VERIFICATION: Sinbad: Legend of the seven seas (2003)

Put your shirt on before you poke someone’s eyes out!

Movie reviews

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is DreamWorks’ latest hand-drawn animated film. Based (very) liberally on the character of Sinbad in 1001 Nights, the idea came to Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio after he wrote Aladdin for Disney. He takes the character of Sinbad, modernizes and westernizes it, and situates the history in Greece with the Greek gods and cities. It’s interesting that this duo ended up writing Pirates of the Caribbean: The curse of the black pearl and its aftermath. Some of the early DreamWorks films were accused of (or known for) copying Disney films, and some were intentionally made at a rival studio. But Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is the only project developed at Disney that was stolen by Jeffrey Katzenberg to be produced at DreamWorks. I doubt Disney was angry or jealous of the film’s box office results and reviews. In 2002, Disney tried to revive the criminally underrated Treasure Planet genre, and it didn’t work out well for them financially. When Sinbad came out the next year, Disney had one or two other assets up its sleeve.

Released in July 2003, not even the strength of the stars of the cast could protect Sinbad: The Legend of the Seven Seas versus bigger fish like Finding Nemo and Pirates of the Caribbean. It is interesting to note that Pixar and Disney released an animated film and a pirate film, the pirate animated film DreamWork, respectively, around the same time as Sinbad. With a budget of $60 million, Sinbad brought in only $80 million. It wasn’t one of the worst flops, but the studio also paid to market the film, so there was little or no profit. My story with this film is very similar to Spirit’s: Cimarron’s stallion. I had VHS tapes of The Road to Eldorado and The Prince of Egypt when I was a kid, and I watched them several times. But I only vaguely remember the commercials and toys for Spirit and even less for Sinbad. I’m not sure I know this movie from before last night. When I was a teenager, I watched the traditional DreamWorks cartoons and I was not very impressed with Sinbad. One aspect of this film that is sometimes evoked is Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos and the villain of this film. Honestly, I didn’t remember much of it, so it was almost a new experience to see it again now. Immersion.

Sinbad: The Legend of the Seven Seas begins with Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer) sending an octopus to cause trouble for a number of people, most notably Prince Proteus (Joseph Fiennes) and his men, whose mission was to bring the Book of Peace to his hometown of Syracuse. The book protects the 12 cities, and without it they fall into darkness. If you’re wondering about the book and what 12 cities it’s about, don’t worry, the movie certainly doesn’t explain it. Proteus is pursued by Sinbad (Brad Pitt) and his pirates (Dennis Haysbert, Jim Cummings, and others) who want to steal the book for ransom. Once aboard Proteus’ ship, Sinbad recognizes him as his best friend from childhood. It’s not a happy reunion, as Sinbad is still intent on taking the book, but their argument is rudely interrupted by the sea monster Eris, and they are forced to work together to defeat the beast. After driving back the Kraken, Sinbad follows Proteus to Syracuse to retrieve the book. But when Proteus introduces Sinbad to his fiancée Marina, he disappears, determined to leave the book alone. But this allows Eris, who had made a deal with Sinbad for the book, to pretend to be him and steal it anyway. The Council of the 12 Cities, which includes Proteus’ father, King Dimas (Timothy West), is ready to execute Sinbad for the theft, and no one believes his claim that he was abducted by the Goddess of Chaos. Proteus, however, decides to believe in his old friend and takes Sinbad’s place. This gives Sinbad 10 days to return the book or return to fulfillment; otherwise Proteus’ neck is on the line – literally. Marina comes aboard to keep Sinbad honest, because she doesn’t trust him and fears Proteus. Along the way, however, it defeats the crew and eventually Sinbad himself.

Sinbad: The Legend of the Seven Seas has an exemplary cast that brings the characters to life. The big names include Brad Pitt as Sinbad, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Marina and Michelle Pfeiffer as Eris. Pitt and Zeta-Jones have great chemistry, and Pitt in particular brings a good mix of bravado and Sinbad’s vulnerability. Eris brims with lust, chaos, and danger, and I really can’t imagine anyone but Pfeiffer in her role. Brad Pitt will play a more complex character for DreamWorks in Megamind (2019), and Pfeiffer has already taken on the voice of Zipporah in Prince of Egypt. The two characters/representations that surprised me this time around were Dennis Haysbert as Cale, Sinbad’s second in command, and Joseph Fiennes as Proteus. I’m surprised I don’t remember any of them being in this movie, since I really like them in other movies. Haysbert’s calendar serves as a kind of conscience for Sinbad, keeping him on track and reprimanding him when and where he rebels. Proteus is perhaps my favorite character, though he doesn’t appear often in Sinbad. Fiennes’ character trait is always up to date, brings all the right emotions and gives this character the impression of being a real person. His words and actions are always perceived as sincere.

