Thursday, 17 July 2014

Titan A.E.

Title: Titan A.E.
Director: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman
Released: 2000
Starring: Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman, John Leguizamo, Nathan Lane, Janeane Garofalo, Ron Pearlman

Plot: In the year 3028 A.D. Earth is destroyed by the Drej leaving humanity scattered across the universe. Now fifteen years later Cale is recruited by the space captain Korso and his crew to help them find the Titan which might just hold the key to saving humanity.

Review: Western traditional animated films it could be argued (and please feel free to correct me in the comments section) fall into three distinct styles belonging to

* Disney
* Don Bluth
* Ralph Bakashi

While Bluth and Disney’s styles could be mistakenly seen as being the same seeing how both produced films for a younger audience, unlike Bakashi whose productions were certainly much more adult in scope. Bluth’s films also contained a much darker edge to Disney, especially when he favoured snarling drooling, cigar chomping villains while equally happy to have characters killed off with no hope of a final act surprise return which Disney tend to favour.

While his work might not be as wildly recognised as Disney’s especially with no one rushing to build Don Bluth land, it is not to say that it should be dismissed especially as throughout his career he proved especially with his earlier films that he was able to go toe to toe with the Disney output. Sadly his later films would not reflect this quality as they became a sucession of diminishing returns with this being Bluth’s final feature film (to date) before he retired from film making to pursue a career in teaching and video games, something which may have been spurned on by this film being a box office bomb on its release thanks to some lousy promotion work which not only failed to tell anyone what the film was about but left audiences unsure of who the film was intended for, after all animation was yet to be viewed as a valid style for adult films, especially with western audiences.

Since then the film has continued to gain a cult following, no doubt thanks in part to Joss Whedon working on the script and who at this point in his career was still best known for “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, while looking at this film now it is clear to see so many elements which he would carry over to “Firefly” as seen in so many scenes in this film especially those aboard Korso’s ship the Valkyrie even if this film takes a much more traditional sci-fi approach than Whedon’s western in space. Whedon’s mark on this film though is especially clear in the dialogue which zings with great one liners while never feeling that it has to dumb things down for the audience or resort to slap stick antics to keep their attention.

While it might not be a Disney production it is still a top cast who are assembled here, even if their star power might be more now than it was back on the films release, especially in the case of Barrymore who makes for a feisty Akima and Matt Damon here is still a fun actor rather than his constantly serious form that his work now seems to constantly take since “Team America: World Police” burned him as memorable as they did. Equally on great form is Pullman who still leaves me wondering why he’s so underused especially when he has put in so many great performances, especially with his indie films like “Surveillance” while also representing the indie scene Leguizamo is ever the human chameleon and almost unrecognisable as the fast talking scientist Gune. The real scene stealer here though is Lane who dials back his usual camp tone to a sideshow bob style snobbish and frequently sarcastic tone as Preed, who not only gets most of the best lines, but frequently keeps you guessing as to where his true allegiance lies.

Unquestionably though one of the most noteworthy things about this film is the animation and that is because even now it still looks absolutely stunning and even though Bluth is an old school traditional style animator, here he clearly shows how open he is to embracing new techniques as he combines both traditional hand drawn animation with computer animation to powerful effect as he takes the strengths of both styles to make something truly special here. This is no better highlighted during the ice rings sequence, which only becomes all the more complex as it goes on. Throughout the film though there are numerous great sequences like this including an exciting chase sequence on the swamp planet Sesharrim, featuring multiple switches as it takes place both on the water and in the air. It is during these set pieces that the film really comes into its own.

One of the aspects of the film which does come off kind of dated is in the soundtrack which features  late 90’s bands like Lit, The Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Powerman 5000 and lets of course not forget that the trailer music for this film was supplied by Creed who are noticeably absent from the official soundtrack. Personally though I liked the general nu-metal soundtrack and made a refreshing change from the usual overblown orchestral score which tends to overpower most sci-fi pictures as if they feel the spectacle on screen needs supporting.  However in choosing to go with a modern soundtrack the film does loose its timeless quality as its soundtrack selections now leave it tethered to its year of release.
The other downside to the film is that outside of a recording left by Cale’s father, the film can feel like its lacking in an emotional core, especially when the focus seems to be primarily on the journey these characters are on to find the titan, that the emotional connections do seem to be put on the back burner in favour of another action scene or a fun character interaction. As a result of this it is unlikely that you will care too much about this until after the film has finished and no doubt by then you will be wanting to see more from these characters, maybe not as another movie but certainly as a tv series were the characters could be developed further and the universe of Titan further expanded, something which it seems is as likely as "Firefly" getting a second season at this point but even as a one off adventure this is a blast from start to finish.

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