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Titan A.E.

movie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Bill Pullman, Tone Loc, Janeane Garofalo, Ron Perlman, Nathan Lane, Jim Breuer, John Leguizamo

Review by Jim VanFleet
3 stars out of 4

Titan A.E. is the right movie for the wrong crowd, a film whose intelligence and attitude make it suffer. If Titan A.E. were a person, it would be a preacher speaking to sociopaths: nice job, but you’re in over your head. It is a shame that Titan A.E. suffers in this manner, because otherwise it could have been one of the most successful animated films in history. It’s the Star Wars for animated films, expanding the possibilites and challenging us to think beyond tradition. It has the whimsy of Wizard of Oz in some spots, and the cold practicality of Star Trek in others.

The plot is not getting any points for originality, but that’s alright, because the plot is an excuse for dazzling animation, fantastic ideas, and deadly run-ins with aliens. The hero Kale (Matt Damon) was separated from his father before the Drej (beings made purely out of energy) wasted planet Earth. Time has gone by, and Kale lives on a scrap metal city in outer space. There, he discovers he holds the key to the Titan, a mechanism that can create an earth-like planet for the survivors of the apocalypse. With Akira (Drew Barrymore), a spunky fighter pilot, Korso (Bill Pullman), a rough pilot with secrets of his own, and the usual assortment of clownish secondary characters, they make their way for the Titan, evading the Drej at every turn.

This film, like The Phantom Menace, is more about showing us amazing sights instead of thought-provoking characters. The best parts of the film are the portions where no one is talking, and the audience is watching. For example, there is a scene where the characters are skimming the surface of a planet covered with trees that are essentially hydrogen bubbles. If you so much as touch them they explode. A surprisingly effective shootout and race through the bubbles ensue. There is another portion where Kale’s ship soars through a nebula, and “space sprites” follow them, like dolphins follow ships in the ocean. The film accomplishes all of this imagery by use of animated characters used in a fully-rendered, 3-D environment. Imagine the camera rotating around Disney characters, and you get the general idea.

The film tries to be intelligent, and succeeds at some parts. Our heroes dress themselves up as royalty, trying to get past a guard, but the guard stops them dead and proves he is no fool. I wasn’t expecting that - an intelligent guard. There are also plot twists, interesting for an animated film. Unfortunately, some other parts prove their unoriginality. The Titan is merely recycled out of Star Trek, while Gune (John Leguizamo) and Preed (Nathan Lane) are low-rent versions of R2 and 3PO.

Titan A.E. is not a film for the 13 year old boy crowd it desires. It is for adults that can appreciate the efforts of the filmmakers, and teenagers that can enjoy the sights and the soundtrack. Titan A.E. tries going in a different direction, and I applaud it for that. If the producers had massaged more cleverness and visual brilliance out of the film, it could have been magnificent. Not a film for the child audience it craved, but a film for anyone that enjoys movies. As it is, the film is a lot of fun, with some enjoyable characters, and breathtaking effects. And the cat-and-mouse run through the Ice Rings of Tigrin is priceless.

Copyright © 2001 Jim VanFleet

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