We have now arrived at the end of our International Tour of Animation, recently turned into our Intergalactic Tour of Animation, as our final stop takes place IIIIIINN SPAAAAAAAAAAACE!!! Although, considering the movie, it’s more like in… space. (Incredible sigh of frustration and…. grrrrrrrrrrhhh!!)
Before I go into everything that’s wrong with this film, let me explain to you what it’s about to give you an idea of what this film is. The film starts out with a boy named Luke Skywalker… wait, wrong movie. Okay, it starts out with a boy named Aladdin… no, that’s still not right. What was his name? Was it Harry Potter? Or maybe John Conner? Or maybe even Jim Hawkins? Neo! No. Hmm… Ah, it’s not important. Just imagine any of the previously mentioned characters in this movie with none of the interesting character traits that they have and you’ll get a pretty accurate picture of who this character is. For now, let’s call him “Pretty Aryan Boy Hero #823” or “Ary” for short. Anyway, Ary is an orphan who lives his life as a construction worker and second-class citizen among a bunch of aliens after Earth has been destroyed by an alien race named the Drej (therefore the title, Titan A.E. or “After Earth”). Ary lives his life as normally as he can but, you guessed it, is unsatisfied with his current situation and wishes for something more.
But then, a roguish space pilot (sound familiar now?) finds him and reveals that hidden in the ring that Ary’s father gave Ary is a map that leads to the Genesis– I mean, Titan project, an invention of Ary’s father that has the power to create a planet and unite the scattered human race. Then the bad guys show up, a riveting chase sequence follows and Ary is off with the roguish space pilot (we’ll call him Long John Solo) and his crew of likeable misfits to find the Genesis– Titan Project before the evil Drej get to it first.
Where. Do I. Begin?
First of all, do these people know how the physics of space work? You can’t stand on a space ship with your feet firmly planted while you’re out in the vacuum of space! If you’re not tethered to the ship, you’re going be propelled out into space since that’s what happens when you apply any kind of force to the thing you’re standing on, which you’re going to have to do if you want to, you know, move around (which Ary is clearly doing in this particular scene). Second, based on those same principles you can’t bounce in space! If collide with a large ship, you are not going to land back on that object, and you’re certainly not going to bounce several times along the ship’s hull until you stop on the windshield. You are going to start flying out into the vacuum of space and not stop until you collide with something else so that another force exerts itself against you. Newton’s Third Law of Motion still applies in space except it’s taken to the extreme since there aren’t those pesky things like gravity and friction to stop you from moving.
Alright, I hear what you guys are saying! “Ryan, you’re totally nit-picking! Are you so enraged at this movie that you’re going to find flaws in such little details as the concept of bouncing in space?” And to that I answer, you’re probably right that I am nit-picking. Although considering this “bouncing in space” concept comes into play in the climax of the movie, where the heroes would have failed if the laws of physics actually existed, is it really nit-picking? Possibly, but I digress. There are bigger problems in this movie and we are about to get there.
Let’s talk about the animation. After all, this movie was co-directed by the great Don Bluth, director of such animated classics as The Land Before Time, An American Tail, and The Secret of NIMH. How bad could the animation possibly be? Well… it’s good at times… I guess overall I’d call it “okay.” The filmmakers decided to make this film with a blend of traditional 2D animation and computer-generated 3D animation. When the two of them are working separately, like when a shot or sequence is completely 2D or completely 3D, it works pretty well. However, when they put the two together, it looks horrendous. The 3D environments and elements just don’t work well with the 2D character models. The 2D character models look out of place in the 3D sets, and whenever the camera moved around the characters, they became distorted and looked really unnatural. This isn’t the case with every animated feature that blends the two mediums. Beauty and the Beast did it flawlessly in the ballroom dancing scene and that movie was made ten years before this one. (Granted, the animation studio that produced this film was in serious financial trouble at the time, and this film did ultimately bankrupt them, so I suppose comparing it to Beauty and the Beast is a little unfair. But I digress.) Basically, the animation is incredibly uneven. Sometimes it looks pretty good and the film gets some mileage out of some really stunning visuals and animation, but other times, it looks downright awful.
Now we get to the bottom of this: the ultimate reasons why this movie sucks. It all boils down to the story and the characters. Let’s look at the characters first.
