ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE
(***)-JIM RUTKOWSKI

"There is an anime feel to this film"

Disney Film About Dreams, Ambition & Human Greed

(062901) Disney's Atlantis is fast paced adventure that should have some appeal for adults as well as the little ones. It is the first Disney animated film that is not a musical. (Last years The Emperor's New Groove contained a mere three songs). It is all the better because of it. Musical numbers would have seemed out of place and slowed the pace. As it is, the film clips along at a brisk pace. Maybe too brisk. Several dialogue scenes reminded this critic of "The Front Page". Lines are traded back and forth so quickly that they could barely be kept with. In addition, the main characters find the "lost empire" so fast, that perhaps Atlantis could be called the temporarily misplaced empire.

On the story side, Milo Thatch (voiced by Michael J. Fox) is the grandson of a much maligned explorer who was obsessed with finding Atlantis. Milo, who works as a boiler room attendant in an American university in 1914, carries on his grandfathers obsessions, much to the chagrin of the universities professors. An eccentric millionaire who was a friend of Milo's grandfather, offers him the opportunity of a lifetime. He funds an expedition to find the ancient city. This includes a Jules Verne inspired submarine, several dozen smaller one-man underwater craft, as well as a crew of over 200. (Donald Trump's great grandfather perhaps?) The main crew who are voiced by the likes of James Garner, Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci) and the late Jim Varney, are all entertaining. Like most animated films, these characters are essentially one-dimensional types as opposed to fully realized personalities. Yet, they do provide some of the films funnier moments. But it is the voice of Michael J. Fox that provides the heart and soul of the piece. His sincerity and amiability make Milo a complete character. It is Fox's talents that carry the audience through the adventure and has them rooting for him along the way.

When the expedition finds Atlantis, (not without having their ranks reduced by about 200 after a run-in with a giant mechanical monster guarding the entrance) it's revealed that there are those amongst the explorers, who are only interested in stealing the legendary power source of the lost empire for monetary gain. The chief elder of Atlantis (voiced well by Leonard Nimoy) attempts to stop them only to lose his life. His daughter, who has fallen for Milo, realizes that the only way to stop them is to call upon the ancient power; which we discover, is not what it seems to be. This all leads to a climactic battle scene that is exciting and epic in scale. One of the best in a Disney film.

The animation is very good indeed, especially the backgrounds and vehicles. The design work, it should be noted, is by the respected comic book artist Mike Mignola (Dark Horse Comics' Hellboy). He brings a fresh and unusually distinctive style to the film. Disney and other studios would do well to utilize his talents in the future. There is also a anime feel to this film. In particular, it reminded me of the work of Japanese director Hiyao Miyazaki. His " Princess Mononoke" also tells an epic story of an ancient people and a powerful force of nature.

Their have been several critics who have come down on this film. The reason: it's not as good as "Shrek". While it's true "Shrek" is one of the years best films, that does not mean that there isn't room for another animated film in the marketplace. One that incorporates traditional animation as opposed to completely computer generated, and doesn't rely on a lot of pop-culture references to entertain it's audience. There is room for both. Disney's Atlantis is a fine adventure story with imaginative animation and amiable characters.
 

Directed by:    Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Written by:    Screenplay by Tab Murphy. Story by Kirk Wise,
 Gary Trousdale, Joss Whedon, Bryce Zabel,
 Jackie Zabel and Tab Murphy
Starring the Voices of:    Michael J. Fox, James Garner,  Leonard Nimoy
Released:    06/15/01 (USA)
Length:    95 minutes
Rating:    Rated PG for action violence

ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE    2001 Walt Disney Pictures.
All Rights Reserved.

Review 2022 Alternate Reality, Inc.

 
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