2D animation. Sleeping Beauty takes that for me, but just my opinion. However, I must say the character designs are so on point. Just yes. I jeep on recommending this to people, but mist are turned off my the religious undertones. Such a shame too.

  12. Amazing review as always. I remember watching this movie, but not too much often. I shoud watch it again. I do still remember that I loved the Deliver Us song, especially the ominous part.

  13. Oh man. I may have only seen the movie once, a long time ago, at my Jewish cousins’ house, but I must have been in about five school choirs that did the ‘When You Believe’ song.

    It’s a pity that adapting these ancient stories riles people up so much, because you’re absolutely right: all kinds of mythologies (PLEASEDON’TKILLME) are just packed with these awesome narratives. And they can be so interesting, not just within themselves but as historical artefacts. To use a few examples from a dead religion – Ancient Sumerian – their creation story involves a warrior god building the world from the body of a monster (the sea from her blood, the rocks from her bones etc), and they had a flood myth that coincided with the flooding of the Tigris river. Regardless of what you believe, or what the original message was, it can be really fascinating to see into the minds of ancient people like that.

      1. I wouldn’t doubt it for a second. There’s a First Australians (I think that’s the current PC term) story of a flood which could be the oldest one, although no one’s sure if it refers to a flood or an actual change in the sea level. As in, caused by a natural period of global warming between ice ages. At the risk of stepping on Creationist toes (as if I haven’t already), there are 60,000 year-old human fossils on these very old rocks of ours. Combine that with the outrageously long oral history of Indigenous people and it’s not impossible that such a gradual change might make it into at least one nation’s mythology.

    1. “To use a few examples from a dead religion – Ancient Sumerian – their creation story involves a warrior god building the world from the body of a monster (the sea from her blood, the rocks from her bones etc”
      That is very similar to the Old Norse creation myth: Oden and his brothers killed the giant Ymer and made the Earth from his dead body in the exact same way.

      “and they had a flood myth that coincided with the flooding of the Tigris river.”
      And that one is of course similar to the Biblical story about Noah.

  14. “Moses asks the bush who he is and the bush simply replies ‘I AM THAT I AM’.”

    This is actually a very theologically interesting response, and one of the seven names of God. This represents the self-dependent nature of God that exists within Jewish theology. In Judaism, God is uncreated and isn’t dependent upon anything, be it a concept, being, or whatever, which the simple phrase “I AM THAT I AM” (or, really, “I AM WHO I AM” in more modern English. “I AM THAT I AM” is the translation of the King James Bible and is a touch archaic) captures this wonderfully as it defines God purely based upon themself. God is God and only God. God cannot be defined by anything else. This ends up being the foundation of, for example, the negative theology of Maimonodes in which God has no attributes and, as such, we cannot speak of anything about God except for what God is not. And this is, essentially, what God is saying when he says “I AM WHO I AM”.

    The theological implications of this are truly fascinating, so I think it’s really fitting that the filmmakers chose to give God this bit of dialogue from Exodus in this scene rather than making their own dialogue for it.

  15. I remember seeing this in theaters. This movie is so beautiful and meaningful, it made me cry at some parts. We had a tape years ago, though we’re still trying to re-build our movie library in dvd form now. So we don’t have it on dvd…yet. We have the soundtrack, however, and I can actually sing some of the songs from memory, they’re just so well-done and convey the message so well.

    The song “Heaven’s Eyes” conveys the heart of Christian beliefs, that you can’t look at the world around you with human eyes, or live in it exactly the same way as everyone else. You have to let the Holy Spirit enter your heart, your life, and your soul, and let you see things the way you were always meant to, and so many people don’t understand how to do that. Some people don’t want to either, or look at it with mistrust and hatred.

