By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Four Beers) –
When Earth is destroyed by an evil race of energy beings, “The Drej”, the surviving humans scatter the universe to scrape together whatever living they can. Cale (Matt Damon) was left alone by his father in the escape from Earth, and years later is working construction on a dead-end space station in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do but bide his time.
One day, a ship called the Valkyrie docks and the mysterious Captain Korso (Bill Pullman) mentions that he knew Cale’s dad. Korso tells Cale that his father left him because he was working on a ship called The Titan, which was seen as the last great hope for humanity’s survival, and that only Cale has the map to The Titan’s location. The Valkyrie crew embark on a quest that could save humanity once and for all…
The opening sequence in which humanity is fleeing the embattled Earth just as it is being destroyed is an incredibly powerful cinematic moment. The film is full of these incredibly creative visual sequences which carry a lot of dramatic weight. For their part, the voice cast all perform admirably, giving the universe of Titan A.E. a lived-in feel that translates strongly, even if the characters aren’t given much to do beyond move from plot-point to plot-point.
The film’s biggest flaw is the complete lack of character development. The framework is there, with characters doing character-y things, but there is never time set aside to let them expand into anything interesting. Aboard the Valkyrie you have Hero-man (Cale), Grizzled veteran-man (Captain Korso), Love Interest Wo-Man (Akima), Nerd-Alien-man (Gune), Weapons-Expert-Alien-Wo-Man (Stith) and other vague sci-fi archetypes.
The story seems lacking, and at times makes large leaps in time that make me wonder whether the studios excised large portions of the movie to save money and to bring the runtime to a family-friendly 90 minutes. Make no mistake, this is not a family-friendly movie, but studios seem to have tried to make it appear as such in the promotional campaign. That might explain why it flopped, as it turned off sci-fi fans in promotion, and left parents less baffled in the theater.
The computer-generated animation effects often mix uncomfortably with the hand drawn portions. One of the biggest problems with CGI animation is that unlike hand-drawn animation, it ages. Good hand-drawn animation looks just as good 50 years later as it does the day it’s made, but good CGI is only good for a few years, and then the flaws become glaring. By mixing the two, the visuals of the film manage to look good and weak in the same shot.
The final shot of the film is particularly aged in visual style, which is unfortunate given the emotional hit that is supposed to be conveyed.
Oh my, the soundtrack… Titan A.E. was beset by so many production problems, most notably a series of budget cuts which occurred at Fox Animation. The songs on the T:A.E. soundtrack seem pasted into the movie in an effort to bolster commercial partnerships with music studios in a vain effort to try and salvage the budget. The songs, from bands such as Lit, Powerman 5000, and The Urge read in the year 2016 like a cavalcade of long-forgotten relics from a bygone era. Perhaps that is fitting with the post-apocalyptic nature of the film?
A messy film that should have been a whole lot more impactful than it is, Titan A.E. nevertheless is worth a look for sci-fi and animation fans alike, if only to get some inspiration from the ideas that are never quite fully realized here.
Titan A.E. Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for terrible modern (for the year 2000) alt-rock soundtrack
Take a Drink: for cliched space opera moments
Do a Shot: anytime the Drej shouts about killing the humans
Do a Shot: for every celebrity voice you recognize