- Alex Barnhill
Alex Reviews "Bilal: A New Breed Of Hero"
From a child slave to the first muezzin of the religion of Islam, Bilal: A New Breed of Hero follows the story of Bilal ibn Rabah.
While this film is animated, it feels as if it is at war with itself as to whether it is a children’s film or a more violent adult tale vying for a more broad audience. As the film opens in a society that is corrupt and polytheistic with an art style that appears to have been inspired by “Assassin’s Creed: Embers” and Star Wars: Rebels,” the quality falls well short of both. Periodically, a visual would appear that showed real potential behind the film, but these would be rare. Watching this film for the inconsistencies in animation would be its own entertainment if it were not for the story being so heavy-handed throughout. I found myself thinking that the picture must have been dubbed based on the animation and audio not being in sync. After some quick research post credits, I realized that it always been done in English making things even more confusing.
Arguably, the best work done for the film was by Todd Resnick, the casting director. The incomparable Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Suicide Squad) is perfect for the adult Bilal, based upon research consistently stating the importance of Bilal ibn Rabah’s deep and resonating voice. As the antagonist, Ian McShane (American Gods) continues to prove that he could make anything sound sinister with his mere tone.
The biggest issue with the film might be its near complete disregard for time. Repeatedly, the film jumps to another time at whim or the film will leap ahead with no explanation. At other times, a visual cue such as “Three Months Later” will be used unnecessarily, while over 20 years (estimated) will pass later with no clarification aside from some slightly grey hair.
Bilal may set the record for “Most False Finishes” as what feels like a definitive climax is then followed by maybe twenty minutes of voiceover by the best Peter Cullen impersonator I have ever heard. All of this occurs while mostly still animations are shown on the screen, and arguably, the most interesting character in the movie, Hamza, is written off as one of the fallen during this segment. Further research proved this to be even more bizarre as Hamza was a successful military general, a great (possibly greatest) Islamic warrior, and the uncle of Muhammad.
While the film has many shortcomings, many of the movie patrons who follow Islam that I spoke with after our screening had very high praise for the story. I couldn’t bring myself to ask if they thought whether it is a children’s movie or something else.