|Titan A.E. (Special Edition)|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 07 November 2000|
One of the many dismaying things about 'Titan A.E.' is that not only is it just slightly better than 'Heavy Metal 2000,' it has almost the same story. This big-scale animated movie was supposed to take the boxoffice by storm as 'Star Wars' had years before -- but it was a bust, a bomb, a fizzle of such catastrophic proportions that it killed the 20th Century-Fox animation division.
It's remarkable how truly bad 'Titan A.E.' really is; it's bad to its very core, a further demonstration -- like any were needed -- that calculated, contrived appeals to particular demographics rarely succeed. There's not an honest moment in 'Titan A.E.'; there's not a person on Earth, including all of those who made this damned thing, who could possibly have thought that this was a story that needed to be told. 'Battlefield Earth' may have been a stinker, but by god it's a stinker that at least John Travolta deeply believed in. No one could have any kind of emotional commitment to 'Titan A.E.,' and that comes across in every frame of the film.
It's not that it's badly made; technically, the film is acceptable, coming closer to effectively integrating cartoon and computer animation than most such attempts. But the hard work by the animators is damaged by a dull, boring color scheme (again, very similar to that of 'Heavy Metal 2000'), heavy on dark browns, olive greens and grays. Occasionally, there's a burst of color, but mostly it looks like camouflage colors smeared across your screen.
The designs are bizarre and unconvincing. The human beings are not strongly stylized (though not "realistic," either), but too many of the aliens are deliberately cartoony and comic-looking. The others are conventional hulks or "energy beings." Even the names are wrong; the Peter Lorre-ish turtle-oid voiced by John Leguizamo is named "Gune," but pronounced "Goon" -- as if his native language was 21st-century English.
Don Bluth was one of the directors and, as is all to common in his films, characters are often over-animated, moving too swiftly, with intensely hammy facial expressions and broad, hyper-theatrical gestures. Bluth seems to have no concept of understatement. He shares a commentary track with co-director Gary Goldman, and both demonstrate not just a lack of understanding of how to deal with science fiction, but an ignorance about the genre that borders on the profound.
Once again, you have to wonder why trite, junky stories like that of 'Titan A.E.,' are filmed rather than the hundreds, even thousands, of written science fiction stories that would be perfectly adaptable to movies, particularly animated films, where almost anything can be done.
But someone at Fox decided that this story was worth throwing millions of dollars at. The film was originally scheduled for live action, then as all-CGI, finally shifting over to this final mixture of cartoon and computer graphics. But the story is boringly trite in whatever format, swiping baldly from other sources, principally 'Star Wars.' In some future century, a boy is placed aboard a spaceship by his Great Scientist father, fleeing the Earth just as a hostile alien race -- we never know what makes them so mean -- destroys the planet. Fourteen or so years later, the boy, Cale (voiced well by Matt Damon), is a worker in space, where aliens regard human beings as worthless wanderers.
But aha, Cale turns out to have embedded in his palm -- strange place for it -- the map to the location of his late father's spaceship Titan, which somehow can "save" the human race. Cale is picked up by Korso (Bill Pullman), a dashing spaceman, once a good friend of Cale's father. Also aboard Korso's ship are the very human Akima (Drew Barrymore), and aliens from three different races. The sardonic Preed (Nathan Lane) sounds like a cross between Hans Conried and George Sanders. The short, glasses-wearing (? no LASIK in space?) Gune (John Leguizamo) is a kind of would-be adorable variation on Peter Lorre. The vaguely kangaroo-ish Stith (Janeane Garofalo) sounds like Janeane Garofalo. None of them are remotely interesting.
They set off in search of Titan, which requires several chases and many explosions. What they find aboard the giant spaceship (which everyone marvels at, although it is smaller than some other ships we've already seen) is pretty much what you'd expect. Even the plot "twists" are predictable.
The movie has, almost unaccountably, been given a glitzy presentation on DVD, with a letterboxed print that's 16X9 enhanced, ear-filling DTS sound (with other options available), a commentary track by the two directors, trailers, TV spots, and a tedious documentary about the making of the film originally shown on FOX (surprise surprise). It's these extras that led to a raiting a half-star higher than the movie itself deserves. But it's all another attempt to make a silken coin bag out of a pig's ear. Your money is MUCH better spent elsewhere. Almost anywhere else.