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Atlantis - The Lost Empire (2001)

tomatometer

49

Average Rating: 5.5/10
Reviews Counted: 141
Fresh: 69 | Rotten: 72

Atlantis provides a fast-paced spectacle, but stints on such things as character development and a coherent plot.

41

Average Rating: 4.9/10
Critic Reviews: 34
Fresh: 14 | Rotten: 20

Atlantis provides a fast-paced spectacle, but stints on such things as character development and a coherent plot.

audience

51

liked it
Average Rating: 2.9/5
User Ratings: 363,589

My Rating

Movie Info

The first Disney cartoon to be produced in the 70 mm format since The Black Cauldron (1985), this blend of traditional animation with computer-generated imagery is a straight adventure tale of the Jules Verne school, eschewing the studio's typical formula of cute critters mixed with song-and-dance routines. Michael J. Fox is the voice of Milo Thatch, a lowly museum employee and linguist in the early 20th century who's determined to continue his late grandfather's search for the lost, sunken

Jan 29, 2002

$83.6M

Walt Disney Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (143) | Top Critics (34) | Fresh (69) | Rotten (72) | DVD (30)

Visually imaginative and even persuasively spiritual, this animated adventure has some unusually complex villains and heroes, and some of the plot and dialogue transcends what's typical in movies intended for a broad or youthful audience.

January 25, 2011 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This blandly conceived and executed attempt at a juve-style Indiana Jones with Jules Verne trappings recycles familiar adventure and cartoon devices with minimal wit and flair.

August 7, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's probably the most grown-up animated feature Disney has produced, and with its attuned vocal performances, elegant design and pulse-quickening finale, it sets a standard of sustained craftsmanship most live-action film-makers must envy.

August 16, 2007 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Atlantis is good, and kids will love it, but it doesn't achieve greatness.

June 21, 2001 Full Review Source: CNN.com
CNN.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A new-fashioned but old-fangled hash.

June 15, 2001 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The characters and story are mere narrative lubricant to get us from one digitally goosed sensory assault to the next.

June 15, 2001 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Not all the dots connect in this 2001 feature, and the reliance on stereotypes becomes a bit annoying, but it's still as rousing in animation as it might have been as a summer blockbuster.

June 1, 2013 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

It's too rich with invention and characterization, too packed with juice, and it gallops right along breathlessly. Even so, it manages moments of lyricism and visual elegance.

July 5, 2011 Full Review Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Honolulu Star-Advertiser

...a passable Disney endeavor that ranks somewhere in the middle of the studio's animation canon.

June 28, 2011 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

Disney's animators once again go under the sea, this time to discover the lost city of Atlantis. Shame they didn't find an engaging plot while they were down there.

January 25, 2011 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Entertaining but intense adventure for tweens and up.

December 22, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

It is difficult to say whether its greatest failure is in its story, its characters, or its animation.

December 7, 2009 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

A fun action-packed fantasy...

April 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

By all means bring the kids to this one -- and sit back to enjoy the ride in Adventureland.

November 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Hollywood.com
Hollywood.com

Disney does animated adventure with this colorful, mostly brisk 1914 search for the legendary missing empire.

August 7, 2008 Full Review Source: Sacramento News & Review
Sacramento News & Review

When compared to Disney's best animated films, "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" doesn't compare.

September 12, 2007 Full Review Source: Bangor Daily News (Maine)
Bangor Daily News (Maine)

A solid addition to the Disney canon. But from the directors of Beauty And The Beast, solid ain't good enough. Classic Disney this is not.

December 30, 2006 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

After seeing spectacular epics like Tarzan, it is difficult to properly appreciate the mediocre, but entertaining Atlantis.

September 27, 2006 Full Review Source: Bangitout.com
Bangitout.com

The potency of the Disney brand name will be tested with Atlantis, a peculiar animated feature that has no children in its story, no cute creatures, and no musical or dance numbers. Any reason for the family to go?

February 24, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

Poor Disney, they now have a real competitor in the family film business and it's a big, green oaf from Dreamworks.

