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"The story of two men. One born to rule, the other destined to lead."
The Prince of Egypt is a 1998 animated film based on the biblical book of Exodus, as well as the very first 2D animated film made by Dreamworks Animation. Until The Simpsons Movie came out in 2007, it was the highest-grossing traditionally animated non-Disney film of all time.
The film covers part of the life of Moses, from his being found and adopted by Pharaoh's family to his young adulthood, where he discovers his Hebrew heritage, to his adult life, when God tells Moses to confront the current Pharaoh and persuade him to free the Hebrew slaves in Egypt.
The Prince of Egypt admits up front in a disclaimer that it takes liberties with the original story. In this version, Moses and Rameses are raised as brothers instead of (as is more likely) a nephew and his uncle respectively. In Exodus, Moses is accompanied by his brother Aaron to assist the tongue-tied Moses while speaking to Pharaoh, yet in the movie, Aaron is a more skeptical background character who is voiced by the tongue-tied actor Jeff Goldblum. The film also contains several elements not mentioned or specified in the Bible, such as Rameses being the Pharaoh (whereas some scholars contend it may have been Thutmose III), the comic relief characters Huy and Hotep (possibly loosely based on the two magicians "Jannes and Jambres" referenced from old Jewish folklore in the New Testament) portrayed by Martin Short and Steve Martin, a few show-stopping musical numbers from Stephen Schwartz, and a very well written background score by Hanz Zimmer. It won considerable acclaim in its time, however, and even got an Oscar for one of those songs.
Compare and contrast The Ten Commandments.
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: God is a burning bush, he also speaks to Moses with his own voice.
- A God Am I: Never said exactly, but Rameses repeatedly refers to himself as "the morning and the evening star," pointing to the fact that as Pharaoh, he is supposed to be a god incarnate. Compare "How thou art fallen from Heaven, o Lucifer, Star of the Morning; how thou art cut to the ground which didst weaken the nations."
- Adaptational Angst Upgrade: For Moses
- Adaptation Distillation: Of the first half of Exodus.
- Adaptation Expansion: In the Book of Exodus, everything from Moses's birth to his exile and marriage is covered in a single chapter, which, in a printed book, would take up less than two pages. These two pages are expanded into the entire first half of the movie.
- Adult Fear: The murder of the newborns in the prologue, which is the entire reason why Yocheved sends baby Moses away in the river. And then, the final Plague.
- All Animation Is Disney: A frequent victim of this trope, more so than DreamWorks' other 2-D animated features.
- All-Star Cast: Including Val Kilmer, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, Ralph Fiennes and Patrick Stewart.
- Ancient Egypt
- Animated Musical
- Animation Bump: Any scene which uses CGI for the backgrounds. The highest point would be the parting of the red sea.
- Anti-Villain: (Type I --> Type II or III) Rameses, to the point where the creators had to rewrite some scenes between him and Moses because he came off as too sympathetic and Moses as cruel. He's forcing the Hebrews to work as slaves and refuses to let them go, just cracking down harder on them when Moses returns and demands their freedom. However, we're shown that he's been raised on the beliefs of his father, that a single weak king could cause the collapse of a long and prideful dynasty, and Rameses refuses to let that be him.
- Artistic License: The disclaimer at the opening of the film is open and straightforward about this. Some changes are made from the original Exodus story for the sake of drama--for example, Moses probably always knew that he was a Hebrew in the original story, whereas in this film he doesn't figure it out until around his adult life.
- Art Shift: The wall-painting dream sequence.
- Award Bait Song: "When You Believe", which won the Best Song Oscar. Also qualifies as a Breakout Pop Hit, as there are many fans of the song who only know it as "that Whitney/Mariah song". Especially combined with the "multi-lingual version" Interestingly, the version within the film has aged much better, as it lacks the "here's the obligatory Disney-style pop ballad" qualities of the end-credits version.
- Ax-Crazy: Rameses becomes this towards the end; see Villainous Breakdown.
- Badass Beard: Jethro wins the prize for the movie's biggest, most awesome beard. Whether or not Jethro himself is badass is debatable, but his beard certainly is.
