September 25, 2010

Not With A Bang, But With A Whimper

The end of the world is scary concept that plenty of films have played with! We've seen countless directors destroy civilization in one way or another, be it with massive rocks from space, or the fury of mother nature, but very rarely do we actually see a film go all the way and straight up destroy the planet! Titan AE was the remedy of that situation! It presented the really cool concept of life after earth, with plenty of action to be had, but then something terrible happened! The makers of the film decided to make it a kids movie! WHAAAAAT?? Now, let me go on record. I liked it when I first saw it. I first saw it when it came out! I was eight, and I loved anything with explosions. I have since developed a thing called taste, and can now take a critical look at the thing. Titan AE has good ideas, to be sure. But, it absolutely sucks as a film!

Well that's not good!

In the distant future, humans have discovered hyperspeed, met and accepted alien life, and other cliched sci-fi tropes of that nature. The pinnacle of their technology is a spaceship called the Titan. Basically, it could change the entire course of human existence! This doesn't sit very well with the Drej, a race of beings made up entirely of raw energy. In a massive surprise attack, the Drej destroy Earth! No, seriously! No concessions made, no mercy shown! They just show up and literally blow the planet to pieces! Fast forward 15 years and humans are almost extinct, living in refugee colonies and enduring the ridicule of the other species in the galaxy! Enter Cale, a cynical 20 something year old, who discovers one day that he holds the key to finding the Titan and saving the human race. He embarks on this journey with a band of allies, both human and alien, all the while being pursued by the Drej, who are wise to his plan, and will do anything to stop him!

That sounds pretty flippin' sweet, don't it? Too bad it's handled terribly! The plot of the movie is very dark, with plenty of adult themes, but, since this is a kid's movie, barely any of them are explored at all. It also moves at an incredibly fast clip. Too fast, in fact! Earth is destroyed in first five minutes, and Cale is informed of his mission ten minutes after that. It only takes them an hour or so to find the damn ship and after that, it's twenty minutes of STUPID! The movie never slows down to explore characters or the lucrative universe it has created. We never understand why humans are hated, why the Drej want to kill them, where the other aliens come from, or what their deal is, because the movie doesn't care enough to let us know. Great setup! Shit execution!

Since the film is animated, the only performances we get are vocal! Somehow, Fox Animation managed to get a mighty fine cast for this one. But then all the people they got realized the project was shit, and phoned the whole thing in! Matt Damon plays Cale. Damon is great actor, but one that needs to be seen, not just heard. His performance here is tepid at best! Drew Barrymore is the obligatory love interest/badass female, Akima! She's in the same boat as Damon! John Leguizamo and Janeane Garofalo show up as enigmatic aliens, but it's only Bill Pullman as the tough Joseph Korso and Nathan Lane as the slimy Preed who bring any sort of effort to the roles! Pullman is pretty good as a badass captain, and Lane always does a good job with voiceovers. 

I always have trouble talking about vocal performances. You're only seeing one facet of the performance, whereas if it was real people, you would be witness to a lot more! That being said, the voice work in Titan AE is far behind the best in the business. Disney, this is not! 

That's really not good!

Animation superpower Don Bluth is the genius behind this beast! Ever wonder what happened to Bluth's career in the last decade? This movie killed it! Don't get me wrong, there was almost limitless potential here! The concept is friggin' brilliant! But, he made it a kids movie! YOU DON'T MAKE A STORY THIS DARK INTO A KIDS MOVIE!!! To Bluth's credit, Titan AE is significantly more mature than most child cinema. 90% of humanity is killed in the first five minutes; there are, albeit brief, scenes of torture, a surprising amount of blood, and some rear nudity! A character gets his neck violently snapped! Another is vaporized! Does it sound like I'm describing a fun, family film? NO!!! So why do you make one out of it?

If there's one good thing to be said about the film, it's about the animation, which is really good! Utilizing a clever combination of CGI and traditional, hand drawn figures, Bluth has created something that looks very pretty, but is ultimately hollow! There are some really spectacular scenes here, as when Cale drives his ship through a nebula, dancing with some sort of flying things, or when two ships try and out maneuver each other in an enormous field of gigantic chunks of ice! That last scene is actually really something! There is some pretty cool action as well, not gonna lie!

But, that doesn't matter, because despite the fact that Titan AE looks great and is sometimes thrilling, the rest of the movie sucks! Bad voice acting, a plot that moves too quickly, and no exploration of character all bring it down, but it's the inability to decide on tone that hammers the final nail into the coffin! It can't figure out if it wants to be cute and kiddy, or dark and mature. I appreciate what Bluth and Co were trying to do, which was make an animated film that would appeal to an older demographic. They failed! They failed epically! If this is indeed how the world is going to end, then let happen because we deserve it!

Also, the soundtrack! What the hell?

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