An Ambitious Animated Action-Adventure
Originally Released: 2001
Atlantis. It’s one of the world’s more interesting and enduring ancient legends. As such, I am a little surprised the topic hasn’t appeared more often in recent Hollywood movies. Heck, it hasn’t even made its way to the ‘Transformers’ franchise (not yet, anyway), which up to this point has managed to mess with more Human history and myths than it deserves (Hopefully I didn’t just jinx it…).
That being said, the story of Atlantis is one that I would envision to be difficult to make into viable entertainment. But it is an interesting enough legend that it deserved a shot at being the subject of a whole movie. This is one reason why I applaud Disney for tackling this legend head on. The fact that Disney had the guts to completely abandon its tried-and-mostly-true formula of the 90’s and branch out into a more epic, non-musical, action/adventure movie is very impressive in my eyes. And it is even more so to think that they decided to do tackle the topic in a traditional animated film instead of live-action. Disney definitely deserves an “A” for their ambition on this one.
And for the most part, I believe they succeeded in making a fun and entertaining movie. Is Atlantis: The Lost Empire perfect? No, not by a long shot. I suppose if I were a movie critic, I could criticize the film for being a bit too formulaic, for including a cadre of one-dimensional, cliched character stereotypes, and more. But luckily, I’m not a movie critic, so I don’t need to worry about that, and I can just enjoy the movie and overlook its weaknesses. There are many things I do quite enjoy about Atlantis.
First off, I love the setting of the film. Set in 1914, it manages to bridge the age of exploration (this is a movie about exploring, after all) with the newer age of industrial machines and gadgetry. It’s a combination that can really produce some amazing possibilities, if you think about it. Granted, the submarine is a little out of its time, but I just throw that little tidbit into my list of “overlooked weaknesses” and enjoy the ride.
Another aspect of Atlantis that I enjoy is the art style and color scheme. If you like blue, then you will probably like the colors of Atlantis. While on that topic, let me throw out a shameless plug for an overpriced Disney iPad app. Check out the photo below. This is probably my favorite part of the Disney: Animated app. It is a section that has all 53 Disney animated features, frame-by-frame, but condensed into tiny slivers, and showing what the overall colors end up looking like in each film. It is utterly enthralling to me! If you haven’t already checked out the app, I’d recommend it.
But enough on that. In the characters department, Michael J. Fox serves up one of his many likable performances as Milo Thatch (not & Otis…I know you were thinking it). It also has the likes of Leanard Nimoy, James Garner, and Ernest lending their voices to the film.
As for Atlantis itself, Disney could have gone in any number of directions to depict this ancient lost city. They may have borrowed a bit from the Miyazaki classic Castle in the Sky, but the finished vision of Atlantis is at times breathtaking, and almost always at the very least interesting to look at.
I don’t really know what the general population thinks of Atlantis: the Lost Empire. At best, it has become a cult classic, but I don’t hear too much chatter directed towards this film. Some may consider this film to be the first in Disney’s downward spiral that led to the death of 2D animation. If so, that is an unfortunate distinction. This was one of the few Disney films I saw in the movie theater during the 2000’s “decade of death.” But I enjoyed the film a lot back then, and I still enjoy it today.