Titan A.E.

titanaeI love animated movies. I have a tendency to prefer them to live-action. The vividness of the images and (often) the cleverness of the designs behind them excites my imagination more than all but the best live-action. I want to make this understood, because I think it may mean more when I say I despise an animated movie – and my God do I hate Titan A.E. I hope that everyone involved in this project chokes… Just a little bit.

The problems with the film are myriad and voluminous, but the biggest general issue I had is that I never once believed in the universe it created. It had no heft, no reality. It gives us a stock and motiveless villain, the Drej (about whom we are helpfully told, “You can’t fight them, they’re pure energy”) and exhibits exactly no curiosity about how said villain’s society operates or indeed why they’d even care about killing all humans. These Drej (pure energy, remember?) create ships out of energy, except for the portions that are required for a human to escape from – those are solid steel. See? To me, these little details scream fake as a tin goat. There’s no way I could suspend my disbelief for this movie – it didn’t earn that.

Here’s the story. Mankind is being destroyed by the Drej (who can’t be defeated, since they are pure energy) because of a great big ship called the Titan. There’s a logic loophole in here, but discussing it would require big spoilers. So here they go: The Titan can create a whole new world, like the Genesis device in Star Trek II. The Drej, being pure energy as they are, are frightened of this capability. So they destroy Earth. (pause for effect)

HUH?!? The Drej don’t want the humans going and making a new planet, so they essentially force their hand by destroying the one they’ve already got. I can’t finagle a way for that to make sense.

Our hero who has to find the Titan is an unfunny, unclever smart-ass played with absolutely no distinction by Matt Damon, and that means he gets out ahead of most of the cast. The rest of the characters and actors rise to levels of mediocrity that would make your average mid-80s anime dub green with envy, and since this is a cadre of decent performers like Bill Pullman, Nathan Lane, and Janeane Garofalo (who did excellent voice work in Kiki’s Delivery Service), one can only assume that their difficulty was in coming up with consistent and interesting characters out of the wretched mish-mash of a script they had to deal with.

The story fails on several logical fronts and it fails as regular old stupid entertainment; and it’s also very annoyingly presented. The character designs are typical 80s Don Bluth stuff, with very soft-rounded edges on everyone but the humans and the bad guys. These designs are just butt-ugly, especially for the kangaroo-thing called Stith that’s played by Garofalo. And then, on top of all this unpleasantness, the film is further saddled with a jarring and inappropriate late-’90s rock soundtrack, one that features people like Lit and Powerman 5000 playing their same-sounding songs over scenes where they just do not belong. If I’m going to watch a movie about the future, I want to be as far away from bands like these as possible. Thanks for being a jerk about that, too, Titan A.E.

So the movie is stupid, illogical, poorly acted, looks ugly and sounds just as bad. And it also spelled the death knell for Fox Animation, at least until this year’s Ice Age saved the company. What’s more, I think it points to the general malaise in which American cel-based animation has found itself. Cute animals singing1 and fuzzy happy stories are not all that animation can contain, but it’s all that American producers put in their films. When they try something different,
like this execrable film, or Warner’s absolutely wonderful The Iron Giant, they’re ignored. The message is clear: Most of the American population couldn’t give a rat’s ass about non-Disney cel-based animation, and even that isn’t a sure bet anymore. Thank God for Japan, because even with all the crap they bilge out, at least there’s some quality stuff coming from somewhere.

1And while it’s easy to knock the Disney anthropomorphic tendencies, one should always remember how many fine musicals Disney has produced.

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com