Thursday, March 7, 2013

Disney Beats Lucas And Spielberg To The Punch With Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

The Good: Decent characters, Engaging story, Good voice acting
The Bad: Erratic animation, Elements that are not as clear as they could be.
The Basics: Disney’s underrated Atlantis: The Lost Empire may be plagued by poorly-proportioned character animation, but it makes up for it with an engaging exploration story that was ahead of its time.

Today, before I have a day to myself as a gift from my wife, she got to choose our activities. She chose the movie we watched together and she went right for her wall of Disney. Today, we took in Atlantis: The Lost Empire, a Disney science fiction film that seems to have been very much ahead of its time. Atlantis: The Lost Empire is an Earth-based piece that instantly brought to mind Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (reviewed here!) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (reviewed here!) and it worked out to be an engaging, generally well-conceived film.

In fact, my biggest issues with Atlantis: The Lost Empire were mostly in the special effects department (and, as my regular readers know, that is not a highly-rated portion of the filmmaking experience for me!). The character designs and especially the proportions of characters as they move on screen, are somewhat sloppy, especially in comparison to the visual effects for sequences involving landscapes and vehicles moving around the screen. In fact, there are some pretty cringeworthy moments when elements of disproportional characters interact with what are almost reality-quality effects for buildings and landscape shots! But, compared to the strengths of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, these are fairly minor quibbles.

Milo Thatch is a linguist and the grandson of a noted archaeologist, who is obsessed with finding the lost continent of Atlantis in 1914. Having been shunned by the operators of the museum he works for (relegated, as he is, to the boiler room), Milo is excited when he is summoned to the estate of the reclusive financer and friend of his grandfather, Preston Whitmore. There, Milo is given the book he needs in order to conclusively find Atlantis and he is shown the equipment and personnel that will take him to Atlantis. Accompanied by a doctor, miner, explosives expert, cook, mechanic, and mercenaries, Milo makes the descent to the ocean floor to find Atlantis.

After escaping the mechanical defense of the lost continent and losing most of their crew and possessions, Milo actually does discover Atlantis. There, he meets the King’s daughter, Kida, who is intrigued by Milo and his ability to read Atlantean. With his help, she rediscovers the dying power source of Atlantis. Unfortunately, that is when the mercenaries turn on Milo and the Atlanteans and prepare to remove the mysterious power source for their own corrupt reasons and return it to the surface!

Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a rousing adventure that surrenders to remarkably few of the usual Disney animated conceits. Instead of a smartmouth sidekick, Atlantis: The Lost Empire features more of an ensemble, with only one of the characters (Mole) being a virtually indecipherable, pointless, comic relief character. The result is a Disney film that feels very much like an Indiana Jones archaeological adventure. By the time it stops feeling like that, the movie is very much into Star Trek territory, though the explanation of the Atlantean power source is a little more vague than it is revealing or truly philosophical.

Milo is an intriguing Disney protagonist. Educated and quick on his feet, his coming of age story (aren’t almost all Disney animated films coming of age stories?!) is a story of a young man who has the intelligence and the information and simply needs the opportunity. This, sadly, has the disturbingly realistic message that in life ability comes secondary to financing and simply knowing the right people. I suppose it is good that young people learn that sooner as opposed to later, though it might explain why the film did not do as well at the box office as many Disney films.

Kida is not really a Disney princess, though she is a literal princess in a Disney flick. She sits out the vast majority of the film and she is a very typical damsel in distress, though when she is actively a part of the movie, she is inquisitive and engaged.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire has a pretty incredible voice cast that includes Claudia Christian, John Mahoney, Jim Varney, Phil Morris, and James Garner. Led by Michael J. Fox (Milo), Atlantis: The Lost Empire features voice acting that is expressive, appropriately emotive and entirely comprehensible. The actors bring the characters to life and make the adventure one becomes easily invested in.

For other Disney animated films, please visit my reviews of:
Wreck-It Ralph
Toy Story 3
A Christmas Carol
The Princess And The Frog
The Incredibles
Lilo & Stitch
Monsters, Inc.
The Lion King
Beauty And The Beast
The Little Mermaid
Lady And The Tramp
The Sword In The Stone
Sleeping Beauty


For other film reviews, please be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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