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Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2-Disc Collector's Edition) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 January 2002

Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Two-Disc Collector's Edition

Buena Vista Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: PG (action violence)
starring: (Voices) James Garner, Leonard Nimoy, Michael J. Fox, Cree Summer, Claudia Christian, John Mahoney, Phil Morris, Don Novello, Jacqueline Obradors, Jim Varney, Florence Stanley
release year: 2001
film rating: Five Stars
sound/picture: Four Stars
reviewed by: Mel Odom

"Atlantis: the Lost Empire" stands out as a return to classic storytelling for the Disney people. What’s surprising is that the return has taken so long. Disney has finally rediscovered one of the principal areas of entertainment that the studio perfected back in the early days of Walt Disney himself. This DVD harkens back to the days of "Treasure Island," "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," and "Swiss Family Robinson." In the presentation of "Atlantis," the audience receives the gift of a timeless tale and sterling heroes, and a world of total wonderment menaced by base villains.

Fraught with peril and action, "Atlantis: the Lost Empire" holds equal footing with the Indiana Jones trilogy for today’s audience. Snappy dialogue, derring-do, a sense of mission, and a plethora of mysteries and possibilities seasoned with the "real" quasi-mythology of fabled Atlantis make for 96 minutes of pure viewing pleasure. Treat the kid(s) you have, or the kid in yourself and join in the adventure.

The movie begins, as most truly epic tales do, a long time ago – nearly 9,000 years, in fact. In a blistering and unexplained attack, the empire of Atlantis is wiped from the face of the Earth, swallowed up by a raging sea. The only thing that appears to survive is a book marked with an arcane symbol the viewer comes to recognize as the mark of Atlantis. That book, as relayed in the expansive documentaries provided as backup features, passes through the hands of men, centuries and legend, until it finally arrives into the care of Milo Thatch (voiced by Michael J. Fox) in Washington, D.C. in 1914.

Encouraged in the field of archeology by the loving grandfather who raised him, Milo takes up the quest for the lost civilization. Financing for the undertaking comes from wealthy Preston Whitmore, who has also taken care to assemble the team Milo needs to see him through the adventure. At the other end of the journey lies legendary Atlantis, the sunken continent that has captured the minds of philosophers, historians, and dreamers for generations.

Directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, and writers Joss Whedon, Jackie and Bryce Zabel added to the script, originally conceived by Tab Murphy. As a result, dialogue crackles all around the intrepid explorers, made even more immediate and entertaining with the addition of a surround sound system. Although a younger viewer might not catch all the interplay between the characters, the adult viewer benefits from the extra layering and attention.

Murphy had worked with Trousdale and Wise on "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." They bonded as a team at that time and sought out a new project to keep them together. When searching for new material, all of the creative minds involved agreed that they wanted something big and epic. They achieved their objective, and the audience reaps the benefits. Besides being a visually entertaining piece, explosions rock the subwoofer, and the front and back speakers are charged with the drone of aerial combat and vehicular battle.

Although "Atlantis: the Lost Empire" comes in a single-disc package, viewers who choose the double-disc bundle receive a ton of bonuses. Besides an overview of the extrapolation and eventual arrival at the story being told, the list of extras includes a documentary on the history/mythology of Atlantis, an overview of how the art (drawings as well as computer graphics) came together to produce the story as well as the world, exploration of how the characters came into being, and the models (physical and computer) that were used. This information is released in what looks like an early 20th century newsreel footage piece, delivered in a monotone that spits and crackles like the real thing. Even the auxiliary features show the painstaking care that went into the packaging of the movie, especially the sound.