- Banned in China: The film was banned in the Maldives, Egypt, and Malaysia because of Islamic custom of never portraying the image of the prophets. In Egypt, it was also because of the villainous portrayal of Pharaoh Rameses, a well-respected historical leader whom the Egyptians hold to be separate from the Pharaoh of Exodus.
- Bathe Her And Bring Her To My Brother
- Big Fun: Jethro.
- Bittersweet Ending: Moses successfully leads the Hebrews out of their lives as slaves, but his brotherly relationship with Rameses is destroyed forever.
- Blue and Orange Morality: God. A point made at several times in the Old Testament, and referenced when Moses is speaking to the Burning Bush, is that God is so far above humanity that we can not comprehend his actions. When Moses questions why he is being selected, God explicitly states that he has done so much more than Moses will ever even be able to conceive. One also sees some elements of an Omniscient Morality License in the plagues, particularly the Plague on the Firstborn.
- Bible Times
- Big Brother Instinct: Rameses' first reaction to his little brother killing a man in front of multiple witnesses is to declare him innocent. When Moses returns after years of being gone, he is ready to give his brother a high position and wipe away the crime. That didn't turn out.
- Also Aaron for Miriam.
- Big No: Rameses, when God makes the Red Sea sweep him backwards.
- Big Word Shout: Rameses, when we see him after the Red Sea returns to normal, alone and defeated:
- Bilingual Bonus: Many of the songs contain individual lines or entire choruses in Hebrew, sung along with the predominantly English lyrics. No translations are offered , but the tone and context of the songs at least hint at their meanings.
- Book Ends: The movie begins with Yocheved singing "Deliver Us", and ends with her singing the single line "Deliver Us" as Moses comes down from Mt Sinai.
- Break the Haughty: What God does to Rameses for repeatedly refusing to let the Hebrews go. The final straw was the death of Rameses's son. Subverted in that he remains as haughty.
- Brick Joke: When Tzipporah is offered to Rameses by the priests she tries to bite his hand and Moses teases him: "Not much of a snake charmer, are you?" When Moses shows up at the palace for the first time and tells Rameses to "let his people go" and then transforms his staff into a snake, Rameses smirks and says "Hotep, Huy, show this snake charmer our answer". Moses had brought Tzipporah to the palace as his wife.
- Bring It: "Playing With The Big Boys Now" is basically the priests giving one of these to Moses and by extension, God. He brings it.
- Cain and Abel: Moses and Rameses are almost a deconstruction of this trope.
- Call-and-Response Song: The Plagues.
- Catapult Nightmare: After the wall-painting sequence.
- Changeling Fantasy: Inverted -- Moses does not take the news of his real heritage too well...
- Cherubic Choir: When the Israelites are finally leaving Egypt, a song of praise to God is being sung by children in the background. In Hebrew, no less.
- The song in question, Mi Chamocha, was supposedly composed by Miriam during the Exodus itself.
- Counterpoint Duet: The much-mentioned "The Plagues" song includes one of these, culminating in Moses and Rameses simultaneously singing "Let my people go" and "(I will never) let your people go". Just one of many reasons this song is in the Crowning Music of Awesome section.
- Conspicuous CG: Moses's basket and the plague of frogs, among other things, have much more dimension than the rest of the animation. According to the commentary, this was intentional.
- Dark Reprise: During the "Plagues" sequence, we get a more bitter, anger-filled version of "All I Ever Wanted" from both Moses and Rameses.
Moses: This was my home.
Rameses: Is this what you wanted?!
- Deadpan Snarker: Rameses gets some fantastic lines. "Still gnawing away at that old bone are we."
- Tsappora. "Trying to get the funny man out of the well? That's one I haven't heard."
- Deliberately Monochrome: Moses confronting Rameses after the latter's son has been killed in the final plague of Egypt.
- Demoted to Extra: Aaron, Moses's compatriot and aide in the Exodus, becomes less relevant to the story and does not personally support Moses until after the plagues have been unleashed; conversely, Tzipporah becomes an Ascended Extra. She instead of Aaron is with Moses in the staffs-to-snakes scene.
