I first saw Titan A.E. years and years ago. Our baby sitter at the time always brought over some movies to watch. We popped this bad boy in and, lo and behold, our household full of 5-10 year old boys loved it. In truth, I must have watched Titan A.E. 15-20 times since then. That made my recent viewing experience all the more interesting, since it had been at least 5 years since my last viewing. I still feel nostalgic love for it, and it has some great qualities, but the total package is a bit of a mixed back in retrospect.
What is Titan A.E.?
Titan A.E. is the second animated film from 20th Century Fox, and the final feature length animated picture from Don Bluth, who directed such classics as The Secret of N.I.M.H., An American Tale, and The Land Before Time. Fox’s animation studio had made a big splash with their first film, Anastasia, but production on Titan A.E. hit a snag almost immediately. The film had already been circulated by Fox between many different departments, writers and directors, with the original plan having it be a life action feature, before Don Bluth and Bary Goldman finally got assigned to direct and produce it.
What further complicated matters was the fact that the animation studio was slowly crumbling over the course of Titan A.E.’s production. Staff were routinely being laid off and funding was increasingly sporadic. In order to finish the animation, segments of the film were sent various independent animation studios. In the end, Fox’s animation department would be closed completely only month’s after the film’s release.
Titan A.E. was released to mixed reviews from critics and failed to make back its production budget at the box office, costing 20th Century Fox over $50 million. As a result, the film fell quickly into obscurity with a small, yet devoted, fan base.
What is Titan A.E. About?
Titan A.E. is set in the early 30th century, with humanity having developed a new Titan Project with unspecified capabilities. The Drej, the dominant beings in the galaxy, begin to fear humanity’s potential power and, in a massive offensive, destroy the planet Earth and wipe out much of the human population. However, just before it can be destroyed, the Titan is able to jump into hyperspace and escape the Drej onslaught.
Years later Cale, who’s father was the head of the Titan Project, works at a salvage yard and, as a human, he is frequently mocked and dismissed by the other races which work there. However, one day, he is approached by Captain Korso who shows him that the ring his father left him can be used as a map to find the Titan. They are promptly attacked by the Drej, who hope to kill Cale and destroy the Titan before it can be found and salvaged by the humans.
What Happens in Titan A.E.?
Titan A.E.’s plot from here on is pretty basic. Cale and Korso travel from one place to another looking for clues to the Titan’s whereabouts while the Drej are in hot pursuit. In all honesty, this is Titan A.E.’s biggest weakness. The plot feels very by the book for science fiction and not much is done to really develope the universe or give it its own unique identity. Sure, the various alien races look neat but they are just generic science fiction aliens when you get down to it. Even the Drej, who have some interesting ideas behind them, end up just feeling like any other antagonistic science fiction villains that could be easily replaced with Cylons or any other humanphobic, hive minded antagonists.
Titan A.E.’s character development here is also pretty basic, and much of their personalities are really left to the actors portraying them, who all do a pretty good job all things considered. However, the film’s two leads are pretty bland, with Cale being downright cocky and unlikable, and their chemistry feels lacking and forced. Really, Korso is the only character who really feels like a complete package (well, for the first half anyway) with a somewhat compelling backstory and some real charisma. Sadly, all of that is thrown out the window for a forced “oh my gosh he’s actually evil” cliche that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t really make sense with his actions and dialogue before this.
On the plus side, Titan A.E. does strive to set up multiple action sequences which are actually pretty well done, and the climax in the Ice Rings is one of the most inventive and engaging I’ve seen in quite some time. But these cases in which Titan A.E. is really allowed to do something unique and different are too few and far between, and the whole thing comes across as undeveloped and generic.
How is the Animation in Titan A.E.?
Titan A.E., as previously stated, is the final feature length film of Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. As a result, one would expect the animation to be stellar. Fortunately, the 2D animation is just that, with character designs feeling polished and well thought out, and motion being smooth and eye catching. However, in part because of the time it was released as well as it’s troubled production, Titan A.E. uses a great deal of 3D computer animation as well. At times, it looks spectacular such as the space ships or other effects. On the other hand it can look extremely dated and uninspired, such as the final scene.
As a result, the animation, much like Titan A.E. itself, is a bit of a mixed bag ranging from being visually spectacular to bland and generic. Still, the positives here outweigh the negatives here, and the animation, both 2D and 3D, is solid where it really counts.
How is the Soundtrack in Titan A.E.?
Titan A.E.’s soundtrack is very much a product of its time with several songs, lyrics and all, being done by various groups including The Urge, Electrasy and Bliss 66 among others. Given that so many various groups are involved, it stands to reason that some songs stand out in comparison to others. They all have a very early 2000s sound to them but, in all honesty, I didn’t mind them too much. Maybe I’m a bit biased, but I really liked some of these songs when I was younger (“Not Quite Paradise” and “Time to Fly” were both personal favorites) and they are just part of the movie to me. Still, I can totally see how these could feel out of place to some viewers.
The far more limited instrumental stuff by Graeme Revell is decent enough, but isn’t terribly memorable. Some of that could be that it is out shown by Titan A.E.’s other songs, but it also doesn’t really do much to set itself apart from other sci fi scores. Fortunately, it’s never bad and I never felt distracted by it. I just never even once noticed it in all of the times I’ve watched Titan A.E., so that has to say something.
Is Titan A.E. a Good Movie?
As a total package, Titan A.E. is neither a great movie or a terrible one. It’s pretty generic and cliched with a fairly uninventive plot and uninteresting world and characters with some really solid action scenes, great animation and an interesting soundtrack. Overall, I think it’s worth a viewing if your interested in animation or basic science fiction. Just don’t expect anything spectacular from it, and you should have a great time. As a whole, though, I think Disney’s own animated space film, Treasure Planet, is superior in most respects so, if you haven’t seen either, I’d recommend that one first.