Monday, April 25, 2011

In Defense of the Good Guy

{In which I rant about the animated movie Sinbad, anti-heroes, and Brad Pitt. Warning: it's a long one.}

A month ago I came across this awesome Disney medley video by Nick Pitera. And then after that I got sucked into the world of animated feature film fan videos on Youtube. Like this Disney Mean Girls trailer. Or this Disney "Love Story" MV. There are also a ton of crossover videos where romances are created between characters from different movies. Those are pretty cool, when done well (the quality of those videos vary, obviously).

They're not always all Disney, either; Anastasia, The Swan Princess, Quest for Camelot, and other animated films from various studios also appear in many of these videos. And after watching all those tantalizing clips I realized there were some movies I hadn't seen in a long time, or even ever, and that was something I should fix! So I did. And it was awesome.

One of the (more-than-I'd-like-to-admit) movies I watched was Dreamwork's Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, which was the only movie that wasn't a rewatch. While watching it I laughed and yelled at the characters and rolled my eyes and predicted the future and cried my eyes out - you know, normal movie-watching behavior for me.

But there was one thing that pissed me off so much that I needed to blow off some steam. Namely, why-oh-why does the good guy have to finish last?! Argh. Fortunately I have this lovely blog on which to express all my frustrations regarding the film, so that's what this post is about.

[Oh, and in addition to lots of ranting, this post is also full of spoilers for the movie, so if you're someone who's planning to watch the movie and cares about that sort of thing, you might want to watch it before you read this (then you'll know what I'm talking about!). Personally, I don't mind checking out movie synopses ahead of time, but I understand some people are staunchly anti-spoiler. So there's your disclaimer.]

Anyway, I wasn't planning on disliking Sinbad. He's the titular character, after all, so theoretically he should be the one I'm rooting for. As it turns out... that wasn't the case.

We meet him as a blackhearted pirate whose dream is to secure a pile of gold and retire to an island (hm, wasn’t that Flynn’s dream too?). Sounds good to me! Who doesn't want riches and relaxation?

But while I can relate to his desire to become fabulously wealthy, I wasn't so fond of his methods (I know, what do I expect, he's a pirate). He plans on stealing the Book of Peace for ransom, manages to leap aboard the right ship with his crew, and begins disarming soldiers left and right.

Robbing someone is a terrible idea in real life, but in fiction I can let it slide as long as I have a reason to cheer for the protagonist. I'm hoping the person he steals from will be someone nasty. Sinbad is no Robin Hood, but a despicable adversary can do wonders for the protagonist’s likability.

So when Sinbad discovers the Book is the responsibility of Prince Proteus, it's Bad News. Why? Because Proteus is a friend that Sinbad last saw ten years ago, and presumably never expected to see again. He tries to talk Sinbad out of stealing the Book for the sake of the Twelve Cities, which need the protection of the Book of Peace, and, when that fails, for the sake of their past friendship. Neither deters Sinbad, but unfortunately for him, Proteus is prepared to guard the Book with his life.

Compared with Proteus' sense of duty, honor, and concern for others, Sinbad comes across as a jerk for dismissing any friendship he'd ever shared with Proteus. Has he no sense of loyalty? How can I want him to succeed in stealing the Book when I'd prefer to root for the noble Proteus? My opinion of Sinbad takes a dive as he insists on fighting for the Book, but the exchange of blows is interrupted by the sea monster that attacks Proteus' ship.

Sinbad, coward that he is, abandons his attempt on the Book in favor of saving his own skin. He tries to run away, but a flick of the sea monster's tentacle sends his own ship out of range, and Sinbad is stuck. He redeems himself a bit as he helps Proteus defeat the monster (seeing the two of them work together made me so happy!) and even more when he saves Proteus' life and is thrown overboard instead. (Fine, I guess he’s not entirely selfish. Hmph.)

Down in the depths of the sea, he meets Eris, the goddess of chaos. Turns out the sea monster's hers, and she makes a deal with Sinbad: if Sinbad promises to steal the Book of Peace and bring it to her realm, Tartarus, instead of holding it for ransom, she'll not only let him live but also make him rich beyond his wildest dreams once he delivers the Book.

