Short Attention Span Review™
Titan A.E. gets my vote for best science fiction film of 2000 even though it seems to be underrated and under appreciated by everyone else. Forget that it's an animated movie, and just look at it as a science fiction action/adventure that if made with live action sets probably would have cost twice as much and been half as good.
The text below the break is part of a theatrical review originally published on June 16th, 2000.
Here are some updated thoughts: I remember Titan A.E. fondly. It’s still one of my favorite animated scifi movies. It’s just so fun and escapist. Despite the abysmal summer it had back in 2000, and the stigma associated with it supposedly causing the demise of Fox’s Animation Studio, it has gone on to have a comfortable cult following within science fiction fandom, as well as a healthy bit of respect. The interesting thing about Titan A.E. is that it was co-written by Joss Whedon . . . a god among certain nerds for Buffy, Firefly, and now The Avengers. You’d think that alone would be enough to bring this classic animated film back from the grave.
But alas, it’s not enough to overcome the apathy people feel for this escapist romp. I wrote a review of the DVD back in 2000 as well. It has some of the best video and audio for its time (obviously far surpassed by Blu-ray technology of today). I popped the DVD into my Blu-ray player last week and was shocked to see how good it still looks on a 50+ inch HDTV. And sadly this is the only format you can buy. Titan A.E. doesn’t even get any respect from Blu-ray technology.
In a world . . . full of stale, limp Disney offerings featuring various fuzzy animals that can dance, sing, and carry out feats greater than any superhero, I fully admire Don Bluth making a movie like Titan A.E.. To me it is the savior of the animated science fiction genre that has been beaten and trampled, like a dog that has just wizzed on the carpet, by Hollywood suits who wouldn’t know a fun movie if it burst out of their chests like a scene from Alien! I can already say that Titan A.E. will end up being one of the most entertaining and exciting films this year.
Titan A.E. harkens back to the more adventurous days of science fiction . . . comparable only to Star Wars in it’s shear fun, fast paced approach to storytelling. In that respect Titan A.E. should actually be considered a space opera, but I’m not going to go into that for various reasons (most of which are bad). Suffice it to say that this movie doesn’t rely on technobabble drivel, or peaceful resolutions, or getting all the science right. Instead it relies on cool spaceships, loud explosions, badass aliens, laser guns, love, deceit, the destruction and creation of entire planets, and a melding of traditional 2D cel animation with 3D CGI! What could be more cool about that?! Don’t answer that.
Cale (voiced by Matt Damon) is a human who finds himself without a father very early in the story. Later we find that he is a drifter in a galaxy full of aliens who don’t care too much for the last remnants of the dwindling, pesky, and annoying human race. But there’s more to Cale than he thinks. Hidden in his hand is a map that will guide him (and a new love, and a new found father figure, and some other aliens) on a search for his lost father’s ship . . . the Titan. The ship holds the key to the hope of a quickly shrinking human population that is spread out among the stars.
In his search, Cale is joined by Korso (voiced by Bill Pullman) an old captain who was once a friend of Cale’s father, and Akima (voiced by Drew Barrymore), who is also a young rebel. Akima is, of course, the love interest of the film. But the romance between Akima and Cale is surprisingly well handled. The romance never distracts us from the plot. Instead, it adds a little something more to the plot. Cale, Akima and Korso leave on a mission to find the Titan before the evil Drej find it first and destroy it. In their mission, they are joined by several comic relief characters (voiced by talented artists like Janeane Garofalo, Nathan Lane, John Leguizamo, and . . . Tone Loc!?). From this point on, their quest is a race for time.
Fifteen years later a young man named Cale learns he possesses a genetically encoded map to the Titan, a spaceship that holds the secret to the salvation of the human race. With the Drej in hot pursuit, Cale blasts off with the new crew of the Valkyrie in an attempt to find the Titan before the Drej destroy it . . . and with it mankind’s last chance for a home of their own.
Director: Don Bluth & Gary Goldman
Starring: Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman
Genre: Science Fiction / Animated
Media: Film, 94 minutes
Year: June 16, 2000
Pursuing them are the Drej. This is one of the coolest alien baddies I’ve seen in movies. The Drej adhere to Einstein’s mass/energy equivalency equation in that they can change between states of energy and matter. Need a Drej army? Poof! They materialize in formation. Need a ship? Bam! No longer need that army? Bzzzzzt! They fade back into the floor and the collective absorbs the energy. Yes, it’s scientifically possible. Star Trek has been using this same idea for decades, but in a much more boring way (replicating tea, Earl Grey, hot). Hell no it’s not scientifically plausible (yet)! But that’s the beauty of science fiction: extrapolating the scientifically possible and making it entertaining fiction. It’s damn cool, and remember kids, this is supposed to be fun. Good! Oh, and watch for the amazing cat and mouse chase scenes within the ice ring towards the end. It’s reminiscent of the nebula chase from Wrath of Khan, but actually a bit cooler. Watch it on the big screen with booming surround sound shacking your seat was pretty amazing.
Well you can probably guess who wins the race to the Titan. And you might be able to guess some of the plot twists. And it does borrow many elements from classic science fiction sources. But that doesn’t make it any less entertaining to me. All the voice actors do a good job with their parts. I have no complaints in that area. But after watching it a few times I did notice that Cale looks a lot like Matt Damon . . . and that bugged me a little. Then something blew up on screen, Drej began to materialize, ice blocks began crunching into each other, and it shook me out of my ridiculous musings.
One unfortunate thing happened after this movie was released. It was a massive box office bomb. Not surprising. On one hand it was an animated movie without singing, dancing, and cute sidekicks, so it immediately lost the interest of the family demographic. On the other it was an animated movie and wasn’t taken seriously by adults or science fiction fans. As a result Fox shuttered their animation studio blaming Titan A.E. as the cause. It did cost $80 million to make, but this is a great movie. Forget about Disney, forget that this movie supposedly caused Fox to utterly obliterate an entire animation unit. Forget that Don Bluth will probably be forever remembered as the man who killed Fox Animation. Just enjoy it for what it is: a fun science fiction romp.
Seeing Titan A.E. is like seeing Star Wars for the first time. It is engrossing and original. There is not one moment in the film that bores you. Titan A.E. gets my vote for best science fiction film of 2000 even though it seems to be underrated and under appreciated by everyone else. Forget that it’s an animated movie, and just look at it as a science fiction action/adventure that if made with live action sets probably would have cost twice as much and been half as good.
Note: I’m revisiting and re-posting many older articles (almost 200) I’ve written (or contributed to) over the years, either for my own purposes or as contributions to other sites now long digitally decayed and dormant. These reviews/articles will appear in their nearly raw, unaltered form, with a few updated thoughts at the beginning of each.