The three primary characters we’ve got are Ary (short for Pretty Aryan Boy Hero #823 and played by Matt Damon), Long John Solo, the rogue space captain (Bill Paxton) and Useless Female Love Interest #1274 (she has purple hair, so we’ll call her Purp for short. She’s played by Drew Barrymore). Then we have the wacky side characters who make up the rest of the ship’s crew. I have no idea what their names are, so we’re going to just keep naming them according to their identifiable characteristics (or stereotypes. Whatever). There’s Sleazeball Alien, the first mate, Manly Kangaroo Woman, weapons expert, and Nerd (bet you can guess what he does on the ship!)
I’m not going to go in depth about the crew members since they are only defined by their stereotypes, and this review is running very long already, so let’s look briefly (good luck) at the three main characters.
As I mentioned earlier, Ary is an uninteresting amalgamation of all the archetypal heroes there have ever been. However, he does have one defining characteristic that sets him apart from all the other heroes: he’s horny. Really horny. He is the only protagonist I’ve seen in these films who is so overtly interested in having the sex with useless female love interest. He doesn’t even try to hide it. I mean, it’s the future so maybe sexuality is not as taboo as it is now (see Captain Jack from Torchwood for example), but then why is Ary embarrassed when he’s naked in front of Purp, or when he walks in on her only wearing a towel? But then, come to think of it THIS IS A KID’S MOVIE!! WHY AM I EVEN TALKING ABOUT THIS?!
Apart from his horniness, Ary is BORING! He has no personality, no charisma, and no reason for us to care about him. Matt Damon has very little to offer in his performance. You can kind of tell he’s at least trying, he’s given nothing to do since there’s so little to the character.
Long John Solo is, as his made-up name suggests, a hybrid of Long John Silver and Han Solo. But what’s most baffling about this character is the reveal that he’s a double agent, because as soon as that happens, he starts exhibiting cruelty and nastiness towards his crew that’s never even been hinted at before. Movie, you can’t have a character change personalities so severely without so much as hinting at his more unsavory qualities! It comes out of nowhere, like “The script says I need to be evil now, so I will be EVIL! (maniacal laugh)” Come to think of it, are we even given a reason why Long John Solo betrays them? Because of the money? That’s pretty weak, especially when you have the opportunity to rebuild your planet. Because he’s lost hope? That doesn’t make any sense since you’ve found the map to find the last hope. If they went to the place the map told them to and the Titan wasn’t there, that would be good cause to lose hope. That’s not what happens, though. Because the script says so? I guess that makes the most sense.
Then there’s Purp, who ironically serves no purpose except to fall in love with the hero in the span of about a week. I am so sick of movie romances where the characters fall in love with each other in the span of a couple days, not because they like each other (you can’t like someone with no personality), but because one is male, one is female, and they’re both the prettiest members of the cast. They’re glorified f–k-buddies. On a side-note, Drew Barrymore is awful. She’s completely monotone and doesn’t seem to know how to act with only her voice. More evidence supporting that not all actors can be voice-actors.
Finally, the story. There is not a shred of originality in this story. None. I remember when I was watching the movie, I was thinking “this is Star Wars meets Treasure Island! Well, not so much Treasure Island; Long John Solo hasn’t revealed ulterior motives yet… (he reveals ulterior motives and betrays them at that moment) … (also occurring during that moment was Ryan giving up; he stops caring about what happens next because he already knows and just wants the movie to be over). This movie wants to be Star Wars so badly that there’s even a scene where two of the main characters man gun turrets on a space ship to take down the incoming enemy ships, and it is during this scene that the line “I can’t shake ’em!” occurs.
I will give this movie credit for one thing. It has a great beginning. In the first 5 minutes, Earth is destroyed and humanity has no home. That is a great way to start a movie! No punches are pulled! BAM! Earth gone, just like that. However, it goes downhill from there.
With Earth destroyed and humanity scattered, you’d think the stakes for the heroes to succeed would be through the roof. But you just don’t care. The characters are partly to blame, with the predictability of the story being another part to blame, and then there are the villains. Why are the Drej so intent on destroying humanity? According to Purp, it’s because of our “potential.” … WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?!! Potential for what?! For universe domination? Did we encroach on their territory and they got nervous? Is this ever explained? Nope! Then why should I care? To put it bluntly, I didn’t.
This movie sucks! It offered nothing original, just a bunch of cliches; none of the characters were engaging or even likeable, and all of this contributed to me completely losing interest halfway through the movie and hoping against hope that the Drej would kill everyone so that the movie would be over!
Final Rating: 4/10
Phew! (takes deep breath) Okay, we are done with our International Tour of Animation! Too bad we couldn’t end on a better note, but still quite successful overall! Next review we’re going to spend at home in the U.S. looking at the national pastime: Baseball!