JFS the Reviewer
Titan A.E. 20th Anniversary Review
The movie was released on June 16, 2000 and was an animated science fiction movie. The story was written by both Hans Bauer, who had also written films such as Anaconda (1997) and Komodo (1999). The other was Randall McCormick, who had written Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997) before joining Hans Bauer to write the story for Titan A.E. The movie was directed by both the legendary Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, both who used to work with Disney before they left to start up their own animation studios.
Along with John Pomeroy and nine other former Disney animators, they made such films as The Secret of NIMH (1982), Dragon’s Lair (1983), An American Tail (1986), the Land Before Time (1988), and many more before suffering Bankruptcy in the early to mid-1990s.
In 1995, many of the staff moved to Fox Animation Studios, which was founded by Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, and Bill Mechanic. Bill Mechanic, then-chairman of 20th Century Fox, hired them to create a brand-new animation studio under the banner of Fox. It was designed to compete with Walt Disney Animation, which was releasing hit after hit of animated movies. Until it was shut down on June 26, 2000, resulting from financial failure and poor problems.
Just ten days after Titan A.E. came out in theaters. Making this movie the last film ever to be made by the studio.
The movie clocked in at 94 minutes (One hour and thirty-four minutes) with a budget of $75–90 million. The film made $9,376,845 million dollars in the first week, before dropping to $3,735,300 in its second week. The film in total made over $36.8 million, making it a bomb and not making back its money. It also received mixed reviews, but did get a 3.5/4 stars from Robert Ebert, so that’s good.
Despite this it was still nominated for an Annie Award, OFTA Film Award, Satellite Award, Saturn Award, and Golden Reel Award, winning the Best Sound Editing - Animated Feature.
Still, because of the failure, the film ended up getting an upcoming video game canceled, but three prequel novels for the film were released.
The story for the film takes place in the future. The year 3028, where humanity is being attacked by an alien race called, the Drej. An alien species made of pure energy-based and came to Earth to exterminate the human race. This is because humanity had invented something called “Project Titan.” The aliens believed it to be some sort of weapon that would destroy them, so they came to Earth to destroy the weapon, the planet, and the humans.
The story focuses on its main character, Cale. A boy whose father invented the Titan and had his son take off on a spaceship to get him to safety. All while the father took the Titan far into space where the Drej would never find it. While Cale was raised for 15 years by a friend of his father.
Until, he is found by Joseph Korso, another friend of Cale’s father and came looking for him.
The two escaped from the Drej, who are after Cale after finding out he has the key to locate the Titan. So, now it’s a race of time to try to find the Titan and use it to help give humanity a new home, before the Drej find them to destroy them all. So, its an adventure sci-fi animated movie, which should have worked, especially among kids.
Yet it didn’t. But why?
Well, I’m not going to put the full blame on its story. The first act was interesting, because it opens up with the attack on Earth and gets you hooked right away. You see the aliens attacking the ships, you see our hero escaping from the planet, and then you see the Earth getting blown up. Granted the trailer didn’t spoil it for everyone, but it didn’t mean it wasn’t going to get your interest right off the bat. But then after that the story begins slowing down in its pacing.
It becomes slow, predictable, and less fun. There was nothing in the second act that had you want to see what was going on, what our heroes our doing, and why the Titan is so important. It also sucks how we don’t get to explore other alien worlds and find out more about this galaxy.
We also don’t get to learn anything about the Drej. We only know they are pure energy beings, they hate humans, and they want to blow up the Titan. That’s it. A big missed opportunity here.
By the time we get to the third act it does pick up the pace a little, but even with the fight scenes, it doesn’t save the rest of the film. They also did some things where it didn’t make any sense. For example, one of the alien heroes got blown up, they made it seem like he died, and then they faked us out showing he’s completely fine. How?
This is not the only time either. Another time is where we find out the father was killed by the Drej, which they don’t show how it happened or how they ended up capturing him. Why would they kill him? I thought the point was to find him and the Titan so they can both be destroyed.
Why kill the only guy who knows where to find the weapon these aliens fear so much? It makes no sense at all.
So, as you can see the story is messy as hell. The first act will suck you into the film and get you invested. After that, it goes down hill from there. It’s such a shame because the story does have some creativity, but it is executed poorly.
Matt Damon, before the Ocean’s movies, the Bourne movies, and before the films his career, voiced as our main character Cale. While Alex D. Linz, who stared in Home Alone 3 as the main character and later voiced a young Tarzan in the 1999 Disney movie, Tarzan. Bill Pullman, voiced as Joseph Korso, friend of Cale’s father and becomes a father-figure for Cale. Drew Barrymore voiced the love-interest Akima Kunimoto, who is a pilot that works for Korso and part of his crew.
