Treasure Planet Reviews
The idea of sticking this classic 18th Century set adventure into the sci-fi realm is actually a sweet one, I'm surprised it has not happened before. The whole concept really does fit the space adventurer aspect nicely but of course there are some bits n pieces that don't add up. Like why on earth would all spacecraft in the far distant unknown future be built around centuries old galleon designs by humankind? and are those ships actually made of wood??!!. Why would these ships require sails? and how come no one (mainly humans) dies from exposure to deep space? there isn't anything to protect anyone accept a gravity force field. Kinda odd seeing a young 'Hawkins' high up on the ships rope ladders with the space winds blowing through his hair.
Are all buildings in this future made of wood?! can there be that much wood left? why are various alien species wearing centuries old human attire? all aliens speak the human language of English? are they actually using rope on these ships!!? ROPE! and there doesn't appear to be many humans left now I think of it...just Hawkins and his mum or so it seems. I could go on but at some point you gotta let it go, its Treasure Island in space with aliens and robots, its just suppose to be visual fun and it is by gum!.
Silly absurd nonsensical plot issues aside the whole aged steampunk/historic aesthetic look is really pleasing to the eye. Some of the space sequences really do look gorgeous, a cosmic ballet indeed. Of course the film is dated which means dated CGI is evident throughout, some obvious and some not so. Its nothing too horrendous and is tolerable. Some of the best looking CGI is easily the crescent moon shaped spaceport which borders suspiciously on Mos Eisley. Where as some of the worst CGI would be the huge whale-like space creatures and the rather over the top finale on treasure planet.
The characters are a fair bunch and fairly enjoyable to watch. Old 'Long John' has been crafted into a half alien half Terminator style cyborg which is curious. Sounds stupid but it actually plays out OK and looks pretty good. Jim is your standard rebellious scruff of a boy who also strangely looks familiar to 'John Connor' from 'T2', I think there is some definite influence there. The rest of the crew are satisfactory but nothing amazing, obligatory insectoid type guy, 'Star Wars Cantina' type alien, floating blob, Cat-like female, one eyed alien etc...bog standard alien designs really, possible homages I guess.
I must confess to not liking Martin Short's characterisation of robot B.E.N. with his insanely loud grating voice. The way this character is portrayed as a robot gone mad is just annoying and kinda old. The kind of role you'd give to Robin Williams and his annoying crazy loudness. The only voice I did like was Murray's Irish take on Long John which does give that nice olde worlde touch, you get a good sense of the character with this, a good sense of history.
There are tonnes of problems with this film that just don't add up at all, the idea of a space set pirate film works but also doesn't. I do think they just abandoned a lot of sense simply because its an animated Disney movie for kids and it simply wouldn't matter. True it doesn't matter, it is just an enjoyable fantasy romp for kids, but at the same time it would have been nice to address some of the silliness. After all everyone of all ages will watch it and while it does look awesome with some lovely creativity and imagination, the silliness sticks out like a giraffe at a polar bears only club.
The same problem applies to Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson's hugely influential novel whose roots run through most if not all modern pirate fiction. Among the many recent adaptations, the most appealing have often been those that restaged the story in an unusual manner while being faithful to its spirit - for instance, Muppet Treasure Island. The kindest thing that can be said about Treasure Planet is that it demonstrates the hardiness of Stevenson's story, both by staying very faithful to the plot and by not adding very much that is new in the process.
Many of Treasure Planet's shortcomings can be explained by understanding the ethos of Disney's solo CG works in this period. While PIXAR was hitting a rich vein of form, making films which pushed the envelope of what children's animation could do, Disney was trying to push the same old stuff overlaid with snazzier visuals. This approach was nothing new - it's arguably what they'd been doing since The Little Mermaid. Treasure Planet was first pitched around the same time as that film, and to some extent epitomises the ruthless consolidation of the formulas and strategies of the Renaissance - strategies which in many cases encumbered good storytelling.
As the title suggests, the main quirk of Treasure Planet is setting Stevenson's story in space. There have been many attempts to restage classic stories in space before, and while it's often used as a gimmick when pitching a film, there are numerous examples of it working well. Forbidden Planet successfully restaged Shakespeare's The Tempest on a distant world, while Alien is on one level just Hallowe'en in space.
Treasure Planet is distinctive in the visual decisions it takes to transpose the story. The world of Jim Hawkins juxtaposes intergalactic space travel with 18th-century nautical designs and details, with rocket boosters being combined with sun sails and wooden hulls. It's not steampunk per se, but it shares with steampunk the idea of futuristic societies being run (at least to some extent) on antiquated technologies. However we care to explain it, the detail in the ship's designs makes us feel that at some effort was expended on the production.
Unfortunately, setting the story in space also betrays how much of the film is deeply derivative. There are whole sections which not only owe a massive debt to Star Wars, but which are so close that they are practically ripping off the series. The whole ship-buying sequence is structured like the Mos Eisley scenes in A New Hope, with all manner of strange creatures walking around and Captain Amelia's cockiness standing in for that of Han Solo. The film incorporates Luke's backstory into Jim's, retaining his rebellious spirit but letting George Lucas take care of the rest.
Some of the Star Wars touches can be excused on the grounds that the film was in production for a very long time, during which two of the three prequels made it to our screens. So while Jim Hawkins does look scarily like Anakin Skywalker, right down to having the same haircut as he does in Attack of the Clones, this is almost certainly a coincidence since they wouldn't have had time to fundamentally alter his character just to cash in. Other touches, however, are less easy to overlook; Ben is essentially C3PO but more annoying (and his Jaws joke is completely needless).