Of course Sinbad takes her up on it. He makes it back to his crew and they follow Proteus to Syracuse, where they crash the party celebrating the arrival of the Book. Proteus welcomes him with humor and eagerly introduces Sinbad to his fiancee, the ambassador Lady Marina. Sinbad takes one look at her and decides to run off without making an attempt on the Book.

At this point I have a terrible feeling. Please don't let that mean what I think it means! She's not the female lead, is she? No... not Proteus' fiancee... please don't let her be the girl on the movie poster...

My fears are confirmed when Marina tells Proteus that she used to dream of sailing the seas and discovering the world. Proteus responds that he knows it's not easy to deal with the pressure of expectations surrounding their arranged marriage. Hope stirs when I hear this; maybe they're just friends and Proteus will still be happy at the end? But then he says he doesn't want a marriage based solely on politics and a sense of duty, then says to Marina, "I'm asking this for myself now. Marina, will you marry me?"

Sighhhhh. I'm torn. He loves her! He's such a good person! But I already know his love is doomed. Still, he's so sweet and romantic... how can anyone not melt at his proposal?

His father interrupts before Marina can respond. At least she won't have to break a personal promise on top of the engagement and Proteus' heart. I'm angry already and she hasn't even done anything. But I know it's coming. Obviously she will go sailing off with Sinbad and fall in love with him, and I'm pretty sure I will hate her for it.

Meanwhile, Eris steals the Book of Peace, frames Sinbad, and leaves the city in chaos (what else). Sinbad is apprehended for the crime and sentenced to death, but he's innocent (for once). Of course, no one believes him when he protests, especially with his crazy story about being framed by a goddess.

Proteus is angry at Sinbad for putting the city in danger, but trusts him when he says he didn't do it. Proteus not only believes Sinbad's claims of innocence but substitutes himself for Sinbad, charging him with proving the truth of his words by stealing back the Book from Eris and returning it to Syracuse. If Sinbad doesn't recover the Book within ten days, Proteus will die.

I admire Proteus so much for his strength of character, for his loyalty to his friend, and for putting his concern for the citizens of his city above his own life. It’s clear that he tries to do what is right and loves the subjects for which he is responsible.

I almost wish Proteus weren't so honorable and trusting, because what does Sinbad do as soon as he goes free? Charts a course for Fiji. Proteus puts his life on the line to give Sinbad a chance to redeem himself, and Sinbad repays him by leaving him to die.

But then Sinbad finds a stowaway: Marina, who's there to make sure he actually goes to Tartarus to retrieve the Book and save Proteus. Attempts to appeal to honor and duty go nowhere with Sinbad, so she resorts to bribery — which works like a charm (although Sinbad's first mate suspects it's not just because of the money).

Off they go, sailing toward Tartarus with lots of adventures on the way. Sinbad does something dumb so Marina has to save everyone, but whatever. Banter, humor, blah blah blah. (Watch the movie if you want to know about these parts.)

Back in Syracuse, Prince Proteus' father arranges for Proteus to escape. It's understandable that he can't watch his son die. But Proteus refuses to live as a fugitive and trusts that Sinbad will do the right thing. I know he'll be ok in the end, but it's still heart-wrenching to watch him as he waits, either for Sinbad's return — or for his own execution.

We cut back to Sinbad and Marina, and there's some more action. This time Sinbad returns the favor by rescuing Marina, and more stuff happens here and there. (As you can see I'm not very excited about these scenes. At least they're funny.)

After many close calls with monsters and disasters, Sinbad and Marina have a late night chat. They're alone on deck, and I'm afraid it's the scene I've been dreading. Marina says she wishes she could live a life at sea, but she has responsibilities in Syracuse (I'm glad she remembers that! Hope she'll keep that in mind but am pretty sure she will discard her duty to her people in favor of going off adventuring. Argh.)