    It’s interesting to note that this story borrowed somewhat from the original “Ten Commandments” movie, in saying that Moses was raised as an Egyptian prince. According to the Book of Exodus, he was actually adopted by Pharaoh’s DAUGHTER, and was raised as a ward of the palace, which was very different from a crown prince. In fact, the moment the princess adopted him, she sent for a Hebrew wet nurse to come help with baby Moses. I think he might have had some noble titles, but for the most part, he was just somebody special that everyone in the palace took care of as he grew up. Moses also was probably not the only one. The fact that he could read and write was extremely helpful later on in life. They made the changes in his status in the movie to make it more dramatic.

    Another important thing that they don’t point out in the movies is, Moses was 80 years old when he came back to Egypt and demanded Pharaoh let the Hebrews go. But of course, nobody wants to see a wizened old man doing hero’s work (unless you’re Gandalf), so they always make Moses a little younger, like 30-40-ish.

    You mentioned the little details, Mouse. Did you notice that the snake made from Moses’ staff ate the 2 the Pharaoh’s sorcerers made? They always note that in the story. I’m not sure Pharaoh’s magicians really had power. I don’t remember ever seeing that in the Bible anywhere. They just said Pharaoh’s magicians did this or that to try and make Moses look stupid. The tricks quit working after a while, you notice. It’s believed by many Christians (I don’t know about the other religions out there) that any supernatural power in this world that is not orchestrated by God, is usually the work of your “Red Rooster,” if that’s what you like to call him.

    Moses could have never done even half the supernatural stuff on his own. In fact, it wasn’t even him doing it. It was all God, Moses was just the conduit He was acting through. And sometimes, Moses didn’t always cooperate. As you saw with him collapsing by the stairs and crying, it really hurt him to see the Egyptians being punished by the plagues. But the thing is, any who had ever owned a Hebrew slave or had done harm towards them deserved it. You don’t mess with God’s people and get away with it. The smart Egyptians never owned slaves, and a few joined the Hebrews when they left Egypt.

    There was actually more to the story than even that, but I guess Dreamworks just wanted to do the first 3/4 of Exodus part and leave it at that.

    1. “It’s believed by many Christians (I don’t know about the other religions out there) that any supernatural power in this world that is not orchestrated by God, is usually the work of your “Red Rooster”
      Interestingly, the catholic church quickly denied the existence of (ungodly) magic in the early Middle-Age. The ecumenical council of Paderborn (785 DC) declared that belief in wizardy was nothing but superstition and that the killing of a so-called witch was to be condemned as murder.

      To go further on the Witch hunt subject, here’s a little essay:

      Things started to change in the 13th century, with the rise of heresy and inquisition. Inquisitors started arresting people accused of sorcery. But the inquisitors didn’t believe in magic (at least most of them didn’t). To them, sorcery meant worshipping the Devil (which applied to the heretics who didn’t believed “properly”) and magic was nothing but fairytales invented by pagans to impress the naive. According to the inquisition, being an heretic or a devil-worshipper didn’t provide magic powers. They may have been untolerant, ruthless and destroyed thousands of lives but they were learned, damn it!

      But obscurantism grew stronger in the 14th century as Europe was striken by the Black Plague and wars. The “middle class” of the ecclesiastical establishment started believing in a conspiracy led by the forces of evil. It culminated with the writting of “the Hammer of Witches” by (poorly educated) inquisitor Heinrich Kramer who (unlike the upper hierarchy) believed in sorcery (and, most of all, was horribly sexist, even for his time!). The catholic church considered his book nonsensical garbage and declared it heretical in 1490 ! But the “Hammer of Witches” gave meaning to the little folk’s misery (miscarriage? bad crops? plague? It’s sorcery of course!) and thus met a big success. Prominents citizens and nobles also apreciated it: it gave them an opportunity to kill under accusations of witchcraft for personal reasons.
      But the upperclass never appreciates when people murder without their approval. Therefore, witch trials became officially illegal in France and England by 1625 (took some time though). Of all people, it was the Spanish Inquisition who was first to forbid witch hunts, in 1610 (though religious heresy was still a crime).

      1. ‘Things started to change in the 13th century,’

        …hold on, wasn’t Inferno published in the 13th century, if I’m not mistaken? Huh.