- Disney Acid Sequence: Used at the end of "All I Ever Wanted", when there is an Art Shift to a hieroglyphics style in Moses's dream. Justified in "Playing With the Big Boys Now", because the effects are being created within the film by the two characters performing the song.
- Doing It for the Art: The film was a truly sincere effort by Dreamworks Animation to try and make a great movie, hence why there was little merchandise made for the film. They even consulted many religious groups to give the A-OK to the story material.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Rameses telling Moses to leave him after his son's death as a result of the final plague
- Don't Make Me Destroy You: In the scene immediately preceding the plague of the firstborn, Moses practically begs Rameses not to let things continue, all the while staring at Rameses' son. Rameses refuses, of course, which makes Moses extremely upset.
- Dreaming the Truth: Moses realizes where he came from in a dream depicted in various Egyptian art images.
- Drives Like Crazy: If the chariot race sequence is to be believed, crazy teenage drivers have been a problem a lot longer than we currently believe.
- Epic Movie: From the point of conception, Jeffrey Katzenberg intended this to be his Big Damn Epic Movie and marketed it as such. It was his first film since The Lion King, after all, and he wanted to show his former studio what he was capable of.
- Exact Words: "There will be a great cry in the land of Egypt".
- Face Heel Turn: Take a wild guess.
- The Faceless: Tzipporah's youngest sister. She only appears in a couple of scenes, but whenever shown her eyes are the only part of her face not concealed by her oversized headscarf.
- Facial Profiling: The Hebrews are depicted with curly mops of unruly dark hair and many of them have larger noses. They also have lighter skin compared to the darker Egyptians. The Egyptians themselves have round, smooth faces with high cheekbones, narrow eyes and smooth black hair. This was intentional, as explained in the promotional materials. The Egyptians in general are composed of angular, symmetric, geometric lines in contrast to the Hebrews' rounded, more natural and varied forms. Authentic Egyptian art depicts Semites as bearded and lighter skinned in contrast to the clean-shaven, darker Egyptians.
- Flipping the Table: Rameses does this to the priests' table right before he jumps into his half of the emotionally-charged "Plagues" duet.
- Follow the White Rabbit: Moses finds the burning bush when searching for a lost sheep.
- Foreshadowing: Quite a few moments in the beginning, especially the 'weak link' part (which gets a Call Back later on) and the conversation between Moses and Rameses that follows. In that conversation, Moses jokingly says Rameses will bring down the entire empire by himself. He wasn't far off...
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Ramses is the responsible older brother, while Moses is the freewheeling younger brother.
- Freudian Excuse: This version of Rameses' reasoning of his obstinacy against freeing the Hebrews.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Ladies, please, you've cleaned every inch of me -- WHOA! I was wrong."
- Gilligan Cut: After the Chariot Race:
Rameses: You don't think we'll get in trouble for this, do you?
Moses: No, not a chance.
[Cue Moses and Rameses being scolded for the chaos the race caused.]
Seti: Why do the gods torment me with such reckless, destructive, blasphemous sons!?
- God: His voice, anyway.
- Good Is Not Nice: God is working to free His enslaved people as promised, but the film doesn't gloss over how thorough His vengeance on Egypt was, especially in the eye-for-eye smiting of the Firstborn even down to the young children.
- Hate Sink: Rameses may be sympathetic, but the same cannot be said for his father, Pharaoh Seti, whose responsible for the deaths of numerous children.
- Happily Adopted: Moses was this until certain events...
- Happily Ever Before: The film stops immediately after the Red Sea Crossing, with a brief subsequent image of Moses bringing down the Ten Commandments. The scene after that? Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, probably for the second time, considering what the Bible says happened the first time...
- Heroic BSOD: Moses has several: the first occurs when he discovers he's an adopted Hebrew, and the second comes after the 10th Plague, as does Rameses' Villainous Breakdown.
- Infant Immortality: Painfully, cruelly averted. Twice.
