Though I’m a self-proclaimed theater nerd and enthusiast, I typically don’t pay attention to any musicals that are staged outside of the United States. But recently, a British musical broke through my bubble: The Prince of Egypt. That’s right: There is now a musical adaptation of Dreamworks Animation’s 1998 hit film The Prince of Egypt.
Learning of the musical adaptation made me reflect on how influential the film was, even 22 years after its release. There are so many reasons: I could talk for days about the soundtrack (“The Plagues!” “All I Ever Wanted!” “Deliver Us!”), the masterful animation (the huge crowd in the 10 commandments scene at the end!), and the character foils and parallels (did someone say Miriam is singing a slow reprise of her mother’s song?? I’m already sobbing!). Plus, The Prince of Egypt had behind-the-scenes consultation and approval from Jewish, Muslim, and Christian scholars (!!!).
But, upon my millionth rewatch, I realized something else: The Prince of Egypt is basically a superhero movie. Seriously.
Here are five pieces of proof that are more rock-solid than the boulder Moses struck his staff at:
1. The Superman Parallels
Let me back up. Jewish American artist-and-author team Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel created Superman for DC Comics in the late 1930s. In their backstory for Superman, he was cast off as a baby as his birth family’s home planet, Krypton, was being destroyed. Long after making his way to Earth and being adopted by the Kents, he uses his powers and strength to protect the innocent from danger. Sound familiar? That’s because Shuster and Siegel were likely inspired by the biblical story of Moses.
2. A Hero With No Actual Powers
Unlike Superman or Wonder Woman or a bunch of other superheroes, Moses wasn’t born with magic powers or super strength. He instead relies on God for acts of wonder, like changing staffs into snakes and delivering the 10 plagues. Still, Moses is considered the hero of this story because even powerless, he is a leader admired for his bravery. This puts him in line with superheroes like Batman, Moon Knight, and The Punisher.
Hey, Batman didn’t need powers either to become adored and famous, right?
3. Super Friends….
Plenty of superheroes work in a team — think the Avengers, the Justice League, the X-Men, the Umbrella Academy, even the various Spider-People (and pig) in Into The Spider-Verse. In The Prince of Egypt, our hero is joined by equally brave “Badass Normals.” His brother Aaron, his sister Miriam, and his wife Tzipporah do way more than just moral support for our protagonist. They’re also superheroes; they all help Moses spread hope and courage to the Israelites.
4. …And Super Villains
What good is a hero if they have no one to stand up against? The Prince of Egypt’s Pharaoh Ramses is certainly a compelling villain. His fatal flaw is his pride and his stubborn ambition to surpass his father’s rule as Pharaoh, even if that comes at the expense of others’ livelihoods. Kind of like Loki’s fear of disappointing his father Odin, or Thanos’s misguided beliefs that he’s doing what’s best for his subjects. This selfishness and stubbornness makes Ramses as compelling as they are. Even if he’s too dense to realize that a staff literally turned into a snake right in front of his eyes.
5. Saving The Day
Okay, okay, this one might seem really obvious…
Even taking into account how many superhero movies end on a dark and grim tone, with no happy ending in sight, often, our superheroes save the day. They defeat the bad guys, and the world lives to see another day.
This isn’t to say that The Prince Of Egypt doesn’t also have dark moments, but it still doesn’t end on a sour note. The audience never doubts for a moment that there will be a happy ending. The Prince of Egypt tells us that the worst in humanity exists, but there is always a way to resist and fight back against it. Moses and his people endure anti-Semitism and unimaginable hardship, but they fight back against it. And they don’t just survive, they win. And that’s pretty heroic.