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The Purple Quill

The online student news site of Elder High School

The Purple Quill

The online student news site of Elder High School

The Purple Quill

Reviewing a Masterpiece: The Prince of Egypt

The Prince of Egypt (1998)

The Exodus is one of the most important stories ever told. It is central to the beliefs of Judaism and Christianity, and even from a storytelling perspective it is iconic. Whether you are religious or not you cannot deny the importance of the story of Moses. Exodus means “the road out” and refers to the Israelites leaving Egypt for God’s promised land. It is one of if not the most important pieces of writing in two world religions, but it is also undeniably entertaining.

Almost everyone knows the story of Moses. Moses was an Israelite baby who by fate became an Egyptian prince, but ran away from Egypt when he accidentally murdered another Egyptian. He ran to the desert where he found his new life in Midian, and became married, a shepherd, and became one again with his true people, the Israelites.

One day when Moses is shepherding a young sheep wanders off, and when Moses goes to find it he stumbles across a burning bush. This bush burns forever, and the flames go right through Moses’s fingers without pain or heat. The voice of God speaks through the plant to Moses and tells him to go to Egypt and free his chosen people. Moses eventually answers God’s call, and sets off with his wife and others to go to Egypt.

Moses’s brother Rameses is now Pharoah and does not want to let his slaves go. So Moses, with the power of God, releases the ten plagues on Egypt. After the tenth Pharaoh finally listens and frees them, but in an act of anger chases after them cornering them with the Red Sea. Moses through God’s Power amazingly parts the sea so they can walk through, and closes it in time to stop the Egyptians. This story is legendary and the theme of anything is possible when you have faith in God is a strong message.

Dreamworks saw this classic story and wanted to adapt it into a feature length animation film. This was risky for multiple reasons at the time. Firstly, Dreamworks was a brand new animation studio. A lot of its animators came from working at Disney in the 80’s, and was founded by ex-Disney animator Jefferey Katzenberg and film legend Steven Spielberg.

They had mid to moderate success with Antz, their first animated movie, but wanted to try a hand drawn animated movie that would truly rival Disney and show the world that they meant business. They went to work and finished the movie in 1998 a year after Antz, and called it The Prince of Egypt.

It was a big risk secondly because the production cost 60 million dollars to make, and had an all star cast, with Hanz Zimmer producing the soundtrack, so a lot of eyes were on the movie to perform well. Third of course was the movie could possibly draw controversy for being a heavy religiously themed movie.

Other movies have covered biblical stories, the famous 1956 movie The Ten Commandments covered the Exodus story. Dreamworks was willing to take that risk, and it paid off for sure. The movie ended up making 218.6 million dollars in revenue at the box office and won an Oscar for its soundtrack. The success of the movie can’t be measured by that, but instead by the multiple news outlets, movie historians, and people that hail it as one of the greatest animated movies of all time. 

Moses enters the city of Egypt for the first time since running away.

The main cast of this movie did an amazing job when it came to voice acting in this movie, capturing the passion and love that it takes to make a film this great. Val Kilmer who was best known for action roles like Iceman from Top Gun, and Batman from Batman Forever, was cast as Moses and God. His voice is very calming as Moses and gives the character a good calm feel, and when he plays God his voice reflects Moses’s which is a really cool parallel.

Ralph Fiennes who is famous for his role as Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies, plays Rameses, Moses’s once brother and adversary as the Pharaoh. His voice is booming and demanding when he talks. He brings passion and anger to a character who is just that, so he has the perfect voice for a villain. Moses’s wife Zipporah, is played by Michelle Phifer who had iconic roles as Elvira Hancock in Scarface and Catwoman in Batman Returns. She has always been an amazing actress, and she showcases that in her voice acting too. Her best moment though is when she sings “When You Believe” at the end of the movie showcasing her lovely singing voice. 

The main cast of Prince of Egypt.

Other memorable actors played supporting roles in the film such as Sandra Bullock playing Moses’s Sister, Jeff Goldblum playing Moses’s Brother. These two play Miriam and Aaron very well, Jeff is kind of funny in this movie and Sandra Bullock is very talented as always. Steve Martin and Martin Short are the comedic duo in this movie and serve as pharaoh’s magicians. Their song “Playing with the Big Boys” is one of the best of the film, and with a movie that covers dark subject matter you have to have equalizers and these guys do that extremely well.

The legendary Patrick Stewart also is in this movie playing the original Pharo, and serving as Moses and Rameses Father. His booming and deep voice builds him up to be a powerful character who really sets the whole story up for Moses and Rameses to go at it later in the film. Both are kind of haunted by their father and his past and it creates an amazing tension between the two both drawing them together and then splitting them apart. This cast was loaded to the brim with amazing people and at the end of the day they are who made this movie so amazing.

The animation in this movie is steller and I consider it to be some of Dreamworks best ever. The movie is mostly hand drawn which sadly we don’t see anymore in the 21st century very much anymore sadly. They also experimented with some early CGI and for the time period of when it came out and how early CGI was at this point it looks very good.

This movie has two scenes though that definitely set it apart when it comes to animation. The first is the scene where Moses finds out what the Egyptians did to the baby Israelites. He wakes up trapped in a mosaic and is chased by soldiers and gets to witness the horrors of genocide that his kingdom committed not too long ago. While the scene is so dark the animated tiles are so small and the movements are so impressive looking.

The next is in my opinion one of the greatest movie scenes in any movie all time, not just animated. When the Egyptian army corners the Israelites next to the water Moses listens to God’s whisper and drives his staff into the sea. Then in some of the best animation ever, the water shoots up into the sky parting the sea so the Israelites can walk across. Many people read this in the bible and shrugged this off, but the way it is animated is so awe inducing. They walk through the still walls of water and they see flashes of lighting that highlight giant whales and fish in the water right next to them. This scene alone is a big part of why this movie is as legendary as it is.

The parting of the Red Sea.

All these things combined are how you make an amazing movie. It takes an amazing studio, an amazing score, amazing actors, amazing animation, and of course an amazing story. This movie should definitely be considered Dreamworks best movie, and if you have not seen it I think it is a must watch.

This movie has always been so near and dear to my heart because it was one of the first times the Bible actually came to life before my eyes. I think even if I were not religious I would still love this  movie though because it is just a beautiful film. The term masterpiece is used a lot to describe movies today, and if there’s any movie that deserves that title it is for sure in my eyes Prince of Egypt.

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Beck Richmond '24
Beck Richmond '24, Staff Writer
"Just get up there and just make a bunch of noise and have a great time and hey, you're perfect!" - Dave Allen. The Music Man "Big time writers make big time articles in big time papers." - Me
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