- "I Want" Song: Inverted with "All I Ever Wanted". Rather than singing about wanting more out of life, the song is about Moses trying to convince himself that he already has everything he could ever want and has no reason to be dissatisfied.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Hotep and Huy's snake conjuration was done with such theatrics that it's hard to tell if they actually did magic or just managed some sleight of hand. Their attempt at turning water to blood seems a bit more fake, though.
- Meaningful Echo: "Look at your family/people. They are free."
- Monumental Damage: So that is what happened to the Sphinx's nose...
- Mood Whiplash: 'When You Believe' is an inspiring song about how the strength of faith can bring about miracles. Played right after the plagues, a glimmer of hope against the destruction.
- Narcissist: Rameses is a textbook example of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He's so proud and haughty that even with God wreaking havoc upon his country, he still refuses to release his slaves because he thinks it would be weak. He considers himself a god, would rather die than accept what he sees as demotion, is deeply insecure, has a pronounced lack of empathy, a Hair-Trigger Temper, a bloated sense of entitlement and had a narcissistic father whose abusive attitude made him what he is.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The original trailer made this look like a more action-packed, definitely more kid-friendly film.
- Non-Singing Voice: Averted with Ralph Fiennes (Rameses), Steve Martin and Martin Short (Hotep and Huy), all of whom did their own singing. Oddly enough Val Kilmer did not do his own singing, even though he has a really good voice and has sung in other movies he has made.
- Ominous Egyptian Chanting: Used to a degree in "Playing With the Big Boys", in which the names of several Egyptian gods are chanted at the beginning and later in the background.
- One-Scene Wonder: Jethro, who manages to get a truly amazing song out of it.
- One-Woman Wail: A truly beautiful example provided by the late Israeli singer Ofra Haza.
- Papa Wolf: An important take-away lesson: do not anger God by oppressing His people and murdering their babies. You really won't like the blowback.
- Pet the Dog: Subverted. Seti clearly cares about his sons. When he finds Moses reeling at the fate of the Hebrew children, Seti hugs him, speaks in the soothing tones of Patrick Stewart...and tells Moses it was justified because they were just slave children. The worst part of this is that Seti thought this would make Moses feel better.
- Playing Against Type: It is a bit unnerving to hear Patrick Stewart (as Pharaoh Seti) justifying murdering thousands of innocent Hebrew babies in that soothing Team Dad voice.
Seti: Oh, my son, they were only slaves...
- Prodigal Hero: Being an adaptation of the story of Moses the film tells this story, mixing both the accidental murder as well as disgust of the Egyptians' treatment towards the Jews.
- The Queen's Latin: Most of the Egyptian characters (save for Hotep and Huy) speak with British accents, while the Hebrews speak with American accents.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Moses and Rameses, respectively. As young men, Moses is rambunctious and flippant while Rameses is more introspective and prone to angsting. When they grow up, they retain their oni roles, but in a different way. Moses is passionate and warm while Rameses is cold and ruthless. Even their clothing reflects this. Rameses wears blue and white while Moses wears red and earth tones.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The climax, where Rameses, despite freeing the Hebrews earlier, snaps and decides to lead his men in a chase to slaughter the Hebrews before they escape. Thanks to God's intervention, they fail miserably.
- Rule of Symbolism: In the opening sequence the Hebrew slaves look upon with awe at the statue of Ra that they just put up, which symbolized the power of the Egyptians over them. Toward the end of the plagues sequence, the statue crumbles. Some scholars believe that the plagues were meant to rebuke the various Egyptian religions and their gods (Ra, god of the Sun falls on the onset of the plague of darkness).
- Sarcasm Mode: "Moses! Let me guess. You want me to...let your people go."
- Scenery Porn: The opening sequence showing the Hebrews raising Egyptian monuments, the Plagues, and the crossing of the Red Sea.
- Scenery Gorn: After the plagues are done with Egypt.
- The Scourge of God: The Plagues, currently the trope page's quote.
- Screw the Rules, I Make Them: Rameses promises to absolve Moses from the crime of murder because he is "the morning and the evening star" and can change the laws however he deems fit.
