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Why Prince of Egypt is the best DreamWorks movie

Over time, DreamWorks Animation has built a strong reputation. When you hear the name of this studio, you immediately think of DreamWorks Face, dance party endings or celebrity stunt castings. This does not apply to every single DreamWorks project, since Kung Fu Panda or How to train your dragon made easy can attest to, but it’s unfortunately relevant to a shockingly high number of titles in the studio’s catalogue. So widespread are these perceptions that it’s not easy to forget that it wasn’t until the second DreamWorks film that the complete opposite of all these stereotypes was achieved. The Prince of Egypt was the opposite of what you would expect from a DreamWorks title, but it was all the better for it.

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Released December 1998 and commissioned as the first project by DreamWorks (app would it hit theaters) The Prince of Egypt is one of the countless cinematic retellings of the story of Moses (voiced here by Val Kilmer), eventually channeling the power of God to rescue his people from the clutches of his adoptive brother, the pharaoh Ramses (Ralph Fiennes). It is a well-known yarn that is very dear to people of different religions. directors Simon Wells, Brenda Chapmanand Steve Hickner work with material that has previously leaked, but they manage to keep it feeling fresh within the confines of The Prince of Egypt.

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For starters, this interpretation of the Moses story isn’t just told through animation, it’s presented in some of the most stunning hand-drawn animation ever shown on screen. It aims to show how DreamWorks can deliver a spectacle on par with competitor Disney, the far-reaching scope of The Prince of Egypt really makes the majesty of the Lord felt on screen. Without having to adhere to the limitations of live-action filmmaking, the greatest set pieces here capture images from bold angles and with flashy lighting that would be nearly impossible to achieve with flesh-and-blood humans. This unflinching approach to great imagery is what makes seemingly predictable events like the parting of the Red Sea so impressive.



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Image via Dreamworks

Even better, the visuals are a microcosm of just how exciting it is The Prince of Egypt doesn’t feel like it’s following the lead of other then-contemporary animated films. There are no backgrounds in, say, The Lion King or Aladdin they look just like the ones in them The Prince of Egypt and the human designs are similarly unique. Also, the use of music throughout the film, and even using a Bible story as source material, turns out to be a deliberate maneuver to undermine expectations. In the 1990s, it seemed like every studio was trying to follow the Disney fairy tale formula to find an answer The little mermaid. How fantastic then The Prince of Egypt would buck that trend and deliver something so quirky.

This uniqueness is particularly evident in the film’s tone, possibly the biggest difference between The Prince of Egypt and later DreamWorks Animation titles. Start with Shrek, DreamWorks would consist exclusively of comedies, usually those with tongue-in-cheek references to pop culture and lots of loud supporting characters. These titles grossed big bucks, but sticking to levity mostly resulted in films that often felt like they were trying hard to be wall-to-wall hilarious. It also harms other DreamWorks titles like Rise of the Guardians or the dragon Sequels often felt like they were subverting their more dramatic creative impulses in order to meet the comedic demands of a standard studio film.


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Image via Dreamworks

This lack is absent The Prince of Egypt, which embraced the darkness of the story it told and was all the better for it. Not a joyless film, but also a film that doesn’t shy away from depicting pain and suffering. This is particularly evident in a quietly devastating scene in which all the firstborn children are killed as part of God’s plagues in Egypt. It’s a devastating moment where the film’s animators really show their skills by portraying the body language of Ramses and Moses as they come to terms with this horrific massacre after it took place. Even as the Hebrew people are finally released, grief after so much youthful bloodshed dominates the screen.

This harrowing segment of history, which shows how rapturous the relationship between Moses and Ramses has become, doesn’t need comedy to work. It wouldn’t have gotten any better with references to then-popular musicians or the Oscar winners for best picture of the 1990s. While later DreamWorks films were about packing as many gags as possible into one film, The Prince of Egypt is content to let such dark moments simmer. Sadness is allowed to flood the audience instead of being undercut by abrupt jokes. That confident tone makes The Prince of Egypt feel even more special, especially compared to later, tonally more erratic DreamWorks projects.


Prince of Egypt
Image via Dreamworks

The effective sound of The Prince of Egypt is confirmed by a collection of celebrity voice actors, the rare quality the film shares with later DreamWorks efforts. As a harbinger of the when Will Smith and Mike Myers would direct projects from this studio, The Prince of Egypt Features like Val Kilmer, Michelle Pfeifferand Sandra Bullock, among many others, in prominent roles. Fortunately, her presence here is better than having her Ryan Reynolds Voice a super fast snail. The dramatic tone of The Prince of Egypt fits particularly well with the talents of the likes of Ralph Fiennes, who does an excellent job of discerning the complicated inner emotions of Ramses.

DreamWorks has released over 40 motion pictures since 1998 to mixed critical acclaim. While the 21st Century production is not without quality projects, the studio’s pinnacle can still be found in its second film. Even if it’s not like later lackluster titles home or Monsters vs Aliens to compare it The Prince of Egypt would still register as the studio’s standout project. The only negative about its quality in the context of DreamWorks history is how it now stands as a tragic reminder of what this studio could have been. Imagine if The Prince of Egypt had been the mold for DreamWorks rather than Shrek. It’s heart-breaking to imagine a timeline where this studio continues to embrace unorthodox storytelling and the beauty of hand-drawn animation, instead of just creating a barrage of snappy CGI Shrek-Would like to. While it’s tempting to get bogged down in such seminal scenarios, one cannot dwell on such unknowns for too long. It’s more important to live in the here and now, where it wasn’t as influential in the studio as it should have been, The Prince of Egypt is still by far the biggest title in DreamWorks Animation history.



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https://collider.com/prince-of-egypt-dreamworks-best-movie-reasons-why/ Why Prince of Egypt is the best DreamWorks movie

Jake Nichol

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