Titan A.E. Reviews
The name "Don Bluth" doesn't mean anything to a generation of kids raised on the previously unimaginable visual beauty and thematic potency boasted by each Pixar release every year, but prior to that, Bluth's animated works were an oddity of their own. In the 1980's and 1990's, Bluth's projects, no matter how strange or out of place, always seemed to be greenlit. He's responsible for giving my generation beloved home video classics like The Secret of NIMH, The Land Before Time, and even All Dogs Go to Heaven. Despite those films not boasting record box office office numbers initially, they went on to be classics and have spawned their own line of sequels, particularly The Land Before Time.
Bluth's formula seemed to be "give it time;" eventually, his films would find their desired audience once that same audience convinced their parents to rent or buy the VHS tape after having failed to live up to their promise of taking them to see the respective film during the initial theatrical run. This is likely what kept Bluth working into the new century after repeated box office failures; despite costly studio efforts that have the ability to roll eyes just by titles like Rock-A-Doodle and Thumbelina, Bluth kept on pursuing his visions, most likely with studio-heads still possessing the mindset that Bluth's films would be hits in due time.
With the inception of Fox Animation Studios by Bluth and frequent collaborator Gary Goldman, Bluth had a whole new playground on which to operate. His next move and the studio's debut would be Anastasia, Bluth's first box office hit in years, one strong enough to make his studio look to have a lot of potential. That's when his fate was sealed with Titan A.E., debatably the biggest cinematic risk in his filmography. Titan A.E. was stylistically, thematically, and fundamentally different from his previous films; unlike the music-heavy, cartoony look of his previous works, this was a darker, more violent film that combined the slick palette styles of anime with the traditionalist principles of hand-drawn animation to create something that was visually unique and resembled a graphic novel.
Fox was convinced the project was promising enough to funnel more than $90 million into the production alone, plus God knows how much in the marketing department. Bluth's biggest risk ended up being a devastating financial blow to the studio, barely meriting a third of its production budget back, and scaling Bluth's studio far enough back before it was shuttered later in 2000. Bluth's studio closed basically as soon as it opened and Titan A.E., as well as Bluth in some respect, went on to be a curious piece of history.
Titan A.E. isn't a mind-blowingly elaborate animated film, but its charm and its energy is undeniable. Taking place in 3028 A.D., humankind has found a way to perfect space travel and intergalactic communication with an invention called "Project Titan." When the device is first used, however, it awakens the Drej, an energy-based alien species who begin to attack Earth with intent on wiping out the human race. When the Titan's lead scientist is killed in combat, he sends his son to the evacuation ship to seek safety.
Fifteen years later, the story focuses on the son, Cale (voiced by Matt Damon), who is working in a salvage yard. He is eventually found by Joseph Korso (Bill Pullman), the captain of the Valkyrie spaceship, who reveals that a map to his father's original project. In order for humanity to regain control of its planet, or at least have the means to start a new one, all the fate lies in Cale obtaining the Titan, and after being joined by the beautiful Akima Kunimoto (Drew Barrymore), it's difficult for him to refuse, especially when the Drej have turned to using incredible violence in roder to remain in control.
As mentioned, the animation in Titan A.E. is slick and stylish; characters are drawn sharply and in a manner that highlights their physical features with great artistry. It reminds me of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, which would open theatrically under Disney's impenetrable umbrella to mixed reviews and middling box office returns, that also showed extreme desire to break free from the time-specific confines of animation to be something new, exciting, and impacting. These kinds of films appealed to another kind of young child, but that young child didn't seem to discover these respective films until they were much older, perhaps even college-aged, like myself.
With that, nothing about Titan A.E. is particularly special; its characters are painfully average archetypes, its plot-points are foreseeable, and its character-chemistry is forced in many aspects, particularly the love interest between Cale and Akima. The reason I'm recommending it, however, is that this film features some seriously skilled art direction and enthralling action sequences that remind us why animation is such a wonderful medium. Bluth and Goldman work to remind us that the ostensibly unimaginable can be achieved through the medium, and effectively make most of the film's weight rest on the competence of the animation team rather than the screenplay by a trio of writers (one of them, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Joss Whedon).
Needless to say, with the challenge the animators had presented in front of them - make an action-adventure film with the visual depth and potency of a computer-generated project in-line with Pixar under the guidelines and abilities of traditional, hand-drawn animation - they did a wonderful job. Titan A.E. is far from narratively perfect, but it's a beautiful film in size and scope, and works to remind many of us, especially Bluth, who has had a fairly dormant film career since the closing of his studio that is looking to be revived with a Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaign, interesting failures will always be more fascinating than modest or unambitious successes.
Voiced by: Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, and Bill Pullman. Directed by: Don Bluth and Gary Goldman.
Saw this on 8/10/15
With extremely good visual effects, a fine sci-fi story with plenty of twists, fine voice cast and tremendous pace, Titan A.E is an unforgettable film and the ice planet scene indicates the triumph of animation films that are so realistic that live action films cannot even match. It's a shame that sci-fi has been completely washed out from animation. Titan has blood and even nudity in it, not something you see everyday in a cartoon film.