Greetings, geeks. Animation geekette checking in!
Today I am reviewing a charming film that is certain to make some controversial waves in a country like the United States, being a movie about the life journey of a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, named Bilal
The film is about Bilal, a man who grew up in slavery, who finds his path in life to “being a great man” by freeing himself of both emotional and literal “chains” holding him back.
The film makes the well-intentioned attempt at being inspirational, but comes off as a bit cheesy and illogical at times. Especially when you look into the real history of Bilal. There actually quite a handful of historical inaccuracies from what I read into. Someone in the film tells Bilal “You were free once”, but he in fact was 100% born a slave in real history. I get that they were trying to make deeper implications, but it was weird throughout the movie how people kept telling a man who lived his life in slavery that being a slave was all in his head. There was definitely a good message there, but I just don’t feel like it was executed very well.
The art was phenomenal. Between the realistic lighting, shadows, reflections, textures, and models, the overall characters themselves looked just great. All of those elements, plus the art style gave the film this near realism to it, aside from the oversized eyes that reminded us that it was still animated. I loved looking at this film, it was just beautiful. There was a priest that wore masks, they looked real enough that you could just reach out and touch it. The only complaint on this part I would have would be one unimportant thing, really. The fur on the white horse, that Bilal tries to comedically mount, looked like carpet or a stuffed bear. That just stuck out like a sore thumb to me when, again, everything else just looks so spot on.
I should also mention that facial emotions were quite well done. There’s a lot of sadness in this movie, and you can plainly see it (and almost feel it) on the characters’ faces.
The animation I think was probably the weakest link when it comes to the look of the film. I mean it wasn’t god-awful, it definitely had shining moments. Such as when Bilal and his horse were “made of sand”, and the characters’ gaits, especially when walking with fabric draping around their legs. However, as I watched through this movie I was convincing myself that this had to be perhaps a French animation because 1) it looked so good--French animation, in my opinion, usually looks great-- and 2) the mouth movements seemed to fit only half of the words, if that. To my surprise when I looked it up, I found that BILAL was actually produced in English in Dubai. By a company called Barajoun Entertainment, which is the leading animation company in the Middle Eastern and North Africa (MENA) region.
The story lulled at some point which literally had me dozing off for a couple of minutes, and I returned to full consciousness during a sweet Bollywood-esque action battle scene! Some angel(?) soldiers showed up to help Bilal and his men to fight for their cause, and then they never talked about it. I double checked with the person I was watching the film with just incase I had missed anything and they didn’t recall an explanation either. It’s easy to assume that their god was helping them, but it still felt odd without any acknowledgement about that event even after the fact within the movie.
BILAL was rather touching at times, and held some solid character development with likeable characters. There are some mild issues with the animations and the voice casting is a little off, but overall I felt it was worth my time. I’m not of any religion, but I can enjoy a story with religious undertones-- I still appreciate THE PRINCE OF EGYPT as work of art to this day. Some may still have trouble seeing past that, but if you’re capable of critical thinking, it shouldn’t harm you in any way.
By the way, the credits are a visual treat to watch too.
BILAL is out in theaters now! Go see it!