        Also, most Liberal Christians and Reformed Jews don’t believe in Satan anymore. As a UU who identifies as agonistic but still follows Liberal Christian principles, I don’t think he does, either.

      2. I never said it was okay to go witch-hunting. In fact, most of the people accused and executed were normal, God-fearing people. Either that, or they were simply odd people who lived on the fringes of society and knew stuff about herbs and healing the townsfolk didn’t know. Once in a while, you’d get somebody who did practice witchcraft, or even an occultist, but for the most part, the victims were harmless.

        The problem was, people in ancient times were uneducated, and being manipulated by a corrupt Catholic church that had chosen to seek power over seeking God. People’s lives were also very boring, and true to any time period, many were sick enough to get a thrill out of watching men and women they didn’t like get hanged or burned at the stake after fixed trials. Sometimes the trials were even used as veiled revenge against the accused over a matter that had nothing to do with religion. What these people did was murder, and that’s NOT okay.

        The fact that nobody can tell the difference between something that happend 400

      3. Ah, Mouse, I must stress Liberal Christians are not the same with Christians with a liberal viewpoint on politics, though one will obviously intersect with the other. Liberal Christians don’t believe in hell or Satan, some of them don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus and some also identify with another religion too. I still follow some of what most LCs believe in but otherwise I’m pretty much agonistic, though I do hope God exists.

        Also, Lady Aquanine, I am aware of the witch hunts you refer to as eleven year old me had to assure their parents that they weren’t Satanic for liking Harry Potter (…hold on, I just realized that I’m an agonistic now and I don’t even like Harry Potter all that much anymore). The murder of overall innocent people for amusement and fear still happens today, you know. And, let’s be honest here, it’s certainly one step up from murder but people telling you your beliefs were orchestrated by demons (Wiccians suffer from this A LOT) isn’t very nice, either, and that still happens a lot in the 21st century. If I told people I was a UU they would think I was in a cult!

    2. The one thing that bothers me about the idea that the Egyptians had it coming was one that I hadn’t even heard of until recently: apparently there were slaves in the Egyptian empire at the time that weren’t Hebrew. According to the bible, those slaves were punished as well and lost their children during the 10th plague. They were barely less oppressed than the Hebrews, and in any case, didn’t have any personal choice whether the Hebrews were free or not, yet they fell victim to the plague either way. And yeah they didn’t protect themselves with the blood ritual, but would they even have owned livestock to do so with?

      I guess this is consistent with the rest of the bible, which doesn’t seem to be against slavery in general (or even mistreatment of slaves), only the Israelites being enslaved. I won’t get too far into everything, but I’ve never been able to look at this story the same way after learning that detail.

      1. Funny how all the little details distract people from the main lesson of the story. I remember reading in the message boards for that horrible Noah movie, how somebody felt sorry for all the “innocent children” that were drowned in the flood God brought upon the world. They really didn’t get the point of the story at all. In fact, it seemed like they deliberately ignored it.

  16. I adore this movie, it might even be one of my favourite movies in general. Apart from the spectacular animation, i also like the way that, although it’s telling a religious story, it never feels preachy or overly encouraging of one religion. It seems more interested in, as you said, exploring the origin of different religions in a way that is acessible for all.

  17. I actually re-watched this movie in preparation for your review, since I hadn’t seen it in a LONG time. And after seeing it, I was thinking, ZOMG BEST MOVIE EVER SO AWESOME 10/10 BEST MOVIE EVER!!!!!
    Ahem, sorry, my inner fanboy can be a bit crazy. So, as you can tell, I love this movie. One of the best animated films I’ve ever seen. It’s also a favorite of my sister’s, so I can thank her for making me want to watch it again.
    So, a Studio Ghibli film is next, eh? Well, I’ve got to watch more of their stuff. The only Studio Ghibli movie I’ve watched is Spirited Away, and it makes me wanna see more from them.

