Judge Christopher Kulik's not a prophet, just a poet and a picker.
The story of the last prophet has now been given the animated treatment.
The passion and hard work that was injected into this project is difficult to ignore. Director Richard Rich (The Fox and the Hound, The King and I) is quoted on the DVD case of Muhammed: The Last Prophet as saying, "bringing the Prophet's story to life has given me great appreciation for what Muhammed has accomplished for the world." However, will the film satisfy those who are not part of the Muslim religion?
Facts of the Case
Over 1400 years ago, a merchant in the desert town of Mecca went up into the mountains to pray and meditate. There, he received a sign from God to teach His message all across the land. Returning to his homeland, he was greeted with mostly scorn and disbelief, despite recruiting a few followers. Retaliation follows in a series of wars, though Muhammed (PBUH, aka Peace Be Upon Him), was able to successfully convert all the conflicting tribes and unite as one under God.
Care and affection was present in Muhammed: The Last Prophet, though I must confess that the film never engaged me. The primary reason for this is I felt distant from its central figure, mostly due to never seeing him, as it's forbidden according to Islamic law. What Rich and crew did was show the Prophet from a first-person perspective, making it look like you're playing an X-BOX game. That's all well and good, except that it never allowed me to understand Muhammed and learn who he really was.
Being non-denominational, religion-wise, I learned a bit about Muhammed and Islamic religion, though admittedly not enough to fulfill a college credit. Still, whether I believe the historical events depicted in this or 1976's The Message—or not—doesn't really matter. As a film, Muhammed just failed to grab me on an emotional or spiritual level. I'm not saying Rich's film is meant to make someone go down on their knees and thank Muhammed for his sacrifice-laden mission; I'm simply pointing out that I believe this film will only appeal to those who are Muslim.
Since this is an animated film, it's clear Rich and his team were determined to educate a young audience on the Prophet. The problem is that there are no Disney/Pixar ingredients to prevent the audience from possibly falling asleep. Granted, comic relief may seem inappropriate here, though Rich could have at least relied on something more than just colorful buildings and an invisible lead who comes off more like a ghost with a big stick.
The animation itself is really nothing special. The visual style sports a look and texture comparable to many modern-day Saturday-morning cartoons. Details are limited, with backgrounds looking like enhanced paintings. For some reason, I just didn't feel like I was transported back to the 7th century, mostly because everything is too manufactured, lacking luminescence and void of striking imagery.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Despite my quibbles with the film itself, I must credit the Fine Media Group for a dedicated DVD presentation. Touted as a "Special Edition," the film is presented in widescreen and the picture is crystal clear. The DD 2.0 Stereo track is highly serviceable as well. Audio and subtitles are available in English and Arabic.
As far as bonus features, Rich doesn't come out for a commentary for some reason, though we do have a photo gallery, character biographies, as well as some Nasheed (read: acoustic/religious songs) video clips. The biographies actually educated me more than the film itself, and the songs are quite elegiac and easy to listen to.
There is a second disc, which is devoted to another compilation of Nasheed songs. All of them are specifically made in tribute to the Prophet, and include artists from the UK, Canada, Macedonia, USA, South Africa and Indonesia. They are all certainly welcome, even though it doesn't quite make the package a "special edition" in my book.
Those who are part of the Muslim faith will no doubt find more substance here than I did. For better or worse, I'm sure more of these kinds of productions will spawn, like animated films showcasing the lives of Joseph Smith and Mary Baker Eddy.
Forgive me, Muhammed, but the film is guilty. However, the Fine Media Group is acquitted for a fine DVD release.
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