Then Sinbad tells her that he and Proteus became best friends when Proteus helped to defend him from a gang of attackers. (Proteus is amazing!) Sinbad, while poor, never envied the prince, until one day, a ship arrived carrying Proteus' future — the most beautiful thing Sinbad had ever seen. Marina. In an instant, Sinbad is sailing off without even saying goodbye.

Seriously? Seriously?! 

I am flabbergasted that this is the reason Sinbad ditched Proteus for ten years. 

There is so much wrong with that I’m not sure where to start. I mean, Sinbad totally fails as a friend. I can't believe Proteus is still willing to trust and help Sinbad after what happened! What kind of guy just takes off with no explanation for something this stupid? Hello, is that the lamest love at first sight or what?!

Sinbad didn't even talk to her, just took one look from a distance, and decided he's so in love that he can't stand seeing his friend be engaged to the mystery girl. For all intents and purposes, she's just a pretty face to him. But for her, he's willing to abandon his relationship with Proteus and sever all contact. (Insert me sputtering and raving about what a loser Sinbad is.)

And then. Sinbad tries to kiss her. His best friend’s fiancee.


(I absolutely cannot stand betrayals of that kind in any sort of fiction, much less real life. Thank goodness Marina stops him, albeit reluctantly, or I might have... well, I don't know what I would've done. Something drastic, I'm sure.)

By the time I calm down, I notice they've made it to Tartarus. Sinbad and Marina confront Eris, wanting to know what she’s got against Sinbad. It turns out that Sinbad wasn't Eris' target after all - she was after Proteus the entire time. (Ha, take that, stupid arrogant Sinbad! You totally thought it was all about you!)

Eris was counting on Proteus being his usual noble self and Sinbad doing what he does best — running away — resulting in the execution of Syracuse's only prince, therefore plunging the city into even more chaos (that woman has a one-track mind).

Eris accuses Sinbad of betraying his best friend, but Sinbad claims he didn't, pointing out that he was there in Tartarus to recapture the Book. But then Eris says that he's been betraying Proteus by stealing Marina — the woman Proteus loves. (Sinbad clearly has little understanding of what friendship and loyalty mean.)

Marina says Eris is wrong about Sinbad being a cowardly loser (I'm seriously doubting Marina's sense of judgment by this point), so Eris proposes a bet. She'll ask Sinbad one question, and if he answers honestly, she will return the Book. Sounds too easy, right?

This is the question: "If you don't get the Book of Peace, will you return to Syracuse to die?" Sinbad says he will and steps forward to take the Book — but Eris tells him he’s lying. He doesn’t get the Book and the entire world seems doomed to become as terrifyingly chaotic as the realm of Tartarus.

On that cheerful note, Sinbad and Marina get tossed out of Tartarus. They end up on a random island by themselves, and Maria immediately tells Sinbad to run away, saying she can't watch him die. Saying she loves him. She's crying, and I tear up too, but not for the same reason. I'm devastated, not for Sinbad — I seriously couldn't care less about him — but for Proteus.

Marina's declaration of love for Sinbad means that her relationship with Proteus is definitively over — the one thing I dreaded. Knowing it was going to happen eventually didn't lessen my sadness when I had to watch it unfold.

Plus, I don't see how Marina could have fallen in love with Sinbad over the few days they were on the ship together. He's still a selfish jerk, as far as I'm concerned, despite the fact he decides to go back. He chooses to return, not because he cares about Proteus, not because of honor or loyalty, not because it's the right thing to do — but because he's concerned that Marina cannot love someone who runs away.

I guess that means Marina's love means more to him than life itself, which I think is silly, especially considering the way he fell in love with her (in a similar vein, I thought Romeo and Juliet were retarded, not romantic).

But whatever. All that matters to me is that he's going back, which means Proteus will live and Eris won't accomplish her goal of taking over the world. I'm secretly hoping Sinbad will actually get executed although I know that’s being too optimistic. No way is the titular character going to die in a cartoon (well, maybe except in the Corpse Bride). Too bad.

The day arrives for Proteus' execution. He kneels with his head on the execution block, fulfilling his duty to the last. Brave, honorable man! Obviously Sinbad shows up just in time to stop the execution, but without the Book. He says he couldn't let Proteus die — but come on, he's really doing it for his chances with Marina.

