Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas Review
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas begins right where you might expect it to, the open waters of the ocean. Sinbad, a good natured pirate is closing in on a royal ship with plans to steal the 'Book of Peace' though unfortunately for him, Eris, the Goddess of Chaos has her own plans and sends a Sea Monster to crash the party. After defeating the monster Eris decides to make Sinbad an offer he cannot refuse, retrieve the book for her and the reward will be not just money, but the world itself. Thinking like all good pirates do Sinbad cares little for the fact an old friend, the royal prince Proteus, is charged with protecting the book, but then he meets Marina, the woman betrothed to Proteus and old memories resurface fast which see Sinbad give up on his mission.
Amused by all this Eris steals the 'Book of Chaos' and frames Sinbad who in turn is sentenced to death. Proclaiming his innocence the only man to believe in him is Proteus, who substitutes himself for Sinbad allowing him the opportunity to validate that trust and retrieve the book in time to save Proteus life (and restore peace to the land of Syracuse). Throw in the stowaway Marina and all the pieces are in place for a high seas adventure where Sinbad must face the challenge of the Gods and that of his own past and the woman he loves.
At it’s most basic level Dreamworks latest animated tale is little more than a swashbuckling pirate adventure and considering the market Sinbad is aimed at there is little wrong with that. With the story setup via an impressive action set-piece the pace rarely lets up for the short (75-minutes excluding credits) runtime, inside of which we get to see Sinbad and Marina take on all manner of mythological beasts as they sail towards Eris realm of Chaos, Tartarus. The characters are all fairly two-dimensional (cue bad pun relating to the fact they are 2D drawings) with the exception of Sinbad, Marina and Proteus, whose relationship with each other result in some minor character development and a genuinely touching love story in the latter stages of the film.
By far the most appealing aspect of Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is Eris, the Goddess of Chaos. Like most villains in a movie aimed at children she is not completely evil, but through some stunning animation and a captivating performance by Michelle Pfeiffer she is both intriguing and a joy to watch as her dastardly plans are played out for all to see just for her amusement. An extension of her appeal though is the world she inhabits, for just like her Tartarus showcases the finest Sinbad has to offer with some truly magnificent 2D and 3D animation combining to create a breathtaking environment. That is not to say the rest of the film looks bad, far from it, the mixture of 2D and 3D animation throughout is of a quality far exceeding most productions, though if I had one complaint it would be the relatively poor integration of the animation methods, where the 3D models quite often stick out for even the untrained eye to see.
The rest of the cast include Brad Pitt as Sinbad, Catherine Zeta Jones as Marina and Joseph Fiennes as Proteus, all of whom do a good job in bringing life to the characters. Though as with all American productions the animators quite often use the voice actor’s performance as the initial source for their characterisation, so rather than breathe life into an empty shell the actors are merely the inspiration. Indeed you can certainly see this to various extents in the main characters, Sinbad has a rye sense of humour coupled with a constant grin, Marina is playful but has a strong sense of class while Proteus is a very powerful upright authority figure, something that Fiennes exudes with his demanding voice.
If there are any drawbacks to Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas they lie with the films general inability to go beyond its target audience boundaries. Striking the balance between child and adult entertainment is something that has made Pixar films a constant success but is generally lacking elsewhere. Sinbad lies somewhere in the middle, as a children’s film it succeeds due to the eye-popping visuals and simple structure, while adults can enjoy all of the above and are also catered for with some clever scripting and sly comedy elements. Unfortunately the tantrums employed by the scriptwriters to develop the relationship between Sinbad and Marina do much to negate the more adult elements, but on the whole it comes together fairly well and should satisfy those looking for some light entertainment.
Presented in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen the transfer is of a deceptively high standard. As you might expect the print is flawless, the colours bold and details leaps off the screen, but to anyone with a keen eye you may be disappointed by some compression artefacts that rear their ugly head quite frequently in the form of pixellation in areas of dark solid colour (usually a characters clothing when they are in the cover of shade). Most viewers will probably have to look for such faults but on my 32” Widescreen set I found them quite noticeable and occasionally distracting, which is a shame as from a general viewpoint the transfer often looks stunning.
