In the late 90s and early 2000s, animation featured a strange, if endearing, blending of traditional hand-drawn 2D with novel 3D assets. As a result, several films that spawned from this period boasted unique visuals and enduring legacies; among these films included 20th Century Fox’s Titan A.E. in 2000, Disney’s Treasure Planet in 2002, Warner Bros. Animation’s The Iron Giant in 1999, and DreamWorks’ Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas in 2003.
Technically speaking, Sinbad wasn’t a well-received film. On a budget of $60 million, it only grossed about $81 million and was considered a box office bomb. Despite praise for its star-studded voice cast’s performances, which included Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Jim Cummings, the film was criticized for the thin plot and somewhat sub-par 3D animation. The film’s perceived box office failure, on top of DreamWorks having already lost over $120 million from previous films, nearly made the studio shutter its doors. However, the studio persevered, and Sinbad was its last feature film to use traditional animation.
Having shifted from the character Sinbad’s Middle Eastern origins to a Mediterranean setting, the film’s plot focuses on the titular swashbuckling sailor as he and his motley crew set their sights on their latest heist: the magical and powerful Book of Peace being transported to the kingdom of Syracuse. The Book is protected by Sinbad’s childhood friend Proteus, to Sinbad’s surprise and amusement, but the friendship is not enough to dissuade him from the theft at first. Complications arise, naturally, when the goddess of chaos Eris also sets her sights on the Book. Her first attempt to steal it fails, with Sinbad and Proteus teaming up to defeat the giant sea monster Cetus. She then waits for it to be safely delivered to Syracuse and is successful, framing Sinbad in the process. Unable to prove his innocence, Sinbad is sentenced to execution before Proteus steps in, offering his own life in exchange to buy time for Sinbad to search for Eris and reclaim the book. Initially hesitant to face the goddess, he’s persuaded to follow through by the beautiful and tough-as-nails Marina, Proteus’s fiancée who stows away on Sinbad’s ship to ensure he follows through. Facing down a number of obstacles and monsters thrown in their way by Eris, they are eventually successful and return the book, saving Proteus’s life before sailing off into the sunset with a promise of future adventures.
Unfortunately, due to the film’s critical flop, proposed sequels never came to fruition. But for all its faults, the film contains the spark of adventure and humor that all animated films geared for a younger audience strive to hit. Rousing music accompanies thrilling action sequences, and the humorous quips between characters feel natural rather than forced. The blending of 2D with 3D animation creates a rich visual appeal without being distracting, and while the film might not have been groundbreaking, it’s still a fun experience and a worthy watch