Then it's Sinbad's turn to kneel at the execution block and of course I know what's going to happen despite how much drama and tension the filmmakers attempt to inject into the scene (yawn). Eris stops the execution — she is bound to her word as a goddess, and since Sinbad returned to die, it means he didn't lie. (Oops, accidental rhyming.) So she has to give back the Book.

Still, I don't remember her saying anything about saving his life in the deal, so I wish she had let him be executed before she gave back the Book. But whatever.

Sinbad returns the Book, receives the gratitude and adulation of the crowds, and declines to stay for the festivities. The observant Proteus sees Marina's reaction when Sinbad leaves and immediately guesses what happened. That's another sign of how much he loves her — he notices the little things and tries his best to understand her.

Gently, he lets her know he's aware that she's in love with Sinbad and tells her to follow her heart. Shocked and grateful, Marina hugs him goodbye while I cry (yes, really cry) over how amazing Proteus is. I'm so heartbroken for him, and yet I admire his strength and generosity despite how much it must hurt him. I don't wish for Marina to stay; he deserves someone who loves him back with all her heart. I just wish I got to see his happy ending.

And then Marina shows up on Sinbad's ship and I seriously want to murder the two of them for betraying Proteus without a second thought.

Why is Marina so dumb and selfish? How can she let go of her duties and responsibilities like that, with no consideration of the consequences for the citizens of the Twelve Cities? How can she give up Proteus, who loves her and whose noble character is surely familiar to her (they had ten years, after all) to become a lawbreaking pirate with a crazy guy she barely knows who ran away at the mere sight of her?

I mean, Sinbad is so annoying! Not to mention selfish and cowardly and shallow and greedy. Sure, he has his moments, rescues Marina, and is good at flirtatious banter. But Proteus has a sense of humor too and has many additional advantages, one of which is having a conscience. Sinbad doesn’t even question Marina's appearance on the boat or feel any pangs of guilt about taking off with the ambassador to Syracuse, the future queen. Proteus' beloved.

Sinbad and Marina sail off into the horizon, and instead of being happy for them, I imagine the many ways in which I'd like to make them suffer, had I the power. How can such lame main characters get their happy ending while the amazing secondary character loses the love of his life?

Yes, I get that Sinbad is the anti-hero, which has been all the rage lately. Brad Pitt, who voices Sinbad, seems to have a fondness for playing anti-heroes — Fight Club and Troy come to mind. I'm not fond of Brad Pitt in general — he's not exactly my idea of the masculine ideal, as far as looks go — but I must say I hated him in both those movies because of the characters he played.

It's easier to accept anti-heroes when they're up against someone even more dastardly and evil than they are — think Ocean’s Eleven — but when they're pitted against true heroes, I can't help but root for the heroes instead.

Like Hector versus Achilles in Troy. I cried so much when Hector (played by Eric Bana) was killed by Achilles (played by Brad Pitt). I mourned Hector's death and raged against Achilles, because Hector was the epitome of nobility while selfish Achilles had no honor.

(I never understood why, whenever I mention this to people, the response is, “What, like you didn't know that was going to happen?” Sure I knew — I had to learn about the Iliad in school like everyone else — but hello, that’s not the point! Just because I knew it was going to happen doesn't mean it's any less upsetting!) (Oh, and that doesn't count as a spoiler, right? Everyone caught up on their Greek myths?)

So yeah, I don't get the whole Brad-Pitt-as-anti-hero thing so many people seem to be fond of. I suppose there is a sort of roguish charm to anti-heroes. Guys can vicariously enjoy the thrill of freedom from responsibility. Girls can fantasize about being the one to redeem the bad boy.

But me? I'd choose the good guy any day. I like my male leads to be someone I can respect and admire and aspire to be more like. Someone whose appeal lies in his noble character, his honesty, his courage, his loyalty, his goodness and love for others. Doesn’t hurt if he's smart, attractive, talented, and funny as well.

