July 6, 2003 -- “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” is a dazzling animated action feature with a solid story and interesting characters. The highly imaginative artwork is stunning in its richness and vivid colors. “Finding Nemo” may have been a better film for kids, but “Sinbad” is a better film for age groups beyond the kiddies, with adult characters and a real romance to go with all that action and comedy. Its message of bravery, sacrifice, nobility and loyalty is also aimed at a more sophisticated audience.
The story is a mixture of Greek and other mythologies and is only loosly related to the Arabian stories of Sinbad the sailor which have found their way into numerous films. The story is very imaginative, however, as Sinbad (voice by Brad Pitt) embarks on a quest to recover the magical Book of Peace, which has been stolen by Eris, goddess of chaos (voice by Michelle Pfeiffer) from the city of Syracuse (no relation to any real city of Syracuse). If Sinbad does not return with the book in 10 days, his best friend, Proteus (voice by Joseph Fiennes), the Prince of Syracuse, will be killed. Sinbad had been arrested for stealing the book, but Proteus, alone believing in Sinbad's innocence, offers to accept punishment for him. Proteus' fiancée, Marina (voice by Catherine Zeta-Jones) believes that Sinbad will run away, so she does everything she can to make sure Sinbad sticks to the bargain. This part of the story, by the way, is based on the Greek fable of Damon and Pythius.
Sinbad, his dog Spike (the bull mastiff's “voice” was made up of recorded dog noises, but the main voice was a bulldog named Harvey), and his crew encounter fantastic adventures on their way to Tartarus, the home of Eris. They encounter giant sea monsters, deadly sirens, a huge predatory bird and finally a world of chaos where the normal laws of nature do not apply. All of these sequences are very colorful, spectacular in scale, and wildly imaginative, combining conventional and computer animation (computer animation was done on Hewlett-Packard workstations running Linux). Some of the creatures in the movie were actually inspired by star constellations, a sea monster was modeled after the constellation Cetus, the bird was based on Aquilla and other creatures were based on Scorpius and Draco.
While Sinbad is a crafty rogue who can outwit any opponent, he finds that only true courage and sacrifice are sufficient to save his friend. The heroic Marina has a lot to do with Sinbad's newfound nobility. Their romance is not overworked in the story, however. It is integrated seamlessly into the plot. The characters of Sinbad and Marina are well developed and defined. Another good character is Sinbad's powerful first mate, Kale (voice by Dennis Haysbert of “Far From Heaven”). In fact, the entire crew of Sinbad's pirate ship is entertaining. They always seem to be a step ahead of Sinbad, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. They are loyal to Sinbad, but not blindly so. This is an exceptional animated feature, on a par with the best Disney films (even though it was made by Dreamworks rather than Disney). It rates a B+.
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