- Sexy Silhouette: Subverted. After Moses has Tziporrah sent to his chambers by Rameses, he sees a shadowy figure sitting on his bed behind a curtain, looking as if it is her sitting there with her arms crossed defiantly. He laughs awkwardly before pulling the curtain back to reveal that it is the servant who had escorted her there all tied up. He then realizes that his dogs are tied up as well and there is a Bedsheet Ladder going out his window.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: In one scene, Rameses overturns a table, and Hotep and Huy vanish for the rest of the movie. Things turn very dark shortly afterward. If you listen very carefully, you can even hear Rameses shouting "Get out!" just under the music.
- Shown Their Work: Many examples, but one that stands out is the silhouette of a whale shark seen behind the watery walls of the Red Sea passage.
- Silence, You Fool
- The Stinger: The credits end with quotes from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Koran stating how important Moses was as a prophet.
- The Swarm Some of the 10 plagues were this.
- Synthetic Voice Actor: Averted behind the scenes - they just decided to screw casting a machine as God and just got Val Kilmer to voice him (as well as Moses - hey, it worked for Charlton Heston...), which of course led to....
- Talking to Himself: ... this.
- Tearful Smile: Moses has one right after meeting with the Lord for the first time.
- Tempting Fate:
- "Playing With The Big Boys Now" can be seen as a challenge to God. As the next song ("The Plagues") shows, this was not wise.
- When Rameses says that "there will be a great cry in the land of Egypt" (see Exact Words above).
- The Renaissance Age of Animation
- Those Two Bad Guys: Hotep and Huy
- Threat Backfire: Angered with Moses' insistence on letting his people go, Rameses says that the Hebrews need to be punished even harder and "there will be a great cry in the land of Egypt". His words turn out to be prophetic - however, it's not the Hebrews who will let out this great cry...
- Three-Month-Old Newborn: Shown with an ewe's lambing.
- Tomato in the Mirror: When Moses slowly realizes that he is a Hebrew, during the sequence preceding "All I Ever Wanted".
- Toppled Statue: The same statue shown being raised in the opening is destroying during the Plagues.
- Tragic Villain: Rameses, unlike his counterparts from The Ten Commandments and The Bible.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: People were so distracted by the priests' theatrics that they don't seem to notice Moses' snake eating the two that they produced.
- Villainous Breakdown: In a very tragic example, Rameses snaps after the death of his son, riding after Moses and the Hebrews and, when they try to escape him through the Red Sea, he shouts to his men "Kill them! KILL THEM ALL!" The last of him seen in the film is him screaming in rage and agony, cursing Moses.
- Villain Song: Rameses' Dark Reprise of "All I Ever Wanted" might count, and while they are more inept evil sidekicks than true villains, Hotep and Huy's "Playing With The Big Boys Now" counts.
- We Can Rule Together: Hotep and Huy make an offer something like to Moses during their Villain Song.
"Just to show we feel no spite/you can be our acolyte!"
- We Used to Be Friends: The major driving force of the movie, which sets it apart from The Ten Commandments Love Triangle
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Even after the death of his father, Rameses is still struggling with the man's immense shadow and wants to be the kind of Pharaoh his father was. This leads to tragedy for the Egyptians. Truth in Television for this one, at least for the first half of that statement. Rameses II is by all accounts one Egypt's greatest Pharaoh, and many speculate that his insane achievements were motivated by a desire to live up to his distant father's legacy.
Moses: All he cares about is your approval. I know he will live up to your expectations. He only needs the opportunity.
- What Could Have Been: Aside from the "man-woman-child" voice of God described above, a scene with a talking camel was scrapped.
- Also Rameses was originally supposed to have two evil cats. Granted, these and the camel would have run totally counter-current to the mood of the film as a whole. Curiously, the camel did eventually show up in the form of a piece of merchandise for the film, as a little beanbag doll.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Hotep and Huy vanish after a scene during the plagues when Rameses overturns a table. The Bible does say Pharaoh's magicians could not even show themselves for being covered in boils, so this could be a case of All There in the Manual.
- ↑ except in the booklet for the soundtrack CD