If you know a single guy like that, please introduce me to him! :D

with love,


  1. i read the entire thing, are you impressed? ugh that sounds like a TERRIBLE movie. and i can totally imagine you reacting to everything in the movie... haha. but now i actually want to watch it just to see how similar it is to how i imagined it in my head after reading your synopsis

  2. hahah YES i am VERY impressed! :D yay i feel loved. :) i wasn't sure if
    anyone would actually read all of it XD

    hehe it's actually not a bad movie. i mean, there's a lot of cute banter and
    cleverness, the pirate crew is awesome, and there's an adorable dog. i
    laughed a lot when i wasn't busy hating sinbad. (well ok, i rolled my eyes a
    few times too.)

    but given the point of my post i didn't mention all the funny parts in my
    very biased synopsis, so you can still enjoy the movie. (nothing ruins a
    movie more than someone trying to tell you the funny parts. spoilers, in
    comparison, aren't so bad, right? it's not like most plots aren't pretty
    predictable anyway)

    and who knows, maybe you'll like sinbad and marina more than i did. they're
    not THAT awful. i was just upset by their treatment of proteus, haha.

    if you do watch it, i'd love to know what you think! :D

  3. I thing Proteus's noble characters is a true reflection of yourself! And can totally relate to your feelings about this movie. It reminds me of watching and discussing Troy or the other movie (I don't remember the title) with you at home and you disliked so much of characters who betray friends and love ones.

    You have a very noble and righteous characters and I am very proud of you!

  4. haha aww thanks dad, but i don't think i'm that noble >.< i'd like to be,
    though. and thanks for reading the whole thing!

    i think the movie you're talking about is tristan + isolde. i hated the
    title characters. haha.

  5. Ah! Troy! I too, thought Hector was awesome. Except for his wife, who was way too thin. I know that isn't the point of your blog, but also--ANASTASIA! Remember that and Swan Princess, we used to watch that all the time

  6. lol yeah i loved watching swan princess! but like i mentioned in that blog
    post with the swans in it, i think the best part of the entire movie is the
    first song lol. then they grow up and turn annoying XD

    i don't remember watching anastasia that much though. we didn't have the
    movie. did you?

  7. we might have gone to the theater to watch that....or maybe i'm thinking of something else.

  8. don't worry pheebs linda has terrible memory... we definitely watched anastasia a ton. we have the soundtrack! and my NAME was anastasia. swan princess + anastasia = two of my favorite movies heheeh

  9. i remember the soundtrack but i know we didn't have the movie, so how would we have watched it? i only remember watching it in the theaters with jessica and amanda that one time...

  10. omg, i just realized i've been thinking about the prince of persia characters throughout the whole post!!!! i haven't seen either movie but i remembered the poster for prince of persia had one main, pirate-looking character with another man and woman behind him!!! and then when i read "cartoon" near the end and i was like, wait a minute... o_O awesome synopsis though =D

  11. Late comment is late but I just wanted to say: THIS, YES, SO MUCH.

    Okay, admittedly I'm not really into guys so I wasn't interested in Proteus in that way, but he was my favourite character too and I LOATHED Sinbad. I can't stand those kinds of characters. I'm probably even more hateful towards them than you because I didn't even like Flynn (which I presume you did?) although he was admittedly more likable than Sinbad (and I did love Tangled overall).

    Marina... yeah, a total moron. But here's my headcanon for what happened: two weeks later she breaks up with Sinbad, realising that what she actually loved about "him" was the getting to travel the world and have adventures thing and the guy is actually kinda horrible. So instead she'll ditch him, find herself a ship of her own and go off on her own to have fun until she finds out that being a pirate actually kinda sucks in the long run but it's not like she can go back anymore.

  12. HAHAHA this is awesome! No idea how you found my blog but I'm so glad there's someone else who felt the same way. (And yes, you're right, I DO like Flynn haha.) Love your headcanon, makes SO much sense. Plus, according to psychology studies, people tend to mistake adrenaline from danger/nervousness for romantic interest in whoever's the closest, so I'm just going to say that's what happened to Marina. Good luck when that wears off, lol. And yes, totally agree that becoming a pirate is a terrible idea!