December 6, 2005 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

... breathtaking animation in service of a story that doesn't hold enough water to drown a rat much less a civilization.

December 6, 2004 Full Review Source: Looking Closer
Looking Closer

...Sorely lacking in the magic and majesty we have come to expect in the wake of other recent Disney cartoon products.

February 8, 2003 Full Review Source: Film Quips Online
Film Quips Online

Absolute magic.

January 7, 2003 Full Review Source: Hot Button
Hot Button

Audience Reviews for Atlantis - The Lost Empire

When reviewing children's films, there are two main approaches one can take. One is to review the film in question as first and foremost a piece of cinema, analysing its narrative and technical aspects and giving out recommendations on this basis. The other is to take a more moralistic view, imagining whether you would show a given film to your own children (real or hypothetical) on the basis of the messages or lessons that it contains.

Both approaches are problematic, insofar as they use adult language, knowledge and expectations of a medium to recommend something that was never intended for adults, at least not primarily. But either approach is infinitely preferable to the dim view that children are stupid enough to watch anything, and that a 'children's film' does not have to be as well-made as one intended for grown-ups. Whichever approach one takes, Atlantis: The Lost Empire is not worthy of any recommendation, being one of the laziest animated films in recent memory.

When I reviewed Treasure Planet three months ago, I drew a comparison between Disney and PIXAR in the early-2000s. I argued that while PIXAR were pushing the envelope of what mainstream animation could achieve, Disney were aggressively re-treading old ground, "trying to push the same old stuff overlaid with snazzier visuals." Since the Disney empire diversified in the 1950s, the animation department has had to fight for power against the cash cows of theme parks and merchandising - and the success of these arms has often influenced the output of Disney's more creative elements.

Apologists may defend Atlantis as a break from the Disney norm of fairy tales and princesses. But this argument holds no water, since in every other way the film is conventional to the point of utter contempt. The film is a relentless race to the bottom, treating its audience young and old like complete idiots and not offering up one original or creative idea in compensation. It's ironic that the film disappointed at the box office, considering that most of it feels like it was created to sell a toy rather than tell a story.

All this could be somewhat rationalised if the film were a straight-to-video project, or an episode of a TV series based on another Disney film. Most of us are aware of Disney's track record in this regard, and would therefore lower our expectations from expecting the best to hoping for something other than the very worst. But Atlantis comes from an original treatment by Joss Whedon, and is helmed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, the same team behind Beauty and the Beast. The only thing more painful than a bad film made by bad filmmakers is a bad film made by good filmmakers.

It's clear that Trousdale and Wise's strengths lie in adapting existing stories. Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame both come from reputable sources, and both successfully channel the sources' darkness for a younger audience. Atlantis, by comparison, is utterly aimless, floating from set-piece to set-piece without a map or rudder. For all the flack that Disney gets for its creative liberties in adaptation, its attempts at original material are often just as inept.

What makes this all the more painful is that there is so much potential within this story. The myth of Atlantis is a fascinating one which opens up all kinds of possibilities about different cultures, languages and technologies. Even if the myth were handed with kid gloves, this could have still have been a really fun adventure. The setup is an enticing blend of Jules Verne, Tintin and Indiana Jones, with Atlantis serving as the great, undiscovered 'other world' into which our heroes venture as the eyes of the audience.

But all of this potential is quickly squandered, thanks to poorly-drawn characters and terrible storytelling. All of the characters are flat and entirely one-dimensional - Milo is the well-meaning dork, Kida is the headstrong but na´ve princess, Rourke is the blinkered military leader, and so on and so on. The writing is so lazy that there is actually a scene where most of the characters sit down and tell their backstories one at a time. Alfred Hitchcock once said that exposition was a bitter pill that had to be sugar-coated for audiences, and no amount of sweetness or visual beauty can make up for this particularly bitter pill.