      1. Your screencap that says “And what i am needs no excuses” is a lyric from the musical ‘LA Cage Aux Folles’.

  18. Hi Mouse! I adore this movie, and I’m so happy you liked it. Did you know that Ofra Haza recorded “Deliver Us” in 17 languages? Also, another example of the animators doing their research – Ramses’s armor in the Red Sea scene is the exact armor Ramses II is depicted wearing into battle on his war chariot!

  19. Oh yes, I just love this movie! (And I promise that I will watch it again next Easter.) But to be honest, I used to dislike that they made Moses and Ramses brothers (they were never depicted as such in the Bible), because that only made the story too sad. But now, I like how that gives the story a stronger emotional punch.

  20. “Yocheved (Ofra Haza) and her two children Aaron and Miriam hurriedly make their way to the banks of the Nile with a wicker basket.”
    One of my favorite moments in the movie – this is another small moment, but to me it says so much – is during this song, when Yocheved and Miriam stop to hide behind a wall and Aaron starts to go further, and Yocheved catches him and pulls him back, and they give us half a second of Aaron clinging to her, and her clutching him back. I like it because it didn’t have to be there; Aaron isn’t our main character and in any other movie they probably wouldn’t have bothered. But running throughout the movie is the theme that You Are Not The Only One Who Matters. Yocheved is making one mad desperate attempt to save her baby, the main character, the Chosen One, but she has other children to protect too, and protect them she will. YANTOOWM is something that Moses learns over the course of the movie, as he grows out of only caring about himself and his immediate family to freeing an entire nation. I like that they established this theme so early on, so subtly, and in such a touching way.

    “This scene establishes something quite interesting; Moses is very much the favoured son in Seti’s eyes, despite the fact that he’s not his biological child. Now, it might just be that Seti feels he has to be stricter with Rameses knowing that he’ll be the one to succeed him on the throne…”
    In light of this, I’m surprised that you didn’t touch on the scene immediately after, when Rameses complains to Moses that “[Father] practically accused me of bringing down the dynasty!” And Moses ribs on him a little…”There go the pyramids! Statues cracking and tumbling over, the Nile drying up…single-handedly you will bring the greatest nation on earth to ruin.” Because you will notice that is EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED, and it can be argued that if Seti had not been so harsh with Rameses, Rameses might not have been so driven to surpass him, and might have been more receptive to Moses’s pleas to let the Hebrews go.

    “On the other hand, how else are they going to get this stadium ready for the World Cup?”
    It’s funny because it’s true; that’s also why it’s sad.

    “Jethro (Danny Glover)”
    More like Jethro (FUCKING BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL!!!!!11111poneoneone and oh yeah, I guess he has a speaking voice, too). Are you familar with the musical Ragtime? Between Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, and Audra McDonald there are multiple eargasms to be had. And hey, Ragtime is just as soul-punchy as TPoE!

    “the filmmakers reasoned that Moses would hear God speaking in his own voice”
    I do like the inclusion of the female echo in God’s voice, though. I headcanon it as a nod to the idea of the Shekinah in Jewish mysticism; the Shekinah being an aspect of God that follows and sustains the Hebrew people throughout their travels and tribulations. The yin to God’s yang, if you will. (Study enough mysticism and you see where the New Age thought that “all religions are fundamentally the same” comes from, and honestly there IS compelling evidence for that credo. Just not in the “unsophisticated excuse for cultural appropriation” way that it’s often used. A great deal of my teachers at seminaries were mystics of one stripe or another, so that’s how I’m familiar; the closest I’ve gotten to mysticism is reading cards and a few personal experiences.)

    “Interestingly, the movie makes clear that Huy and Hotep are frauds who are just using Vegas stage magic and passing it off as divine power. But in Exodus, the magicians are the real deal, they actually do have supernatural powers, it’s just that their power is weaker than God’s.”
    Henotheism (the belief in multiple gods, but devotion to only one in particular) really isn’t a widespread belief anymore, even among polytheists, and since Judaism and Christianity are strictly monotheistic nowadays and Jews and Christians were the primary audience for this movie, I can see why they decided to go with “the priests are really charlatans!” angle. But yeah, the ancient Israelites absolutely believed in the existence of multiple gods; it was just that they devoted themselves to El (hence “You shall have no other gods before me” and not “There are no other gods, stop making up stories”). It took hundreds of years of theological development for the Jews to switch from henotheism to monotheism, and Christianity took off from there.

