Review: Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)

New Year’s Message

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all have a wonderful 2021 that is full of happiness, success and good memories. Let’s hope 2021 is such a great year that it will make 2020 seem like a distant and hazy memory. Thank you for continually choosing to visit my little corner of the internet. Now onto the film of the day.

Preamble

Choosing the first movie to watch in a new year has become like a game at a fancy casino. You spin the roulette wheel and place your bets on picking a comforting favourite, newer title or that one film you’ve always wanted to catch up with, and see where your mood takes you. Whilst browsing the selection of movies on Prime Video (UK version), I came across the 2003 animated feature- Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas.

It was a proverbial favourite in my pre-teen days. Alas, the pull of nostalgia did not persuade me to watch it. Instead, the dreaded “Leaves Prime Video on 14 January” did. Seriously, if you ever want a cure to the eternal problem of deciding what to watch next, then always go for the leaving soon selections on any streaming platform.

It will light a fire under your ass faster than a Gumba who falls victim to Fire Mario in a classic Super Mario Bros game. Tortured gaming metaphors aside, does the movie hold up? Let’s find out, but in the meantime, let me know- what’s the first movie you watched in 2021?

Review

Inspired by aspects from the Arabian Nights and Greek Mythology, the 2003 Sinbad film is about the titular character (Brad Pitt) attempting to steal a magical McGuffin called the “Book of Peace” from the Greek goddess of Chaos- Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer). Previously, Eris had framed the notorious pirate for stealing the artefact from its resting place in Syracuse.

The kingdom’s prince and Sinbad’s childhood friend- Proteus (Joseph Fiennes) commits to being executed if his old friend does not bring back the book in 10 days. On his journey, Sinbad is joined by Proteus’s fiancee- Marina (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who represents a source of temptation for the veteran sailor.

Looking back, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas came out at an interesting time for animated features. With the release of Shrek, the film’s studio- “DreamWorks Animation” was already embracing CGI animated features, and by this point, Pixar was already on course with their fifth computer-generated animated film- “Finding Nemo.”

With this in mind, Seven Seas is a melding of traditional and computer animation. The result tends to be a mixed bag. One bad instance is a Lovecraftian inspired monster in the film’s opening section. It has a quality of artificiality, akin to a badly pasted photoshop image amid a stunning pre-rendered background.

However, scenes that involve Eris prove to have the best balance. One memorable sequence is when a bird’s-eye view of the central ship is panned up from, to reveal the goddess looking at the entire seven seas in a wine glass. The moment greatly highlights how Greek gods meddled in human affairs with the casualness of stirring a coffee. For this reason and Pfeiffer’s sultry vocal performance, Eris is the standout character of the film.

The rest of the characters prove to be largely unimpressive. The screenplay’s biggest problem is that the relationship between the central three characters is told to us and not shown. Much of their backstory is confined to breaks in the narrative and usually are one-sided, such as the backstory only telling us how Sinbad met Proteus.

What we’re left with is the typical bickering that comes to define many romantic films. Sinbad’s and Marina’s relationship exist somewhere between Han and Leia as well as the screwball comedy dynamics that permeated classic Hollywood films- such as “His Girl Friday.”

Pitt and Zeta-Jones commit to the material with gusto. However, the screenplay lets them down. Their moments often feel immature, with silly lines, and Sinbad’s romantic revelation comes across as quite hollow as opposed to sweet and endearing.

This material is a far cry from the surprisingly resonating brother dynamic that defined the studio’s 1998 effort- “The Prince of Egypt.” Aside from Harry Gregson-Williams’s touching and adventurous score as well as the imaginative set-pieces: Seven Seas is a middle of the road effort, nothing offensive or particularly spectacular. However, it does provide a good origin story for a budding cinematic universe involving Brad Pitt’s dogs (between Spike in this film and Brandy from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood).

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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