As for the plot of Atlantis, it's deeply derivative to say the least. It is possible for a film to come from well-worn conventions and yet still offer something new - Indiana Jones is a brilliant example. But there comes a point when similarity to another work becomes so close that is borders on plagiarism or self-parody, and Atlantis falls firmly into the latter trap.

The plot is essentially the same as Pocahontas, with the central relationship between Milo and Kida having the same dynamic as John Smith and Pocahontas. The traveller or pioneer falls in love with the native's daughter, conflict ensues and they unite to save their two worlds. That would be fine, except that the lead-up to finding Atlantis takes far too long, with the film getting bogged down in needless distractions, lazy exposition or bad jokes. And that's before we address the use of language in the film: Disney commissioned Marc Okrand to create a whole new language for the Atlanteans to speak, only for the language barrier to be dealt with in the stupidest possible way (yes, worse than magic leaves.)

The influence of Indiana Jones is writ large over Atlantis - the filmmakers even cited Raiders of the Lost Ark as their inspiration for shooting the film in widescreen. But if the Pocahontas similarities aren't enough to put you off, then you could easily transpose the plot of Last Crusade onto the film, to the point where the characters completely overlap.

Milo's decision to go after Atlantis is driven by the need to fulfil his father's dream - the same reason that Indy takes up the quest for the Holy Grail. Rourke is essentially Walter Donovan, appearing to be on the heroes' side but ultimately wanting the 'grail' for his own power. You could even argue that his assistant, Lieutenant Helga, doubles for Dr. Elsa Schneider - though the film doesn't imply that both father and son were attracted to her.

The difference between Last Crusade and Atlantis lies in the level of affection for the story and character archetypes. Indiana Jones is driven first and foremost by a deep-seated love for the fantasy and adventures genres. Even when the series became one of the biggest in film history, the films never felt like blatant cash-grabs on the part of the studios. Atlantis has creative talent and affection somewhere in it, but the film has been trampled on by uncreative minds, whether in marketing or middle management.

Internal logic is an important aspect in all fantasy stories, and Atlantis doesn't make a great deal of sense on either a physical or a mythological level. We may be able to laugh at the idea of sentient crystals after Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but in this context the film sets up the idea and then makes no effort to explain it. It's just another plot device, designed to take Kida out of the picture for a quick battle scene. The film is structured like an ADHD theme park ride, its goal being to keep you distracted for as long as possible so that you don't have the chance to stop and take in this potentially complex world - and then proceed to pick it apart.

This rollercoaster approach to storytelling also defeats the film's big trump card - its visuals. Atlantis was the first Disney film presented in 70mm since The Black Cauldron - another film that was brutally compromised by studio interference. The animation is very pretty, with a nice range of colours and tones underscored by shimmering, iridescent blues. But even the prettiest scenes aren't impressive because the editing is choppy and we don't care about the characters. There's very little use made of the widescreen presentation, and the 70mm format is thoroughly wasted.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire is one of Disney's most conspicuous and disappointing failures. It epitomises the studio's reputation for brand paranoia, taking a potentially interesting and entertaining premise and draining it of all creativity and elegance. The result is a crushingly dull and uninspired offering whose only function is to depress and reinforce bad feelings towards the company. It's awful, tedious, lazy and empty - and really, really stupid.
May 28, 2013
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

Very disappointed with this film. I felt like I was watching a kids film trying to become a live action picture and failing miserably. It is far too smart for it's own good and the adult humour doesn't suit the tone of the film very well. I am definitely a sucker for fantasy/adventure films, and the story behind this film definitely has some interesting details and the visuals are great when they finally arrive at the Lost City, but other than that, I wished it would just end. It's definitely not an easy film to watch, and quite frankly, I was more annoyed watching it than anything. It felt like the same thing over and over again. The voice acting even felt a little off to me. Overall, it was an unpleasant film to watch!
March 25, 2013
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

Atlantis is waiting...

