Titan A.E. (2000)

reviewed by
Frankie Paiva

Titan A.E.
rated PG
94 minutes
20th Century Fox
featuring the voices of Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman, and Nathan 
written by Ben Edlund, John August, and Joss Whedon
directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman
A Review by Frankie Paiva

Cale is a young man with muscles to spare. His father invented the Titan, a machine that would create an entirely new planet where humans could live. An evil alien race called the Drej destroyed earth, afraid of what might happen if the Titan worked. Even though they speak in subtitles, it is obvious the Drej mean business. Many years later, Korso, a spaceship captain, has found Cale, for whom he has been searching the galaxy. It turns out Cale's father left a map to the secret location of the Titan in a ring his dad gave him as a young child. So he joins the Korso and his crew, which also includes an attractive woman named Akima. The two strike up a relationship during the search for the Titan. The Drej are never close behind, especially since someone on the ship is a Drej spy. It is a classic race against time with limited resources as humanity's last hope attempts to foil bad guys and create a new planet for mankind.

Titan A.E. (A.E. stands for After Earth) never fails at being visually appealing. All characters were hand drawn, but are put into computer generated backgrounds. The result does look a bit awkward, yet it works surprisingly well. The movie would not have been as fantastic with hand drawn backgrounds. Likewise, computer created characters would have seemed strange. The finale, which takes place in a large belt of floating ice orbs, looks incredible. The script sets up many chances for interesting alien species too. Each seems to come from an animal of the earth. A space professor looks strangely like a turtle on two legs, and Stith (voiced by Janeane Garofalo) is a strange kangaroo mutation with large grasshopper legs. Yes, you read that correctly. Janeane Garofalo voices an alien. That's the first problem with the movie. It is painfully apparent who the voices are. Normally this would not be a problem, but the voices fit clumsily with the characters. Rather than watching Cale and seeing him as a distinct person, Matt Damon's face keeps coming up. The same goes for Drew Barrymore's Asian Akima. Even if the directors were casting against type, it feels strange. I said to myself, "Wow! That alien sounds just like Nathan Lane!" This is not a good thing.

The script may be the reason so much attention goes to the voices. The derivative text is an accumulation of patches from different science fiction films. Even so, it never fails to be entertaining. It has the same quality of a bad Nickelodeon cartoon. You know what is going to happen, but you enjoy it anyway. A few twists seem forcefully added into the string of events. These plot turns are never very exciting though. With three minds coming together for the screenplay, it should have been better. Especially since Joss Whedon, creator and writer of the smart television program Buffy The Vampire Slayer, was on the team. The story always seems focused on the big picture, and never stops to add in a joke or two. The soundtrack is also a blunder. Rock songs like Creed's overplayed "Higher" accompany most action and non-action scenes. Random tracks seem added just to get a good list of artists on the soundtrack.

This movie is stupid and cheesy in ways only a sci-fi movie can be. It tries to mix traditional stuff of the genre with supposed new material, and will probably succeed with young males, the main audience for science fiction. The images presented are of high quality, generic screenplay aside. Titan A.E. always seems rushed to reach its conclusion, but the trip there is fun and exciting.

Frankie Paiva

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