They also had John Leguizamo, Nathan Lane, and Janeane Garofalo voicing the rest of the crew. While Ron Perlman voiced the father, while having little screen-time on the film.
With such an amazing cast, what happened? In any film with a story that is either bad or makes no sense, the characters can find a way to make the film still work. They can salvage it with their performance and make it fun for the audience. However, if they are given a bad script to work with, even the best can’t save any film.
The first problem is, none of the characters are at all interesting. Cale has nothing about him that helps him stand out or at least makes him different from other characters like him. It’s a shame too, because I did feel like Matt gave it his best to make the character work, but nothing made me like him.
The same for Korso, who I knew right off the bad what his character was going to be. He’s going to be friends with the main character, then pull a John Silver betrayal on us, and then eventually he will try helping our main hero. You get the idea. His character also is forgettable, and you don’t care what happens to him.
Everyone else I felt did try to make their roles work with what they were given. But none of their characters were at all interesting or at least weren’t characters I was invested in. Janeane Garofalo’s character was the only one I remember, but it was because of the design for her character, which was a kangaroo alien creature and that’s about it. The other character I remembered, which I hated because it was annoying was John Leguizamo’s character.
Every time I saw the character I groaned softly. When I thought he died I thought, well it was the only thing that made me happy a little. Until the character somehow was alive and looked completely fine. I didn’t hate John’s performance since I know he did what he was given, but I did hate his character.
So yeah, the characters weren’t at all good and it’s a shame too. With the actors they had they could have made the roles work. However, I put the blame more on the story for not giving them more to work with. Something to help make their characters more interesting and have them be memorable.
Animation, Music, etc.:
The animation for this film I will give credit what they were trying to do. They were trying to combine 2D traditional hand-drawn animation with CGI (computer-generated imagery) to make it look unique. Trying to make it look epic, which in some ways it almost was. I did like the opening they did where it shows the planet being attacked, how realistic they were trying to make it look, and when the planet blew up it looked amazing.
I also did like the design for some of the aliens they used, including the Drej. It was different from other aliens I have seen in the past. However, there are times the glow around them does throw me off a little bit, especially with their queen. Despite this though, I did think this idea with the Drej wasn’t a bad one.
I think my favorite use of animation with CGI is when the recreation of Earth. When the Titan is used to help build a new world, which did look amazing and almost made sitting through the whole film worth watching. However, the rest of the times when they used the animation with the CGI it does make the scenes look…bad. It looks like at times they should have just gone with animation for certain scenes and didn’t try making that look CGI.
A good example I can use is when Cale is flying the ship around and how it looked bad when you watch it.
The music for the film is well not exactly good. I did like some of the scores that Graeme Revell used for the movie, but other times not so much. I think the only scores I enjoyed was the opening when the planet is being attacked then blown up. While the other I enjoyed was when the planet is being created.
Everything else is all right, but not as memorable as the other scores from Gladiator or Braveheart.
There are some parts in the film I feel isn’t for kids, like when one of the aliens gets turned into goo when its shot. The other is when Cale gets shot with blood coming out, and another where one of the characters gets his neck snapped. I also didn’t find any of the humor funny, the sad moments really that sad, the bonding moments that interesting, and I couldn’t see the chemistry between the main character along with the love interest.
I feel like that was rushed and not given a lot of time for them to form any sort of chemistry. The same when Cale and Korso when they are supposed to have a father-son bond. It isn’t the same as Silver and Jim from Treasure Planet, where the two show how forming a bond can actually work. For this film, I couldn’t see that with Cale or Korso.
So, overall it seems like I pointed out more of a reason why the movie didn’t do so well. Mostly with the story, characters, and at times the animation with the CGI. It is a shame because again this film could have been a success if they had done some rewrites for the story or made it more interesting after the first act. Even if they couldn’t they could have tried making the characters more interesting.
Make me care about what happens to them and make me want to see them succeed. Instead, I completely forgot all about. I had to watch the movie first and then write this whole thing out so I wouldn’t forget about it.
I did appreciate the direction they were going with combining the 2D animation and the CGI. But ultimately, the rest of the film didn’t work.
So, my final thoughts on this film is this was a huge disappointment. It’s a shame this was Don Bluth’s last film he had released in theaters. Since then, he’s been doing short films and working on designing/directing/producing video games. However, he is working on making a Dragon’s Lair movie, so there’s hope he can come back and get the people behind him again.
Oh, who am I kidding? That man will always have the love of the people, especially how he made many of their childhood with a lot of his past films.
So, Titan A.E. is it worth watching? If you are interested in seeing how bad the film is…go for it. However, if you want to see any of Don Bluth’s good films then I recommend checking out the Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, the Land Before Time, and All Dogs Go to Heaven. Those are worth watching, while this film is worth watching, if you are curious.