Titan A.E. (2000)

reviewed by
Dustin Putman


Titan A.E.      * * (out of * * * * )

Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. Voices: Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman, John Leguizamo, Nathan Lane, Janeane Garofalo. 2000 - 95 minutes Rated PG (for violence). Reviewed by Dustin Putman, June 17, 2000.

Don Bluth's and Gary Goldman's "Titan A.E." is an unusual and decidedly uneasy hybrid of animation and live-action intentions. A sci-fi picture that heavily borrows from "Star Wars," and its countless other clones, the film offers intermittent excitement during some of its action sequences, but the weak characters and tiresome screenplay ruin whatever chance it has to be a worthwhile endeavor.

Littered with violence and even a little bloodshed, as well as a quirky (for animated standards) rock soundtrack, an attempt has clearly been made to attract preteen and younger teenage boys between the ages of 9-15. While it may very well do just that, and is certainly a nice change of pace to have an animated movie targeting others outside of the Disney crowd, "Titan A.E." is basically a stillborn production, and amidst all of its splashy special effects is a story that is painfully behind the times.

Set in the year 3033, fifteen years after the Earth has been destroyed by a powerful alien race known as the Drej, the remaining humans have been drifting about space, setting up home at various nearby space stations. 19-year-old Cale (voiced by Matt Damon) is a lonely young man who was torn apart from his father as a child when Earth was being evacuated, but has kept up hope of seeing him again based on his father's promise. Working at a salvage space station, Cale meets Korso (Bill Pullman), who tells him that the Titan Project, his father's invention that has the power to create an entirely new planet, can be found far way on Planet Ice, with the ring Cale's father gave him long ago having the power to act as a map to the humans' savior. Joined by the parentless Akima (Drew Barrymore), Cale sets off in a race to find the infamous Titan before the Drej do.

The one thing "Titan A.E." has going for it is its live-action feel. At certain key moments, I found myself imagining how effortless much of it could be with real actors, and how well-directed it was, in that respect. With no singing characters and an action-oriented storyline, the film is reminiscent in many ways of anime movies. Many of the action scenes are, indeed, rousing, particularly a spaceship chase through a mass of broken ice that turns the surroundings into a sort of Maze of Mirrors carnival attraction.

The animation, like the film itself, is wildly uneven, with the settings and backdrops at times awe-inspiringly real. The characters, however, are a different matter entirely, looking like pure television kiddie fare. Poorly structured and drawn, their lack of any real life, along with the utterly forgettable voice-over work from all involved, renders the picture, as a whole, cold and distant.

Try as Don Bluth and Gary Goldberg might, "Titan A.E." is an ambitious animated film that at least attempts to aim for something different, but is impaired by its hackneyed plot, much the same way the inferior "Dinosaur" was. Without any well-developed characters or a satisfying arc, but with several qualities of its own, "Titan A.E." falls into the trap of many movies of its ilk--it knows the dance, but has forgotten the tune.

   - Copyright 2000 by Dustin Putman
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