    “My favourite song in the whole movie, hands down, is The Plagues.”
    My old theatre troupe did Disney/Dreamworks/Don Bluth-themed cabarets, and in the last one I had the extreme pleasure to choreograph/direct “The Plagues”, and to dance as the lead Plague as well. I wish I had the recording of it readily available, because I would love to share it and get your opinion…alas :\

    “Meanwhile Moses begs Ramses to see reason as he watches his beloved former childhood home succumb to fire, disease and darkness.”
    The other favorite part of the movie is during this song, when the two children are huddled against the wall watching the adults around them panic. It gets more gut-wrenching when you consider that the boy-child probably died in the last plague. It upset me too much to think about as a child, so I always headcanoned them as being adopted by a Hebrew family before the last plague and protected by the Lamb’s Blood.

    The last plague itself is also something that it so hard to accept from a modern theological standpoint. I mean, yes, the Exodus story probably never happened in real life, or if it did, it was something much different (I remember watching a History Channel special that cast it as a small rebellion and an escape through the marshlands, rather than across the sea). But suffering and the punishment of innocents happens every day, and it raises so many questions. Who does God care about, if any of us? Why do bad things happen to good people? In this particular instance, did those Egyptians deserve to die? They never did anything overtly bad that we saw, but at the same time, they were absolutely complicit in the enslavement of an entire race. What does this say about us, in the modern times, when our own great civilizations are built and continue to be built on the exploitation of the poor and marginalized? When bad things happen to us, it is wrong to rail at God for “punishing the innocent” when we’ve done bad things, even if we weren’t even aware of doing it? (I’m beginning to sound like a Within Temptation album.) The movie doesn’t attempt to answer these questions, which I think is wise and fair and honest. The answers are beyond the scope of not only an animated musical, but the whole of human understanding. But I really appreciate that this movie brought the questions up, regardless.

    The whole things reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, from the novel Silence by Endo Shusaku: “Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another, and to be quite ignorant of the wounds he has left behind.”

    “And I do think that the blame for this rests very much on Ramses’ shoulders.”
    I also think it was wise for the movie to do this, rather than have God hardening Pharoah’s heart as in Exodus. My Religions of the Western World prof postulated that the concept of “free will” wasn’t really part of Jewish theology at the time, hence they would see nothing wrong with God playing games with Pharoah’s decision-making skills. Whereas we’re horrified it now.

    (I think it’s worth mentioning at this point that there are some strains of Judaism that understand the entire Egypt story to be metaphorical, and do not celebrate the actual killing of Egyptian children.)

    “And there’s one bit, after the big swell where it goes quiet except for a small child singing a Hebrew prayer of thanks”
    I’ve visited our local Conservative synagogue and was quite pleased to find the text for this particular prayer in their hymnbook-equivalent (in this place it was more like a hymn pamphlet). On a related note, I am embarrassingly into the song, to the point where playing and singing it in public feels like I’m violating my own privacy. There is also the fact that I work in a predominantly Hasidic Jewish neighborhood, and when the songs comes up on my music player at work I sorta feel like I’m encroaching on their territory. Being appropriative, if you will.

    (Also worth noting: the Japanese translation of the song is quite beautiful, especially since they leave the Hebrew part as it is.)

    “See the way half the sea goes one side, and uh, uh, half the sea goes the other side? That’s chaos theory.”
    I s2g, Jeff Goldblum must have said “Must go faster” while crossing the Red Sea and they edited it out in post.