Good Movie! Atlantis has some comic scenes that made me laugh. Other scenes made me sad. And others made me glad. It is a movie any age can enjoy. It was an excellent rendition of an ancient myth. The animation was somewhat odd, but nothing new from Disney. It was definitely better than expected for a Disney movie with no singing. The background animation was magical. It was a different level of work for the Disney people. Some of the characters were a little boxy, but it was more than made up for with the beauty and lushness of the scenery. The music was largely instrumental but that was perfect for the movie.

1914: Milo Thatch, grandson of the great Thaddeus Thatch works in the boiler room of a museum. He knows that Atlantis was real, and he can get there if he has the mysterious Shephards journal, which can guide him to Atlantis. But he needs someone to fund a voyage. His employer thinks he's dotty, and refuses to fund any crazy idea. He returns home to his apartment and finds a woman there. She takes him to Preston B. Whitmore, an old friend of his Grandfathers. He gives him the shepherds journal, a submarine and a 5 star crew. They travel through the Atlantic ocean, face a large lobster called the Leviathan, and finally get to Atlantis. But does the Atlantis crew have a lust for discovery, or something else?
January 23, 2013
MANUGINO
Manu Gino

Super Reviewer

A pretty good film considering it wasn't advertised as much as other children's animations. The narrative was well formed even though it was quite predictable.
October 23, 2011
StarCrossedVoyager

Super Reviewer

    1. Milo James Thatch: Oh, my decision? Well, I-I think we've seen how effective my decisions have been. Let's re-cap. I lead a band of plundering vandals to the greatest archaeological find in recorded history, thus enabling the kidnap and/or murder of the royal family, not to mention personally delivering the most powerful force known to man into the hands of a mercenary nutcase who's probably gonna sell it to the Kaiser! Have I left anything out?
    2. Dr. Joshua Sweet: Well, you did set the camp on fire and drop us down that big hole.
    3. Milo James Thatch: Thank you! Thank you very much.
    – Submitted by Adam O (2 months ago)
    1. Vincenzo "Vinny" Santorini: You got something sporty? You know, like a tuna?
    – Submitted by Adam O (2 months ago)
    1. Vincenzo "Vinny" Santorini: We done a lot of things we're not proud of. Robbing graves, eh, plundering tombs, double parking. But, nobody got hurt. Well, maybe somebody got hurt, but nobody we knew.
    – Submitted by Adam O (2 months ago)
    1. Milo James Thatch: Okay I'll have to quit my job.
    2. Preston B. Whitmore: It's done. You resigned this afternoon.
    3. Milo James Thatch: I did?
    4. Preston B. Whitmore: Yep. Don't like to leave loose ends.
    5. Milo James Thatch: Oh, my apartment. I-I'm gonna have to give a notice.
    6. Preston B. Whitmore: Taken care of.
    7. Milo James Thatch: My clothes?
    8. Preston B. Whitmore: Packed
    9. Milo James Thatch: My books?
    10. Preston B. Whitmore: In storage
    11. Milo James Thatch: My cat.. .my gosh!
    12. Preston B. Whitmore: Your grandfather had a saying Milo, we are remembered by the gifts we leave our children this journal is his gift to you Milo,Atlantis is waiting!
    13. Milo James Thatch: I'm your man Mr. Whitmore I-I-I'm so excited I can barely hold it in!
    – Submitted by MarieBella C (19 months ago)
    1. Dr. Joshua Sweet: Ooh! I like her.
    2. Audrey Ramirez: Hm. 'Bout time someone hit him. I'm just sorry it wasn't me.
    – Submitted by MarieBella C (19 months ago)
    1. Audrey Ramirez: Where are you going?
    2. Milo James Thatch: I'm going after Rourke.
    3. Audrey Ramirez: Milo that's crazy!
    4. Milo James Thatch: I didn't say it was the smart thing, but it is the right thing.
    5. Audrey Ramirez: Come on we better make sure he doesn't hurt himself!
    – Submitted by MarieBella C (19 months ago)
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Foreign Titles

  • Atlantis - Das Geheimnis der verlorenen Stadt (DE)
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire (CA)
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