Last year Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) was a pleasant surprise that seemingly came out of nowhere. By the time that awards season rolled around, the positive buzz could not be ignored. A story was told that was more mature in nature and the animation was stunning. Less than a year later, could we being the birth of yet another animated gem? The folks behind Bilal: A New Breed of Hero sure hope that’s the case. It’s time to explore a long forgotten story.
Over a thousand years ago, a young boy named Bilal would learn just how cruel the world can be. Once a free person, he finds himself in a life of servitude along with his sister. He once dreamed of becoming a warrior, now he kneels at the feet of his captors. Regardless of his very unfortunate situation, as Bilal gets older. a defiance that has always been there starts to burn. Eventually this inner heat erupts into a full-fledged fire as he becomes a voice for freedom. An inevitable collision course is set for the proud slave and the family that took everything from him.
Bilal was apparently known for his voice, which is mentioned in this movie. I bring that up because the voice cast to represent this lead character is Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who has quite the booming voice. Maybe bringing this up ahead of time, for those readers who have not yet seen Bilal: A New Breed of Hero, will allow viewers not to be distracted by audio/visual mismatch. The appearance of Bilal does not lead you to expect to hear such an authoritative voice. As things play out though, the creative purpose comes into focus.
Bilal: A New Breed of Hero has an interesting plot but it struggles to keep audiences’ attention focused throughout the entire movie. It lags at times, losing steam along the way. By far though, the biggest strength to this feature is the animation. The scenery is visually sweeping and breathtaking. Artists put some real hours into the making of this feature and not a detail was missed. Even with its lacking mass appeal in the entertainment category, it sure is pretty to look at.
Marketing for Bilal: A New Breed of Hero was very subdued so most people won’t even know about it. I feel that it might be for the best. The overall feel of this movie is extended and a bit bland. Beautiful for sure, but that won’t be enough to suck viewers in. In my opinion, I would just wait to watch Bilal: A New Breed of Hero at home for a lesser financial investment. My other cautionary thought is that it’s probably a good idea to bank on kids to thoroughly enjoy this experience. The lack of a mostly linear story, along with a dry, more mature theme will undoubtedly snap the attention span of a lot of kids (and some adults). This PG-13 historical representation is only an average animated adaption.