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20th Century Fox presents
"When Earth ends, the adventure begins."
DVD ReviewSince I saw the teaser trailer for it in May 1999 before Star Wars: Episode One, I had been interested in seeing Titan A.E.. The idea of a big-budget, balls to the wall, animated sci-fi film seemed very intriguing to me, and it was one of my most anticipated movies of 2000. When I finally saw it in June 2000, I have to say that I was a bit disappointed. While the animation was certainly up to expectations, I found the story to be a bit cliché and corny. Still, it is a lot of fun for fans of sci-fi or animation.
It is the year 3043, and humanity is without a planet. Fifteen years earlier, Earth had been destroyed by an alien race called the Drej, possibly because of the Titan Project, which is a machine that can create new worlds. Cale (Matt Damon), the son of the Titan's inventor, was forced into slavery after Earth ceased to exist, and needless to say, he feels a bit bitter about his father leaving him. One day he is visited by Korso (Bill Pullman) and Akima (Drew Barrymore), two space pirates who explain to him his father's vision. It seems that Cale is the key to finding the Titan and giving humanity a new home. Of course, the Drej aren't just going to let it happen (aliens are so testy when they're angry!).
Throughout the course of the film, the scriptwriters throw in pretty much every sci-fi cliché in existence. Elements are present from Independence Day, Star Wars, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The result is a somewhat predictable and patchwork film. The dialogue is sometimes stilted, and the ideas and themes never get fully developed. Once in a while, scenes seem to start in the middle, with very awkward cuts or breaks in continuity that don't make a lot of sense, but most instances are minor and don't impact the overall flow of the storyline. If, however, you are able to forgive the script's shortcomings and concentrate on the story and action, it turns out to be very enjoyable.
The voice acting is passable for the most part. Bill Pullman is never really good at anything, and here he is basically a blank as well. His performance doesn't add to the character or detract from it. Matt Damon is passable as the hero. His voice fits the character design perfectly, although he seems to be sleepwalking through sections of the film, especially the slower, more emotional sections. John Leguizamo does the best work in the film with the goofy alien Gune, but Janeane Garofalo really annoys as Stith, the double-jointed creature. In past interviews she has admitted that she takes jobs just for the paycheck, and this is clearly one of those cases. I didn't buy her characterizations at all.
It is in the animation that the film really shines. Titan uses a unique mix of CGI and regular hand-drawn animation, and the combination is quite striking visually. The character designs are vintage Bluth, recalling the characters in Anastasia (one of my top ten favorite movies of all time). One particular alien species (bat-like creatures) really reminded me of the characters in The Rats of N.I.M.H, another Bluth classic. Unfortunately, as I have noticed in several other films from Bluth, the realistic designs don't seem to blend with the voice acting, resulting in a very artificial "lip-sync" look (which doesn't happen with Disney films).
Titan A.E. was a troubled production from the start. It was Bill Mechanic, the now ex-president of 20th Century Fox, who came up with the idea to do an animated film aimed at 14-year-old boys. He failed to note that 14-year-old boys aren't interested in much more than crude humor and internet porn, I guess. When the original directors didn't work out, Mechanic recruited veteran animator Don Bluth and partner Gary Goldman to take over. Bluth and Goldman weren't too eager to do such a film, and I have a feeling they were sort of forced into it. Considering these constraints, the picture came of amazingly well. Sure, the plot is a little old and the film jumps from place to place, but overall, it is an entertaining ride and a step towards more respected, adult animation in American. No, not ADULT—adult. Although that would be nice too!
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: This transfer is, in a word, flawless. The transfer was done straight from the "digital negative," and thus no grain is present, and there are no scratches or pops in the print (since there wasn't one!) Colors are extremely clear and well saturated. Even in scenes with a lot of red, I noted no color bleeding. I also could not find any shimmer, even on very fine detail. As close to a perfect transfer I have ever seen. Good job, Fox!
Image Transfer Grade: A+
Audio Transfer Review: Audio here is also excellent. I sampled the DD 5.1 track (DTS is also provided, a first for Fox), and found it to be very active and aggressive. There are many surround effects in the action scenes, and the songs and music utilize the full soundstage as well. The destruction of earth scene and the ice field scene will become my new set-up demos. Aside from the music and effects, dialogue is always clear and audible, and there was no hiss evident.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
2 TV Spots/Teasers
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman
Layers Switch: 00h:44m:04s
The commentary with the directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, however, is much better. Their animation department took the hit for the film's box office failure, but the commentary reveals that it wasn't really their fault. Bluth and Goldman discuss the troubled production, from their late entry into the process, to the studio interference, to the budget problems that kept this film from being what it could've been. It seems that the two weren't happy with the final product, and I was surprised how much of that was present in the track (as it isn't, shall we say, "studio friendly").
Also included is a music video that incorporates animation from the film, a rather cool still gallery with production art, four deleted scenes that amount to longer cuts of scenes and some excised character development. The scenes are presented in widescreen and appear finished for the most part. Rounding out the disc are some pretty cool trailers and TV spots.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsSure, Titan A.E. is derivative. Pretty much every script element comes from another sci-fi film. Still, there are some laudable set pieces, especially the ice field chase, and the corny storyline plays much better on the small screen. I have always had a soft spot for animation, and Titan A.E. works well enough for what it is. Had Fox put more faith in the directors, Bluth and Goldman could've created a classic film along the lines of Akira.
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