Being such a big fan of The Secret of NIMH and An American Tail, I was eager to see what director Don Bluth would do with a big-budget animated sci-fi adventure. The story takes place years after Earth is destroyed by an alien race called the Drej. Our hero is an orphaned teenager (voiced by Matt Damon) who takes it upon himself to preserve the legacy of humankind by finding his father’s ark, a mysterious vessel called the Titan which contains enough knowledge and genetic material to begin a ‘second Earth’ — all while the Drej pursue his butt across the galaxy to finish what they started. It’s not a plot of Earth-shattering (pardon the pun) originality, but it’s enough to hang your hat on. At least it should have been.
Unfortunately, Titan A.E. left me stone cold. There’s oodles of dramatic potential, especially with humanity being on the brink of extinction and a dark father figure (voiced by Bill Pullman) threatening to thwart our hero’s efforts, but the film is more concerned with conjuring arcade-like action and music video moments. The narrative would have gained substantial thrust if the protagonists’ primary mission were to find a new home for humanity. But this is presented as an afterthought in the film’s climax — too little, too late. Another major narrative flaw is with the underdeveloped villains, the Drej. I know they’re bad, but why? It would have helped if they had a shred of personality, too.
To Bluth’s credit, he didn’t originate this material. He and Gary Goldman were brought into the project after production had already begun, so the seeds of the film’s failure were probably already planted. The mix of 2D and 3D animation was supposed to dazzle, but it just looks awkward. The character designs are true Bluth, but the rest of the mise-en-scene isn’t as attractive as Bluth’s other major work. There are a couple of snazzy visuals, some cute dialogue by co-screenwriter Joss Whedon, and a good voice cast, but if the Titan A.E. is really the last hope for humanity, we’re pretty screwed.
Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)