THE PRINCE OF EGYPT (DTS)
Review by Alex Haberstroh
Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Jeff
Goldblum, Danny Glover, Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren, Steve Martin, Martin
Directors: Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner and Simon Wells
Audio: DTS 5.1
Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Features: See Review
Length: 99 Minutes
Release Date: November 7, 2000
In 1994, three men sat around a table talking
about their ambitions to form a new studio.
Spielberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen, already highly respected men in the
entertainment community as producers and
directors, were deciding to bring their creative forces together to make the
most astounding films ever seen by audiences.
What they created would be called Dreamworks SKG.
And it was there, even before their fledgling studio had even begun, that
they dreamed of making The Prince of Egypt.
The Prince of Egypt is a timeless tale of two brothers pitted against each other by fate. Even those who aren’t particularly religious are most likely familiar with the premise. It is a tale of friendship, yet also of great responsibility. This contrast of values provides the foundation of the film.
The first few moments portrays the friendship
between teenage Princes Moses (Kilmer), and Rameses (Ralph Fiennes), as they
destructively race each other through the streets of Cairo on chariots. From
the very start, the filmmakers put an emphasis on the friendship between the two
brothers, showing the viewer just how much these two princes love and respect
each other. Yet as I said earlier,
this is not just about friendship, but the great responsibility that can change
your goals and even sometimes, bring them into conflict with the people you
The dramatic moment occurs when Prince Moses,
who has grown up in the Egyptian royal family, unexpectedly discovers that he is
the son of Hebrews, the same slaves who sweat and bleed to provide his
families’ luxurious lifestyle. His
life, the fact that he was the Prince of Egypt, everything he believed, was a
lie. To make matters worse, Moses
finds out that there was a mass infanticide of Jews at the hands of his adopted
father, and that it was to save him that his biological mother set him adrift in
Previously content and happy, Moses becomes
emotionally torn after hearing this, and when he is walking through the temple
that he and his brother ruined the day before, he sees the toll he put on the
slaves, his own people, who now have to work twice as hard to restore what he
was responsible for destroying. Losing
self-control, he attacks and kills an Egyptian guard who is beating an old
slave. He then runs off to the
desert despite his brother’s pleas, unsure of what his life will become.
Stumbling into the town of the High Priest of Midian (Glover), he finds
his wife and while living there, discovers peace within himself.
A little while later while working as a
shepherd, he follows a sheep into a cave and hears the voice of God, which tells
him to go back and free his people. Moses
is somewhat reluctant; after all, as he puts it, he is the son of “the man
responsible for killing their children.”
But it is this responsibility that will send him back to Egypt to free
his people, and challenge the love between him and his brother.
This film is really remarkable.
In my opinion, it’s the best account of the story of Moses because it
accounts for the “human factor.” The
animators and actors both lend a passion to this film that can’t be denied.
Whereas the animators provided the incredible facial and body reactions
that helped make the characters, actors such as Kilmer and Fiennes, two very
credible actors in their own right, added an incredible depth as well to the
motives and emotions of the characters. When
watching this film, the viewer will see that there doesn’t always need to be
the clash of fierce enemies to make a film great.
Moses and Rameses both exhibit deep sadness and distress that they have
been put on opposing sides, and do everything in their power to avoid their
inevitable fate. This
interpretation differs greatly from other interpretations of this story like
“The Ten Commandments,” where characters seem to act like they’re reading
from a script.
Having a film that so well focuses raw emotion could have been enough for many, but Dreamworks surpassed the mark, assembling some of the best art and computer designers in the business who combined 2D and 3D art perfectly. This cinematography is one of the best I’ve seen ever in an animated film, adding scope and grandeur I have not seen since Lawrence of Arabia. Every scene is unforgettable, from the moving death of the guard whom Moses kills, to the astounding splitting of the Red sea, and to the highly entertaining chariot ride that gave Ben-Hur a run for its money. This film is truly one of the best films of 1998!
The picture was stunning, every scene a beautiful menagerie of colors. The light brown hue of the deserts contrasted greatly to the lush greens and blues of the Pharaoh’s garden. I noticed no blurring or grain throughout the film and the Anamorphic support made it look even better. Well done!
Wow! When I went out to buy the The Prince of Egypt in Dolby Digital 5.1, I was blown away. The sounds were crisp and precise, the surrounds aggressive and well used.
Then I popped in the
DTS. Dear God!
Once again DTS outshines the Dolby Digital version hands down.
The dialogue is crystal clear throughout the film and is never
overwhelmed by the surrounds. The
bass soundtrack is truly a powerful presence throughout the film, whether it’s
in the deep resonant echoes of God’s commands or the splitting of the Red Sea,
(which bass was so loud and rumbling I felt that I was in the middle of a
roaring ocean), the sound is truly a treasure to all proud owners of a system
with DTS capability.
The DTS soundtrack
also utilizes the surrounds a little better than the DD 5.1, providing a subtler
soundstage that totally envelops the listener throughout the whole film, even
Moses’ hand sliding across a pillar of alabaster is picked up with an
unbelievable clarity. Also funneled
through the surrounds besides effects is the music of Hanz Zimmer (Gladiator,
Lion King), whose breathtaking scores can move the viewer to moments of elation
This is why many
reviewers love Dreamworks. Not only
do they generally provide a great film with high quality sound and video, they
also provide a wide breadth of supplements.
At the start of DVD, many enthusiasts complained of Dreamworks’
apparent lack of involvement in the format.
I would argue that that time was used to decide what people enjoyed in
their supplements and then to offer even more.
(All the included
supplements are the same as the DD 5.1 version except the two previews, which
are in DTS, instead of DD 5.1) The
first supplement provided was an informative look at
The Prince of Egypt through an audio commentary from
directors Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, and Simon Wells, where they discuss
everything from story changes to more technical ideas such as going with certain
computer effects ideas over other. Also
included were “The making of The Prince of Egypt” which is pretty
self-explanatory. But the
supplemental item I enjoyed the most was the “When You Believe”
multi-language presentation, where Dreamworks explained the laborious task
they went through releasing the film in 50 different countries in 28 different
languages. I found it particularly
fascinating just how close the voices were from the singers in all different
languages for “When You Believe.” Other
items included were “the Basics of Animation: the Chariot Race,”
which showed the viewer the evolution taken between an artists drawing on paper
and the final animated result as well as, “Focus on Technical Effects.”
Rounding out the supplements were an art gallery, two theatrical
trailers, Cast and Crew bios, production notes and a theatrical sneak preview of
Chicken Run and El Dorado for the summer of 2000.
In conclusion, this film is a story of the power of redemption and the triumph of the human spirit. The acting is both wonderful and heartfelt, with a masterfully told story, and amazing animation that is a visual dream. The DTS sound also, is dead on and will make your neighbor’s scream at you at you to “TURN IT DOWN!” Finally, the supplements are successfully implemented and quite useful. Recommended!