The second disc also contains a totally entertaining segment regarding the actors who did the voiceovers. Michael J. Fox has had plenty of experience with animated movie and cartoon voicing, as well as voicing a dog on the live-action "The Incredible Journey." However, this was James Garner’s first such endeavor. Cree Summer, already a gifted voice person, enjoys a role on "Rugrats" and works in other animated projects. Watching these people work in the sound studio, then getting to compare them to their animated characters is a treat. Don Novello and Phil Morris were especially humorous in their bits. The featurette on the actors shows the performers actually recording their lines, then segues into film bits from the movie -- the sound remains the same, showing what the voices were like before the background sounds were added.

Although Trousdale and Wise both worked on "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," which had a heavy musical score (something Disney films have become famous for again), they elected not to have brand-name songs for "Atlantis: the Lost Empire." The movie enjoys stirring musical accompaniment nonetheless, in much the same fashion as the Indiana Jones movies that were one of the many inspirations for the "Atlantis" team’s own efforts. A surround sound system blasts these uplifting scores into the privacy of your home and makes you feel every bit as much of the action as the heroes on the screen.

A surround sound system investment also nets you the hammering experience of the movie’s prologue. The frantic return to Atlantis aboard the flying fishcraft beats out thunder through the subwoofer like an adrenaline-charged blacksmith working at an anvil. The people of Atlantis cower for their lives, and a multitude of conversations thread through the sound of the impending destruction, an undercurrent of raw and naked fear that seizes the viewer immediately and won’t let go.

In Chapter 2, the viewer is introduced to a subtle shifting of voice volume and location that is used throughout the DVD. While Milo paces as he delivers a mock speech to a pseudo-audience, the viewer hears his voice shift back and forth among the speakers, making the illusion of movement even stronger. The voice shifting continues through several other chapters, and the viewer almost wants to turn his or her head to keep up with the speakers.

Chapter 3 has sexy, bluesy music as a character theme for Helga (voiced by Claudia Christian), who proves to be a femme fatale, then brings up the crash and fury of thunder that rocks the room. The clanking of the elevator passing through Whitmore’s mansion echoes through the sound system. The sound in the movie takes advantage of the surround sound capabilities of your system to immerse you in the worlds presented in the DVD during the launch of the submersible in Chapter 4.

The discovery of and battle with the Leviathan in Chapter 5 is an audio treat. The basso booming from the subwoofer echoes through the living room as the Leviathan pursues the sub through the ocean depths. Bubbles burst around the underwater craft and echo from the center and front speakers. Another impressive audio bit during this sequence are the sounds of popping rivets pinging off the sub’s inner walls as the Leviathan crushes the craft.

Another impressive audio aspect of the movie comes in Chapter 8. When the fireflies zoom out of the cavern rooftop nest, the droning buzzing fills all the speakers, whirling around and around the audience. Later, after Milo confronts Kida (voiced by Cree Summer), jungle drums (although there are none around) echo throughout the cavern. The undercurrent of sound creates an intriguing backdrop that propels the story forward. The final battle against evil forces is a cataclysmic feast of battle noises: aerial combat, explosions, machine guns, and clattering machines.

If you love adventure films, animation, and great audio, "Atlantis: the Lost Empire" will definitely be a good addition to your home library.

more details
sound format:
English DTS 5.1 Surround Sound; English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound: THX-Certified; French Language Track
aspect ratio(s):
2.35:1, Enhanced for 16 x 9 Televisions
special features: Commentary by Directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, and Producer Don Hahn; DisneyPedia Atlantis: Fact or Fiction; Multiple Platform Navigational System (Explore Mode, Tour Mode, Files Mode); 16 x 9 Special Features; Deleted Scene; Virtual Tours of CG Models; Whitmore Industries Industrial Film; "How To Speak Atlantean"; History; Story & Editorial; Abandoned Sequences; Art Direction; Animation Production; Character Designs; Music & Sound Design; Publicity; English subtitles and closed-captioning
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Pioneer DV-C302D
receiver: RCA RT2280
main speakers: RCA RT2280
center speaker: RCA RT2280
rear speakers: RCA RT2280
subwoofer: RCA RT2280
monitor: 42-inch Toshiba

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