When I reviewed A New Hope, I commented on how the film is more notable for its technical innovation than for its storytelling - something which has carried over into much of mainstream sci-fi or space fantasy. Treasure Planet does look pretty good, with its expansive setting, appealing colour scheme and whizz-bang action. But all too often the film carries itself on visual spectacle, neglecting the plot for the sake of a few passingly good diversions. The encounter with the black hole or the escape from the planet (through a portal ripped off from Stargate) are ultimately overlong, and the more the running time is padded out, the less interest we have in the characters.
When the story does take charge, the film turns out to be pretty faithful to the book. Like Trishna it gets the basic beats of the story down pat, such as the fateful encounter with Billy Bones, the Benbow being destroyed, the scene in the apple barrel and the treasure hunt using Flint's map. Even with all the interpolation of tropes and key scenes from Star Wars, it still feels like the story we know and love, and unlike Trishna we are left anticipating how the next key plot point is going to be restaged.
The departures Treasure Planet makes are a mixed bag; some of their changes are reasonable, others are inexplicable. On the one hand, the futuristic setting makes it acceptable to tone down all the talk about drinking; the pirates are already a motley bunch without throwing space-age rum into the mix. And the idea of Flint's planet being booby-trapped does kind of work, reinforcing the theme of the treasure being unobtainable and the characters' development being more important than their goal. On the other hand, the film omits all the talk about the black spot, for no sensible reason: Muppet Treasure Island played up this aspect and still got a U certificate.
This brings us on to the characters, which is where the film begins to look more like the product of a committee. In Muppet Treasure Island each of Stevenson's characters was given a different personality, the result being an interesting blend of both the original and the Muppet that was playing them. Here the characters have the same functions as in the novel, but they are written in very broad strokes. The crew comprises many oddly-shaped creatures, physically distinctive but otherwise unmemorable, and there is a goofy sensibility to the film which undermines the drama. Like The Black Cauldron there are one too many sidekicks, and some of the character choices are just bizarre: did we really need a sailor that only communicates by farting?
This problem becomes magnified when it comes to Long John Silver. Silver is one of the most distinctive and complex antagonists in English literature, someone who is ruthless and brutal but also capable of selflessness. Making him a cyborg rather than a peg-leg is fine - in fact the character design is pretty cool. But the film seems torn over how the character should be played; sometimes it wants him to be as in the novel, other times it wants him to be a traditional Disney bad guy. The result is conflicted but ultimately successful, if only because of Brian Murray's performance.
While the characterisation in Treasure Planet is off-kiltre, the voice acting is quite impressive. The cast is filled with famous names, like Emma Thompson, David Hyde Pierce and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but it doesn't feel like a Dreamworks-style cameo fest with said famous people showing up to enjoy themselves. Put simply, the voices match the characters well enough to make us focus on the protagonists without constantly thinking who is playing whom (watch out, incidentally, for Patrick McGoohan, who plays Billy Bones in his final performance).
Treasure Planet is a middling effort from Disney, boasting some impressive animation but being let down by its storytelling and characters. As a transliteration of Treasure Island it works perfectly well, retaining the main plot points and providing a few thrills, but the characters are too broad and their surroundings too derivative to fully hold our attention. It is ultimately as flawed and frustrating as The Black Cauldron, providing good disposable entertainment but not a great deal more.
The strength is obviously the characters. I haven't seen characters from an animated movie so memorable in a long time. The main character, Jim Hawkins, is a teenage rebel who has had low expectations all his life. Wherever he goes he seems to screw up, until he runs into a dying space sailor who has given him the map for a massive treasure stolen by a pirate named Captain Flint. While on his mission to find the treasure, he runs into lots of other great characters, including a cyborg ship cook called John Silver. heir relationship is a strong but cautious one. You'll have to see the movie to know what I'm talking about.
The script is the best thing I've seen from a Disney movie since "Spirited Away". And I absolutely LOVED "Spirited Away". I think that Hawkins and Silvers lines were the best. You can really tell that the script for this movie must have taken months!
The voice acting is really good. There really isn't a single person here who did a bad job, though Joseph Gordon Levitt stole the show.
Of course, then there's the animation. This animation was spectacular and breathtaking, even better than some of Hayao Miyazaki's work. It really is a masterpiece.
Above all, Treasure Planet remains one of the best children's movies I've ever seen. I highly recommend it to anyone who liked "Spider-Man" and "Spirited Away".
The closest in animation stye to the Disney Renaissance so far in this era, "Treasure Planet" a real beauty to look at. Though the film really has a lot of cg mixed in to it, the cg meshes well and adds more beauty to it. It evokes a look that while futuristic still looks like something from the past, no exactly steam punk but something along those lines. The film really benefits from it's great animation.
The film has a decent score that works well enough for the film. The songs written for it come off a bit bland and uninteresting, but are not sang by the characters so it doesn't really affect the film by that much.
Jim Hawkins in this version is voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who does a well enough job in voicing the character, but sadly the character just doesn't offer much of interest. The Cyborg/ John Silver voiced by Brian Murray here does a decent job, but nothing to special. The relationship between the two characters is one that felt like it could've been more interesting but just didn't have enough effort put into it. The rest of the cast provide serviceable performances, but none really stand out among the 'pantheon" of characters from Disney.
From a story standpoint, the film doesn't do too much bad, unfortunately it just doesn't do much interesting. The film probably could've benefited had it tried to stray farther from the books and other versions rather then just doing pretty much the same only instead of seas it's in space along with robots and aliens. Had the film chose to change around some more it probably would stand out more, granted there are more differences then the ones mentioned before in this review, it just still feels similar enough that it makes anything interesting about the premise feel like a cheap gimmick added as an attempt for more money from children.
"Treasure Planet" is a great movie... visually, had the people behind this focused on more then the beauty on the surface it might've been an even better film, rather then one only worth watching if one likes to see great animation with poor storytelling.
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