A T L A N T I SThe Lost Empire
Only two Disney movies (before this one) attempted to break that mold, and they were the abysmal "Black Cauldron," and the so - so "Emperor's New Groove." They had no songs, were adventure movies, and really had no novelty tie-ins. Unfortunately, Disney couldn't get too far away from it's tried and true formula, and had to throw in a few goofy characters and low brow gags to satisfy the kids. They just couldn't embrace the action movie formula all the way. The same could be said of 'Atlantis.'
I love animation as both a film critic, and as a movie goer. I started loving animation around the time I started watching RoboTech after school in the 7th grade. I had, of course, also been watching Scooby-Doo and other cartoons when I was a wee one, but not until RoboTech did I get it. Animation DID NOT have to be something only toddlers watched! I was hooked!
Of course, as far as good product state-side, there really was none. Disney's movies are always kids movies. Sure, Bluth & co. made Secret of Nimh, but that was a rarety. Until recently, any decent non-children's oriented animation was coming from one place, Japan. Oddly enough, the same place that originated the 3 series's that became the American version of RoboTech.
Now, if I see a trailor for an animated movie and start thinking it might be really cool, if I see that Disney logo I get a "Damn, it could have been good" feeling and almost write it off already. I don't do that with any film studio (although Warner Bros. came very close a couple of times), but Disney is simply scared to think outside of the box.
Ok, on to Atlantis. Upon first seeing the trailors for this film, I thought, maybe, just maybe this will be the one movie that will make me start looking at Disney as something other than a jump start marketer of stuft toys. It had all the ingredients to a good animated film. A thought provoking premise (Atlantis), a quest, cool looking animation, and our ever hopeful dreamer main character. So I went in not with high hopes for the movie, but with high hopes the movie would not be what I thought it was going to be.
I was not wholly disappointed, but was not completely satisfied, either. Sure, there were no songs (hey, that's something right there! Even 'New Groove' had that abysmally annoying intro song!), it was an adventure movie, but for some reason the hats at Disney insisted there be the low brow, goofy character, and silly gags thrown in for the kids.
And you know what? It didn't work! I saw the film at matinee price with my wife (for some reason the film gods out here in Vegas have not yet discovered me, so unlike most reviewers, I must pay to see the movies like everyone else!) in a theater jam packed with kids and adults. The amazing thing was, that when everyone was captivated the most was during the ACTION scenes, not the comedy skits! Hell, during the stupid gags, almost everyone looked BORED! Disney came SO CLOSE to nailing exactly what they should have with this film, but instead of going all out for the advetnure mode, they backed away. So close....
Ok, now for the nit-picking. The animation was very good, but inappropriate at times. The quality was superb, as something that can always be expected from Disney. The wierd thing is that for some reason Disney decided to mix and match a slew of differing animation STYLES within' this movie. The main character is lanky and goofy, then there's the G.I. Joe-ish ship's doctor, the hispanic, baggy pants 17 year old mechanic, the oddly drawn character Mole, who is comprised to two circles, has no neck, and absolutely no place in this film, and then there are the Atlantians.
The Atlantians are drawn as if they came straight out of the film Heavy Metal (think of the Terracian warrior at the end). Although that's a great look for them (and one of the few things that worked for me in the film), when mixed with the varying styles if animation used for the rest of the cast it looked ODD. Also, every where you look, is the A symbol for "Atlantis." Now, I don't mean in the actual city of Atlantis, but everywhere! The character's fingernails are drawn as little upside down V's, for instance. Horrible!
The story itself is very straight forward, with a few little twists that I won't bother to tell you about. Basically, the main character has been looking for the lost city of Atlanis all his life, following in the foot steps of his now deceased father. One of his father's friends made a promise that if the location of Atlantis was ever found, he would fund an expedition to the city, so when our main character believes he has found the location, our story begins.
My wife realy enjoyed this film, and most of the problems I had with it she could counter (although let it be known that my wife is a big fan of Disney films.) Where I thought the differing styles was inappropriate, she thought it did a good job of showing how diverse America is (although that still doesn't explain what the Mole character was doing here.) So it seems that the movie obviously works for some, and perhaps I am being too nit-picky, or just am not happy because Disney is not the company I want it to be. Either way, there is some fun to be had with this film.
I recommend it if you are taking your younger sister/brother out to a movie, or don't want to see Pearl Harbor and you enjoy animation as an art form. I do not recommend it as a date movie, as she'll probably start thinking of you in the same context as her little brother. All in all, there is much worse out there, just don't expect this film to be too much different from most of Disney's other offerings. And who knows, to you, that might be a good thing!