That’s where one of my biggest problems with Sinbad comes in: The Legend of the Seven Seas is coming. I love Proteus and his relationship with Sinbad and Marina, but we have so few of them. As I mentioned earlier, Proteus doesn’t play a big role in the movie because he’s in Sinbad’s place. This movie is kind of a fantasy/action/adventure/pirate mix, and as such things like character development and world building go out the window to stay within the 86 minutes. I can understand that, but I find it very embarrassing. Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado, and even Spirit, to a lesser extent, were great because of their characters. These films differ greatly in genre, theme and tone, but they all took the time to build interesting characters and relationships. Spirit, a horse that can’t even talk, has a more exciting journey than Sinbad and much more than Marina. I wish we could see what Proteus and Sinbad were like as children. I know this is not the subject of the movie, but I hate the scene where Sinbad tells Marina about his childhood. This time would have been better served (and more enjoyable to watch) with a prologue or even a flashback later in the film. Also, I don’t really understand why Sinbad and Marina make love, or Marina and Proteus earlier in the film. They spend most of their time bickering, until Sinbad realizes Marina is a good fighter and a quick thinker, and she begins to appreciate him. It’s fine if she’s just a pirate with him, or even if they’re just friends. But how can you keep calm and even help me translate much, I love you and we should be together forever? I also don’t like the story (which is also asserted rather than shown) about how Sinbad saw Marina years ago, fell in love with her, and left her without jealousy. Love at first sight doesn’t bother me in movies like this; in fact, I think it happens sometimes (but not often) in real life. But the way it happens is awkward and embarrassing. I find it hard to believe that he took a quick look at the engaged Proteus and suddenly became so jealous that he immediately ran away, never wanted to see his best (only?) friend again, and became a pirate. It would be more believable if we could observe this game instead of having it described to us, but we’ll never know.

Are our female characters better? I’d say it’s a little worse. I do like the name Marina, which means sea; it’s probably a little old-fashioned because she loves being by the sea so much, but I thought it was a nice touch. Like I said, throughout the movie I don’t understand what possesses Marina and why she loves a man. I can imagine someone being attracted to a noble prince or a dishonest thief, but what does Marina personally see in them? I love the way the tension of the love triangle is resolved by the fact that Proteus offers freedom to Marina. I love it when they don’t take the easy way out to turn someone into a big ass, so it’s an obvious choice. Proteus is truly Sinbad’s best man: The legend of the seven seas; he understands what Marina wants while it’s not even clear to the audience or Marina herself. Zeta-Jones is very good in the role, but there’s not much of that character. She’s tough and beautiful, and that’s all I got from her. I have to say I hate his hair and his more modern clothes. I had this problem with several other characters in the movie, like Sinbad, depending on how he’s dressed. It fits the setting, which I like, although I wish it wasn’t so vague. I can understand why people like Eris so much, she’s attractive and the animation effects don’t suit her. But I don’t find them very interesting, and some of the dialogue is disgusting. He talks about a black-haired thief and a noble prince in such a cheesy way that he throws me out of the movie. I also found his eventual defeat at the end of the film unsatisfying. She loses the bet and has no choice but to give the book to Sinbad. It can be interesting, but they don’t use it intelligently. It goes exactly as expected, and I was surprised to see how bored they play. I think that’s the problem, it’s predictable and boring. And I usually don’t care about the predictability of movies, as long as they are well made. How to Train Your Dragon is extremely predictable, but it’s such a good movie that you forget that and just go with the flow.

As for music and entertainment in Sinbad: The legend of the seven seas, they are incredible. Harry Gregson-Williams provides the musical score, and it is absolutely stunning. Optimistic action and discreet dialogue are also complemented by the lush score. The hand-drawn animations are all great, especially on Eris. At the time, it was said that she was as much a special effect as a character, and it shows, for better or worse. But visually I have no problem with him or any other traditional animated element. I have to say that some of the CGI monsters, like the Kraken, don’t look so good. In this respect, it’s not about Treasure Planet or Tarzan. But I think this will continue for a while and because DreamWorks, unlike Disney, did not produce the most expensive animated film.

Verdict: Good

All in all, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is a terrible movie for me. It has a great spread, beautiful animation and catchy music. I love the idea of the story and the characters. All the components of a great pirate movie, or uh, just a great movie in general, are here. But the movie tears up the action scenes and characters, and by the end I feel a little confused. I know there’s a lot of good stuff technically, but for me it’s the characters and relationships that make this movie great. And DreamWorks did it so well, both in CG and manual animation. Sinbad is a movie I enjoy more than I love, and I’d recommend watching it if you like breathtaking action sequences and great animation. But don’t expect a moving experience like Prince of Egypt or the hilarious comedy Road to El Dorado, because these characters aren’t.

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