  21. Aaaah yeah, I love this movie so much. It really needs to be talked about more. Probably my favorite thing about it is that whether you’re actively religious or agnostic/atheist or not of a religion related to this story, it’s still a wonderful, beautiful film. The music is my favorite part. I’ve lost track of all the times I’ve heard someone sing “When you Believe” for some church activity, and yes, “The Plauges” gives me goosebumps, but my favorite is “Through Heaven’s Eyes”. Probably because MoTab did a really awesome cover of it a while back. I’ll have to find it and link it back here.

  22. I think you’re ok. After that fiasco when you said you preferred Fantasia 2000 to the original, I’m pretty sure you can trust us. …I hope. But in the case that I was wrong, I should probably get my “Tá mé an Unshaved Mouse” posters drawn up.

    Ha ha, the ol’ biblical whitewashing. I was actually thinking about how I noticed the Exodus is the story that seems to get whitewashed the least. Possibly because the it takes place in Egypt so people wouldn’t exactly be expecting white characters anyway? Not that I haven’t seen that done though; I was surprised how long it took for me to find the white Pharaoh in The Greatest Story Ever Told’s version of the Exodus weird, but the most recent time I saw it, it seemed utterly bizarre.

    *spit take* Ofra Haza was in this?!? That singer I randomly found a tape of that my mom, sister and dad’s old funny friend really got into? I had no idea I’d heard her before, wow. Guess if the casting crew wanted Hebrew celebrities there was a small enough pool to choose from she’d show up. Also, dang. Guess karma bit Walt in the keister after that stunt to sabotage Bluth. Totally one-upped by Red Skull, cue finger-poking and steam-mimicking hissing noises.

    1. Actually, you’d say “Is mise an” rather than “Ta me” (can’t do the fadas on my phone). You’d use “Ta me” to describe something you were doing or feeling “I am happy, I am going” but to actually define yourself “I am the Unshaved Mouse/I am the king of this land” it’s “Is mise”.

  23. Wow. Nice winning the queen over, Moses. And to think, the guy’s not even descended from Joe! Just his massacring half brother. And I’m not sure how often you were told the story of the Exodus as a kid, but I knew it really well by the time Prince of Egypt came out (our family celebrated Passover), and the one part that really bugged me and seemed to be the root of a lot of deviations I found annoying was that Miriam didn’t introduce the queen to Yocheved when she found Moses. In the original story, Moses knew his mother and from what I remember, got his sympathy towards the Israelites from her. The removal of this relationship added this huge extra subplot of Moses’ confusion of his birth and the idea that the Hebrews were people that deserved liberation became something he had to discover. I guess the writers thought it made a good story, but I found it to be needless extra drama that took over the plot too much. Then again, I watched this knowing the story, so it’s probably akin to something that would bug just you but not me watching Peter Pan, but still, it’s a wonder you didn’t mention that change at all, being such a big one. Though funnily enough, you seemed to notice a change I missed: I never heard of the Egyptian magicians who did actual magic. I guess it makes sense, the sect I learned the story in had the view that nobody had supernatural powers but God and anyone he decided to share his with. I guess they’d sweep that bit under the rug, seeing as it would step on that. Religion can be confusing sometimes.

    Ha ha, I liked the Aladdin reference. And the World Cup jab, oh my goodness. Dark, but with such effective punch. Man. Also, that Bush joke was funny, but the first leader that made me think of was Rehoboam. Guess the Hebrews must have forgotten what it was like being under royal rule pretty quickly. Demand a king, then a few generations later, it’s back pushing bricks. Poor working class Jews.

  24. Ok, the plague scene. All right, so everyone remembers that recent Lorax movie, right? Or did a lot of you deliberately miss or forget it? Fine, but for anyone who knows what I’m talking about, watching the Plague montage as a kid was kind of like watching Onceler’s How Bad Can I Be song for fans of the original Lorax book or earlier adaptation. I know this is a complete bias, but I remember being really bugged that the progression of plagues I’d firmly etched into my memory and could repeat forwards and back was glossed over into one song where each plague was pretty much represented by a blink-and-you-miss-it moment. Yeah, I’m nitpicking, but hey, considering the third plague, that might or might not be appropriate at this point (I was always told those were gnats).

