Titan AE (2000)
For my money – and cinemas are taking more of it all the time – Fox's new animated release TITAN AE is the best animated film in a couple of years, at least since Dreamworks' THE PRINCE OF EGYPT.
The plot has its derivative elements. It's a story about an orphaned male hero named Cale Tucker (voice of Matt Damon). We watch as Cale's brilliant father gives custody of his young son to an alien friend named Tech, and then takes off in his master creation – the ship of the title, a vessel that could insure the survival of Homo sapiens. The marauding aliens (the Drej, pronounced phonetically) quickly dipatch Earth, blowing it into chunks that destroy many ships full of escaping humans, as well as the Moon. After the instant lapse of fifteen years, we see the grown Cale doing menial labor; he also experiences the discrimination that several aliens heap upon species that do not have a native planet.
The main thrust of the plot involves a renegade captain drafting Cale into the attempt to revivify humanity. The captain (Bill Pullman) shows Cale a glowing map genetically imprinted upon Cale's hand. The map displays the location of Titan, stowed years ago before it could be deployed by Cale's now-dead father. How Cale will salvage Titan and cope with various complications along the voyage is the stuff of the plot.
The plot is certainly not stodgy. Although some scenes are reminiscent of other science fiction flicks, the film's pace is fast. But the real star is the animation.
As any film buff could predict, chase scenes take up several minutes of the story's run. In one scene we are given a sort of poetically beautiful release, in which beings known as wake angels pursue the ship piloted by Cale. It's pure computer-engineered action, the ship and angels weaving their way through reddish clouds and formations. In the chases involving real danger, the animation is even sharper. Drej ships dive and fire, as Cale and his fellow adventurers continue to elude almost all attempts at capture. The whole deal's been done before – just not in this precise, engaging manner.
Matt Damon does a solid job voicing Cale Tucker. He brings to the role no distracting verbal mannerisms, only a straight and very efficient character.
Drew Barrymore as the female hero Akima does carry along her distinctive slow and smooth voice. This is not a problem except that it is easy to recognize her, and hard to match the voice with the Asian features the directors (Don Bluth and Gary Goldman) have chosen to give Akima.
Bill Pullman does perhaps the strongest work in giving a dynamic character to the captain that risks his life to save Cale from the eerie blue aliens, the Drej. Pullman's voice conveys a nice edge, a savviness that we find memorable, especially after the character undergoes swift and drastic changes.
Now that most schoolchildren are out for the summer, a good movie is often a desirable way to spend an afternoon. I'd recommend taking children as young as seven to see TITAN AE. There are some violent scenes, and some horrid examples of betrayal , but nothing graphic enough to inspire nightmares (unless they involve the faceless, evil Drej!). Best of all, the film reaches into the adult range because of its quick pace, its intelligence (there's even a scene that parodies sci-fi conventions), and its outstanding animation.
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