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Trimark Pictures presents
Sinbad - Beyond The Veil Of Mists (2000)

"You show much curiosity for a young lady. That is a good thing."
- Baraka (Leonard Nimoy)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: March 28, 2001

Stars: (voices) Brendan Frasier, Leonard Nimoy, Mark Hamill, Jennifer Hale
Other Stars: John Rhys-Davies
Director: Evan C. Ricks and Alan Jacobs

Manufacturer: Technicolor
MPAA Rating: G for (mild animated violence)
Run Time: 01h:24m:33s
Release Date: February 13, 2001
UPC: 031398748021
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- D+BB+ C-

DVD Review

It's been a long time since mythical hero, Sinbad, has graced the motion pictures. Other than an awful, failed attempted at resurrecting the series in the late 1980s (Sinbad of the Seven Seas with Lou Ferigno), and a weak television series, we haven't really seen Sinbad brought back to life since the 1970s (remember Eye Of The Tiger?). For this reason, the 1998 project Sinbad: Beyond The Veil Of Mists, intrigued me. It seemed on the right track, attempting to create an animated epic for the famous sailor and getting big name talent to provide the voices. As the years passed, though, the project seemed to lose more and more steam, and eventually it wound its way out of the public eye. Details on the production became scarce, the promised theatrical release disappeared, a scant cable showing followed, and now it comes straight to video, but not even here without many delays. In the end, it would appear Beyond The Veil Of Mists possibly became the victim of ambition, and is now a thoroughly disappointing film that just goes through the motions of being a Sinbad experience.

The story is clichéd , with little imagination or spark. Set in an ancient kingdom, King Akron (John Rhys-Davies) appears to have a peaceful rule. His daughter, Serena (Jennifer Hale), discovers a mysterious stranger to the land one day, while watching ships in port. The man, Baraka (Leonard Nimoy), is actually a sinister wizard who has come to take over the kingdom, but no one is aware of this. He tricks the king into drinking a potion that causes both men to switch forms, thus making Baraka the king, and vice-versa. Serena knows the truth and sets off to discover a way to reverse the effects. Predictably, she teams up with Sinbad (Brendan Frasier) who hires his ship to her. They discover that the only way to reverse the effects is to obtain ingredients for another potion in a far off land past the fabled 'Veil of Mists.' Both The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger had similar plots about finding curative potions, so it seems to me a lack of originality here.

Visually, the film was created entirely with computer renders, using motion capture for all the characters (the process of filming real people, mapping their movements with a computer, then applying the movement to the render). Unfortunately, the most striking thing about the graphics is how low-quality they are. Not only do older shows like ReBoot show far more work on the characters, but there are even modern video games with far better construction and crafting of human models. The motion capture does lend a certain fluid movement to everyone, but their models are so bad it doesn't matter anyway. All characters are very awkward and gangly, with oddly placed elbows and giant, unnatural hands that never grasp anything, but rather 'palm' things much the way puppets do. There are virtually no facial expressions and most characters' eyes never move. One fellow, a simple barkeep who helps Sinbad, doesn't move his mouth with the dialogue on a regular basis. So, basically the 'cast' is a series of lifeless, mannequin-like, zombies.

There is also an element of slightly shoddy workmanship, the likes of which I have never seen in a computer animated series or feature. There are instances of dropped frames of animation, polygon clipping (where solid objects will pass through each other for a second), and frames where render features mysteriously go away. For example, about 17 minutes into the movie, Princess Serena goes the port to look for a ship. She spies Sinbad's vessel, and as she looks at it, one can easily detect a good 2-3 seconds where the water textures (ripples, etc.) are suddenly gone, then back again. Some scenes even have weird jumps where characters move ahead of their cue or completely disappear for a few frames. Most of this is noticeable to the naked eye and anyone who has worked in computer animation (thus, making it easier to spot), but try watching scenes in slow motion or frame-by-frame, and you will uncover a multitude of sins.

It's obvious there was a lot of work put into certain aspects; the textures are nice and many scenes are composited with real backgrounds, like sky and water. Despite the enormous and annoying flaws, I was impressed with how well the animators rendered water, sometimes using real-life footage, but even Saturday morning-type fare like Max Steel seems much more in-depth, and those producers don't get 3 years to construct each episode. Now, I'm not a technical snob, and I'd like to overlook any perceived shortcomings to enjoy the film, but nothing about the plot or presentation is really worth mentioning. The writing is cookie-cutter and basically utilizes the template of any generic action/adventure film. The 'evil wizard' routine has been done to death in modern fantasy, and requires some spice to liven it up, but there's no spice here.

The voice cast does what they can with the roles. Brendan Frasier puts a lot of effort into his time as Sinbad, but the unemotional animation makes him seem like he's wasting his breath. Leonard Nimoy has a great vocal talent, but the robotic and stale portrayal of his dual characters don't fit the voice at all. Mark Hamill is utterly wasted as the Captain of the King's guard; relegated to saying things like, "Yes sir!", and, "I'll get you!" About the only element of Beyond The Veil Of Mists that doesn't feel half-assed is the rather nice, Middle-Eastern themed music.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The widescreened transfer looks OK for the most part, but for a computer generated feature, it's a little disappointing. The source was obviously film-based, as you can see speckles and small scratches. There's also heavy grain throughout most of the feature, as well as very weak black level. None of this kills the disc, but it is noticable. Anamorphic enhancement might have improved some of the resolution.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The audio mix appears to be a stereo one. It sounds pretty good, with a lot of stereo soundfield to it (music, sound effects). There's some hefty low-end bass and pretty much every action sequence does what it can with the audio. I didn't detect any surround channel usage. Everything is very clear and crisp, with nothing to complain about. Obviously, a more dynamic soundtrack would have been optimal, but I don't think it would have saved the other flaws here.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dragonball, Voltron: Defender Of The Universe, Voltron: The Third Dimension
Packaging: Alpha
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There aren't really any features on the disc. Highlighting the Trimark logo on the main menu and clicking it will play a 5-minute reel of trailers, including the trailer for Beyond The Veil Of Mists. There are also quick promos for Trimark's release of the original Dragonball and Voltron series.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Little kids might enjoy this simplistic cartoon, but I wouldn't bet on it. It looks like Sinbad is still in dry-dock for another decade or so until someone can resurrect him properly in a masterful, exciting feature reminiscent of the old Harryhausen films. Don't look here for that age of fantasy; if you want to see Brendan Frasier in a quality adventure yarn, try The Mummy. Beyond The Veil Of Mists might entertain on a rainy day as a rental, but the years spent in development on it don't really show at all. You could watch almost any kids cartoon (computer generated or not) and probably see more adventure and excitement.


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