Both English Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 Surround mixes are provided (the latter is a half-rate track) for your listening pleasure, and they both sound absolutely superb. Encompassing the entire sound stage throughout the 5.1 audio tracks on Sinbad are very active and really suck you into the ‘action movie’ experience. Anyone who has a DTS capable set-up will want to select that track for increased fidelity and LFE effects but fret not; the Dolby Digital track is no slouch and will satisfy your audio needs if DTS is not an option.
Considering Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas was a fairly big production I was surprised by the lack of in-depth bonus features on this disc. The most prominent for actual movie fans is the Filmmakers Audio Commentary that features directors Patrick Gilmore and Tim Johnson alongside Producer Mireille Soria and several other key technical staff from the film. Listening to this scene specific track reminded me that it has been quite some time since I digested a mostly technical audio commentary and like most it can be a little slow, but with several enthusiastic filmmakers collected together in one room they keep things going and offer insights to the many areas of production from story development to the complexities of the art design making this the most in-depth bonus feature on the disc.
A ten-minute featurette The Making of "Sinbad" is your standard promotional fluff piece that offers a glimpse at the films production including the voice actors at work while the key staff members tell us just why Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is going to be a wonderful movie. Of far more interest to animation fans is the Art Gallery. Consisting of 5 sub-sections you can enjoy the original character, monster and location designs including a look at the alternate 'Eris tests Sinbad' scene in Tartarus that is mentioned in the audio commentary.
An interesting additional feature comes in the form of Cyclops Island, an interactive game that amounts to an entirely new 5-minute adventure with Sinbad that features original animation and is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with DD5.1 Surround audio. The interactivity element is questionable, as in reality you get to press the enter button at selected stages to choose which characters perspective you wish to view the adventure from, which adds up to four different ways to view this entertaining side-story.
If you head over to the Dreamworks Kids section you will find a selection of set-top games that feature a little more interactivity than the Cyclops Island piece. These should keep the kids occupied for a while and they might even learn a thing or two about ships in the educational game The 3D Tour of the Chimera. A small featurette, The Voice of Spike, takes a look at the voice recording sessions for Sinbad's dog and offers a tongue-in-cheek look at the selection process - personally I found it quite dull but the kids might like it (they did choose one ugly looking dog though!). Rounding out this section are character biographies complete with vital statistics, links to Favourite Scenes and an outline of what is in store if you pop the disc into your PC DVD-Rom drive (Mac users are snubbed once again on this front).
So what do you get if you delve into the DVD-Rom extras? Well you will find four games, all of which are far more interactive than those playable on your set-top player but none that will occupy an adult for more than an hour (if that) as they are fairly basic. Young children will no doubt see them as a mild distraction from their console of choice, while the simple controls should mean little supervision is required. Other DVD-Rom features include a nice selection of printable extras including a booklet, board game, masks, mobile character hanger, a 2004 Zodiac Calendar and colouring pages, all of which require Adobe Acrobat (included on the disc) and a decent colour printer
Back to the DVD-Video extras and you will find one last bonus, the teaser trailer for The Cat In The Hat starring Mike Myers. This and all other menu based bonus features are presented in Anamorphic Widescreen, while all the video-based extras (including the Audio Commentary) are available with optional English subtitles. The only omission is the Cyclops Island interactive game, that sadly does not offer subtitles.
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is a decent action adventure that proves to be an entertaining distraction thanks to the stunning visuals, likeable characters and impressive action set pieces. Much like the film this DVD release offers mostly throwaway entertainment in the bonus features department, though animation fans should find plenty to absorb in the audio commentary track and although I was slightly disappointed by the video quality most should find the overall viewing experience more than acceptable.
Last updated: 10/07/2018 15:20:18