From the director of 'The Lion King' comes a new animated classic, based on one of the most beloved and bestselling books of all time, and brought to life by some of the most acclaimed animators from around the world. In a Mediterranean seaside village, Kamila (Salma Hayek) cleans house for exiled artist and poet Mustafa (Liam Neeson), but the more difficult job is keeping her free-spirited young daughter Almitra (Quvenzhané Wallis) out of trouble. The three embark on a journey meant to end with Mustafa's return home – but first they must evade the authorities who fear that the truth in his words will spark rebellion. Take a journey that critics call "gloriously uplifting and life-affirming" (IndieWire), "profound" (Variety), and "a celebration of life, freedom, and the human spirit" (The National).
'Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet' is an odd, mesmerizing little animated film. It begins with young Almitra running through a Middle Eastern market stealing produce from stands. The whole scene is reminiscent of when we're first introduced to the Aladdin. Almitra is certainly as rambunctious and fearless as Aladdin. Yet, she's a mute. Having not spoken since the death of her father.
Her mother, Kamila (Salma Hayek) is constantly battling her daughter's outbursts of manic energy. Her daughter's kleptomania hasn't endeared her to the townsfolk either. While she might not yet be at the end of her rope, she's certainly close.
'The Prophet,' which is adapted from Kahlil Gibran's book of the same name. Originally published in 1923, it's a strange story to adapt into what appears to be a kid's movie.
As the film opens it gives off the impression of being something of a slapstick comedy. Especially, when we're introduced to a young government guard named Halim (John Krasinski). A seagull, who apparently communicates with Almitra, steals his hat and a goofy chase ensues. It's a tad eye-rolling to begin with, but the film's choice of animation is absorbing enough to distract from its goofier aspects.
Blending watercolor-esque backgrounds with stellar 2D animation that gives the illusion of 3D image, the film truly is able to create its own unique look.
What's even more surprising is that while much of Almitra's shenanigans are chuckle-worthy, the movie is rather sobering in its purpose. That's because Almitra eventually meets exiled wise man Mustafa (Liam Neeson) who ends up becoming the film's focus.
Mustafa has been held as a prisoner by the country. His crimes are largely unknown to us, but it's safe to assume he was preaching or teaching religious views that weren't wholly accepted by the local government. So, the stashed him away in a mountain cottage hoping to hide him from view of his faithful followers. Hoping they'd forget about him.
The villagers, however, haven't forgotten about Mustafa's teachings and the influence he had over them. The time comes when Mustafa is to be released and sent back to his home country. A representative from the government comes to transport him to a waiting ship. As the travel down the mountain and through the village the people soon realize who he is.
Mustafa finds time to stop and teach the people about love, life, nature, and all sorts of other lofty topics. Whenever Mustafa launches into another parable the animation sifts into something completely original. Each parable is given its own 'Fantasia'-like vignette where music and images accompany Mustafa's words. The images tell a story. Some images and their meanings are obvious, others are much more abstract. This sort of format keeps you guessing on what's coming next both in teaching and animation.
It's a beautiful little film. There's something to be said for the bravery of adapting an early 20th Century book to a modern day animated film. It's fair to say that the audience for such an endeavor is slim. Though, even with its abstract teachings and deep philosophical underpinnings, this film can actually be enjoyed by young children. Even if the deep thinking doesn't interest them maybe the ever-changing animation will. It's truly stunning to watch. It's a different movie and for that reason, among others, it deserves praise.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a two-disc set. It comes with one 50GB Blu-ray and a DVD. There's also a code included for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. Everything is housed in a standard keepcase, which comes with a slipcover.
Yeah, this is a great looking high-def transfer provided by Universal. Even with the ever-shifting animation styles the transfer doesn't miss a beat, presenting each vignette its utmost clarity and vibrant color.
Speaking of color that's this presentation's strongest aspect. The color here is just outstanding. It bursts off the screen no matte if we're talking about reds, blues, greens, pinks, purples, whatever. It all looks great. And it's impossible to pin down a distinctive color palette because 'The Prophet' runs the gamut.
Lines are crisp and resolute. The watercolor backgrounds are nicely rendered adding great depth. There were plenty of areas where banding could've crept in, but it didn't. Color fills are always consistent. Detail never wavers. The distinct visual design of each parable segment is wonderfully presented. Some of them contain intentional noise and the transfer does a great job representing that. Just a great presentation all around.
The impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is quite enthralling for such film of this caliber. You wouldn't expect an immersive audio experience, but that's just what you get here.
The rear channels are constantly alive with city noise, gulls cawing, wind rustling in the trees, and so forth. The wonderful mix of songs on the soundtrack fill the channels with nicely balanced music. Dialogue is always clear and never drowned out by outside forces. Directionality is razor-sharp, as voices are placed exactly where they should be representative to their place on screen.
While there isn't very many shining moments for low-end sonics, it does get some nice rumbling ambiance in there for certain songs. While it may not be as all-encompassing as some other animated titles, this is a strong presentation that shouldn't go overlooked.
Animating 'Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet' (HD, 15 min.) – A lengthy discussion on the animation process that was used for this movie and how all of its disparately animated parts congealed as a whole.
An Interview with the Filmmakers (HD, 12 min.) – Director Roger Allers is joined by Salma Hayek (who is also listed as a producer) to talk about how the film came to be, the inspiration behind its conception, and the animation.
Animatic (HD, 1 hr. 23 min.) – An animatic version of the film is included.
This is a beautifully perplexing movie. One that begins as a silly comedy and ends as a sobering, uplifting parable. The animation is something else. It's experimental and engrossing. The audio and visual portions are top-notch. 'The Prophet' is definitely recommended viewing.