Old Review: Titan AE

The year is 3028 AD; human beings on Earth have perfected space travel. It would allow them to live in space and explore new worlds. However, after discovering this achievement, an alien race known as the Drej attack the human race and completely destroys Earth, possibly in fear of what the human race could do against them. Cale Tucker and his father are two of the few human survivors; however they leave on different ships because Cale’s father, Sam Tucker, runs the main ship called Titan, and doesn’t want it in the hands of the Drej. Fifteen years after the Earth was destroyed, the human race is decreasing in population, and a human Space Captain Korso of the spaceship Valkyrie ask for Cale’s help in retrieving the Titan, as it holds a secret to helping the human race. However, the Drej is after Cale and the Titan as it is still determined to completely destroy the human race, so Cale and Korso are now in a race against the Drej with the help of human pilot Akima, first mate Preed, science expert Gune and weapons expert Stith, to save what could save the entire human race from extinction.

As of writing this is the last film done by the pair of Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. Surprisingly there is very little development history, so this isn’t going to be a detailed history paragraph. After the financial success of Anastasia in 1997, 20th Century Fox offered their animation studio Fox Animation to work on another film. This was great news, especially for the pair as their previous animation company Sullivan Bluth (formally known as Don Bluth Productions) closed down after numerous financially unsuccessful films. Working under the title Planet Ice, the film was created with both traditional animation and CGI along with Blue Sky Studios, who 20th Century Fox would later team with to create Ice Age. Unfortunately despite positive reviews, Titan A.E was a financial bomb, barely making half of its budget, with the main cause being marketing issues.

Like I said earlier, this was one of the early attempts to fully integrate traditional animation with CGI, and for the most part it works really well. The 3D models and textures are very detailed and it looks like every 2D animated frame matches with the background, very close to human perspective. The character designs are decent, and despite the humans all looking muscular in some form, they aren’t exaggerated as much. The alien creatures appear to take influences from animals you find on Earth, such as a Fruit-Bat for Preed and a Kangaroo for Stith, but they are unique enough to look Alien, likable and original. The designs of the Drej look cool with their bright and sharp bodies and all blue colour schemes. The only real issue with the animation is the frame rate, it varies a lot between 2D and 3D segments, where some characters move smoother than others, but it’s a minor issue that doesn’t detract from the main film.

Most of the music is insert songs performed by bands, generally ones in the electronic and rock field during the 2000s, such as Lit, Electrasy, Jamiroquai and Splashdown. They don’t contribute that much to the actual film other than to promote these artists and try to grab the attention of the young adult demographic. It isn’t a nuisance, as they do fit the emotion and atmosphere of the scenes each song play in, but if you don’t like the kind of music the above, it may get annoying. The Original Score does suit the atmosphere in the scenes they appear in, particularly the ambient and action scenes, although it’s quite limited. There appears to be a lot of tracks but they are very brief in comparison to other musical film scores.

The voice acting is disappointing, as most of the cast clearly had potential, whether they are good or bad, but they all underperform. I like Matt Damon in voice acting more than live action films, and hearing him as a young and rough person is tolerable, but nothing special, both Drew Barrymore and Bill Pullman are the same for their characters. John Leguizamo is funny as Gune, but he can be hard to understand at points. Janeane Garofalo as Stith really confuses me, the character is referred to as being short tempered but nice once you get to know her, but she doesn’t really act like someone who has a short temper or is nice in her tone of voice. Preed’s character and voice became really interesting once I knew he was voiced by Nathan Lane, since he usually plays comedic and light hearted roles like Timon in the Lion King, yet in Titan he’s sly and sarcastic with a British accent, and while I shouldn’t give spoilers, he definitely isn’t all trustworthy despite his good nature.

As a sci-fi film, Titan A.E is certainly both creative and engaging, as it is full of suspense and the vague motives and design of the Drej make an actual threat, especially with the fact that because they are simply pure energy, they are undefeatable. The creatures and the worlds explored in the film also make it very expansive and imaginative, like they planned to create a TV series out of it. As an overall animated film it’s great but it leaves stuff out, and that doesn’t just include the 15 year gap. Some of the elements of the story aren’t really explained that much, as I had to watch the film a second time to find and understand some of them like the Aliens hatred against the humans, the Drej’s motives against the humans and even the two plot twists, and yes there are two quite surprising plot twists in the third act. It was still both great to look at and fun to watch, but it doesn’t give much exposition or explain stuff in detail, not even to the point where the viewer has to use their common sense to get an explanation. It’s also really bad writing when you need to have three prequel texts to create exposition for your main characters.

If you wanted a good Sci-Fi animated film, this is a really good choice, especially with its creative universe and the creatures around them. It’s a really underrated Don Bluth movie which probably should’ve warranted an older audience with its visual style and storyline, but its vague plot along with a limited musical soundtrack with dated rock songs and an underperformed cast really brought down its quality. I would watch it as a Don Bluth fan and I believe it’s a movie any sci-fi fan can be interested in.

Titan A.E is available from 20th Century Fox. Two novels which act as prequels to the film, particularly during the 15 year period after the destruction of the Earth, which are subtitled Cale’s Story and Akima’s Story, after the two protagonists, were written by Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Moesta and are available from Ace Books. A comic book which acts as a prequel following Sam, Cale’s Father, during the 15 years was available from Dark Horse Comics but is out of print.

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One thought on “Old Review: Titan AE

  1. This is the last Don Bluth film I have yet to see!

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