A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Titan A.E.

June 16, 2010

Titan A.E.

Tonight we chose to do something space-related as a start to our “Futurama Week,” what with new episodes of Futurama starting to air next Thursday. We went through our movies over lunch trying to think of cool space-themed ones and both decided that we’d really like to re-visit this nifty little animated sci-fi flick. I’ve always been puzzled by the lack of success that this movie supposedly experienced. This is the big budget flop that killed the Fox animation studios back in the nineties (back before Ice Age resurrected it.) But it’s actually a really fun movie and a cool concept. Parts of it haven’t aged particularly well, but I’m still enjoying watching it again tonight and I’m glad we have it in our collection.

The A.E. in the title stands for After Earth, because much like in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy this movie begins with the destruction of the entire planet Earth. The humans have just invented the most advanced spaceship in the entire galaxy – the Titan – but this accomplishment brings the nasty Drej (an all computer generated species of pure energy) and the Drej destroy Earth to get to the Titan. Some humans do escape the destruction, among them young Cale, who’s father invented and pilots the Titan. We re-join the action fifteen years later. Cale is a disaffected and whiny tweenager now and he hates the universe and everything in it. He’s working as a scrap metal salvager on some station at the ass end of nowhere. He’s been raised surrounded by (mostly hostile) aliens and doesn’t know any humans at all it seems. He’s also bitter because his father, after fleeing from Earth in the Titan, never came back to get him.

Then an old associate of his fathers shows up and tells him that the ring his father gave him back at the start of the movie is a map that will lead to the secret hiding place of the Titan. So Cale embarks on a grand space adventure and along the way he learns that perhaps humanity is worth saving and maybe he doesn’t need to be so angry all the time. It’s a pretty standard Sci-Fi premise with the whole “humanity’s unlikely last hope” thing, but it’s unusual fodder for an animated film. Which might have been the problem back when it came out. This was back in the days of Disney’s ascendancy and before Anime really reached our shores in any meaningful way. Before Dragonball Z or Zoids or Yu Gi Oh showed that there was a considerable untapped market for animation aimed at young boys. Maybe it was ahead of its time, or maybe it was just poorly marketed when it came out. The general feeling at the time, though, was that the primary demographic that the movie would appeal to (twelve year old boys) had no real interest in going to the theater to see an animated movie. And this film just kind of disappeared. (Although I’m pretty sure Amanda and I saw it twice in the theaters, so we tried to do our part.)

There are a couple things I really like about the movie. The whole notion of an epic space adventure in an animated movie appeals to me. (Being a huge fan of Anime.) I quite like the animation style, which blends 3D computer animation for the ships and most of the backgrounds with traditional 2D hand drawn animation for all the characters and explosions and stuff. It works well and allows for some things you couldn’t do without an awful lot of work in a wholly hand-drawn movie (like big camera “crane shots” at dramatic moments.) I’m a fan of Don Bluth’s animation style as well (and have been since the Secret of Nimh and the old Dragon’s Lair laserdisc game.) There are several moments in the film (particularly in the diner when Cale is first recruited on his quest) where the way the aliens move just screams “Bluth” to me.

Most of what I like in the movie, though, is the way the humans live in a universe populated by all these cool alien species. The less human looking ones are my favorites. Like the pretzel-legged Stith (whom I believe I might have accidentally created as a race in Spore, because I love putting too many joints in a set of legs.) Sure almost all of the aliens in the movie are bipedal and have a generally human shape, which is something you see often in sci-fi films and games, but I enjoy the notion that this is a crowded universe and there’s so much to discover about it.

The part that hasn’t aged particularly well is the soundtrack. In an attempt to make the movie more hip to kids (I assume) there are several sort of nineties grunge pop type songs at key moments. None of them are songs I’m familiar with, and they might have been composed specifically for the movie, but the sort of Linkin Park sound of them dates the movie and takes me out of the action. Maybe in ten or twenty more years it will have a kind of groovy nostalgic air, but for now it sounds like a movie that’s somewhat stuck in its own time period.

Still. I am glad we threw it in to watch tonight. I look forward to seeing it again sometime as well. Like Iron Giant it’s one of those movies I really enjoyed introducing kids to during my time at Blockbuster. It’s always nice to see something cool and unusual being done in a medium that has been pigeon-holed into one particular type of movie. I like to see barriers broken down. And I like being able to introduce people to movies they might not have heard of otherwise which are, like this one, lost gems in a way.

June 16, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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