    Ha ha, love the bit at the end with the Golden Calf reference. Juuust what I was thinking at that part as well. So maybe I ought to give this one another shot. Seems to be one of those acquired-taste ones. Maybe if I can get my inner Nit to shut up, I might enjoy it.

  25. I never realised who Stephen Schwartz was until this article. He’s the bloody guy who wrote the songs in wicked. No wonder I like that show so much. I love hunchback and Prince of Egypt.

    And I think I heard that the voice of God was all the cast, even Voldemort, but Batman had the lead voice that you can hear.

  26. I haven’t seen this movie in a LOOOONG while. I went to a Catholic school during my grade school years, and I saw this once or twice in school during that time. I remember liking it okay, I remember “Deliver Us” and “Playing With the Big Boys” songs, and I remember the Passover Part and that awesome visual with the red and blue faces of Ramses and Moses. I also vaguely remember Aaron in it, and……that’s about it. It’s been too long, I’ve got to see this again next Easter. (Hey, it’s much more compact than the near 4 hours of The Ten Commandments.)

  27. Okay, Mouse?

    I went ahead and searched on TV Tropes. You do have a page, only it was pretty badly formatted and written by someone who didn’t have English for a first language, so I went in and cleaned it up and added a bunch more tropes. Hope you like the little write-up I did of you.

    Everyone else, feel free to pitch in!

  28. “One of the influences on the animators was French engraver Gustav Doré, my absolute favourite artist to the point where I got one of his pieces tattooed on my back.” Wow, six hours of such intense work etched into your back and now it’s lost under so much fur. I’d probably shave there to still try and show off such a tiny piece of art off.

    Oh yeah I probably should say something about the review. Good job. It’s one of my favorite movies.

  29. I dunno, I always found Michelle Pfeiffer way more out of place as Tzipporah than Sandra Bullock was as Miriam… though that might be owing to my mom being a total stan for Pfeiffer’s work. I saw more Batman and Dangerous Minds than any kid should have before I ever saw The Prince of Egypt; so I was always hearing Catwoman whenever Tzipporah opened her mouth and it still weirds me out when I watch it. I think a deeper voice would have been a better fit anyway. Dreamworks should have used Catherine Zeta-Jones to voice her instead of using her for Marina in Sinbad (which I hope you’ll be reviewing? That and El Dorado? Is it too much to hope for?)

    1. I suppose Tzipporah plays a much bigger role so the big name felt justified. I don’t have Sinbad or El Dorado on the schedule right now but there will probably be a movie deathmatch before the end of the year so feel free to nominate it. Love El Dorado.

      1. meh, I always though Miriam was more important to the story than Tzipporah, and definitely had a more developed arc I mean I love Tzipporah and all (man, she does not fuck around) but her role seems to get lost as a lot of the functions of a love interest are swallowed up by the other main characters: Miriam provides most of Moses’ moral/emotional support (this guy is always five seconds from quitting in this movie and Miriam gets stuck constantly propping him and guiding him toward what should be doing); Aaron’s there to humble Moses and call him out on his bullshit (I might be the only one who really liked that Aaron laid the smackdown like that. Then again, Aaron is my favorite character in the movie, even TPOE needs a does of skepticism every now and then.) And of course the main tension and drama come from his relationship with Rameses — which i think is the real love story here.

        Oh, and if you have to pick, definitely go with Road to El Dorado over Sinbad. (I’m totally biased though because road to El Dorado is my all-time favorite animated movie). I assumed that with Prince of Egypt out of the way, you’d tackle the rest of the Dreamworks canon but it’s great to hear that you’re not planning on it… Shark Tale is pretty fucking heinous and as a fan of yours I can’t let you watch it. 🙂

  30. I may have a predilection for hyperbole every now and then, but I feel fully justified in saying this – Prince of Egypt is animation’s crowning achievement.

  31. That Mel Gibson joke was great. (Also makes you wonder about the validity of the “But they can never take our freedom!” statement. You know, with slavery and all…)

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