6. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)

So here’s DreamWorks’ final traditionally animated film, and to reiterate what I said last time, their track record is a little rough, but of course that had nothing to do with the medium. While I compared Spirit to Disney’s Dinosaur, Sinbad definitely has a Treasure Planet vibe to me, setting sail on the dangerous seas (or galaxy), with lots of daring do and not-so-well integrated CG elements. While Planet didn’t completely gel together, I definitely admire it for its ingenuity and sense of scope. There’s nothing really original or innovative about Sinbad, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make it difficult to come up with anything positive to say about it. As rote as most of the studio’s films have been up to this point, I can at least point out something unique about them, something that was particularly interesting or stuck with me to some degree. I can’t quite do that here, this is basically your typical voyage on the high seas story, with a jerky character getting his heart of gold, as we’ve seen time and time and time again. Ho hum.
Sinbad is a crafty pirate of the high seas, and we open on him and his crew seizing a boat carrying the much sought after Book of Peace, an item of immense power. Said boat is captained by Prince Proteus of Syracuse, a childhood friend of Sinbad, and the latter’s thievery is interrupted by an attack by a gargantuan sea monster. Flung overboard, Sinbad encounters Eris, the goddess of chaos, who offers him anything his heart desires if she gets the book for him. When Sinbad doesn’t act upon this, Eris takes matters into her own hands, taking the book herself and framing Sinbad for it. Proteus steps up during Sinbad’s trial, allowing him ten days to retrieve the book, or else Proteus will be executed in his place. Initially Sinbad intends to just take off and forget the whole thing, but he’s thwarted by Proteus’ bride-to-be Marina, who has snuck about the ship to make sure Sinbad does good on his word. And so he and his crew set a course for Tartarus, the lair of the gods, a place in which no mortal has never come out alive.
So yeah, we’ve seen all this before. The asshole hero who finds compassion and redemption. The female love interest who bickers with the hero and has to prove herself amongst the boys. Daring adventure set-pieces on the high seas off to x destination. None of this is bad, but none of it is particularly good either. Sinbad and Marina are adequate leads and are mildly interesting to watch, but neither have anything really memorable about them and you know what’s going to happen exactly from frame 1. Eris is basically if Hades from Hercules was a femme fatale, which actually makes her sound interesting, but she’s a very boring villain. Sinbad’s crew is an assortment of goofballs, as well as his slobbering pooch, a motley crew the film thinks is a lot more funny than I did. A sizable issue is that Sinbad is consistently kind of a dickhead in the movie, electing to just haul ass out of Syracuse leaving his friend to be killed. That’s the point of the movie, yeah, but then we get to him horning in on his fiance, and it feels even weirder. All of this is explained and reasoned, much to Eris’ delight, but it still gives the film a slightly off feeling to it, where Sinbad kind of feels more like a dislikable anti-hero than a loveable one.
We’ve seen some CG integration in some of the other 2D films, but here it’s used most extensively, with sweeping shots of the ship, certain environments and all of the monsters rendered entirely in CG. It’s rather harrowing, and extremely noticeable, where scenes that should be epic and exciting become slightly less so because you’re focusing on the obvious CG model interacting with the hand-drawn characters. As for the rest of the animation, it’s… fine. Just fine. Competent for sure, but nothing to really get excited about. The character designs are kind of bland and uninteresting; a few of the creatures are kind of neat, like the gigantic anglerfish-type thing that’s as big as an island, but most of what we see here is typical of stuff we’ve seen before, and done better. Sinbad and Marina’s escape from the snow bird is a pretty neat and extremely kinetic sequence, as is when the ship sails right over the edge of the world, but seeing that ship sail into space just reminded me more of Treasure Planet, which may not have been perfect, but had a more striking visual style and tone than this film did.
I’m really running out of stuff to talk about here; there really just isn’t enough here. I did like how Sinbad, a character of Arabic origins, is pretty much white here (and played by the very white Brad Pitt); hell, everyone in this movie seems of a very ambiguous ethnicity. The one weird crewman Rat sometimes speaks like he’s Latino, but then later he speaks Italian. It just goes to more how this film just feels like a hodge podge of many different elements; Sinbad is a semi-established character so they just slapped a generic adventure story onto him and called it a day. I hate to speak so ill of a production that took so much work, but that’s what it feels like.

Final Verdict
While I’d probably watch this over Spirit if I had to choose, this is definitely my least favorite so far. There just wasn’t anything here to get excited about, or give it any real specific identity. It’s completely generic, and that’s really one of the most damning things you can say about a film. It’s gorgeous at times, and I got a few chuckles out of it, but I know I’m going to forget all about it in a few weeks, so what’s the point?

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