There’s just no love for “Titan A.E.” and trust me, I understand why. It’s cliche, and a bit rehashed, but surely enough, it’s one of my favorite animated films of all time. Bitch and moan, insult and criticize, but “Titan A.E.” is perhaps one of the finest works of animated science fiction film I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve loved it since it 2000, when I struggled to find someone to go to the movies with to watch it on the big screen. I never had that chance, but surely enough I watched it as soon as I could, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a film that takes the writing talents of Joss Whedon, and the wonderful animation of Don Bluth and creates a hell of an entertaining and tense animated epic about attempting to rebuild planet Earth once and for all.
Now, I don’t usually receive a lot of guff about loving this movie for the fact that frankly, no one talks about it. Not even hardcore Joss Whedon geeks. This film is not even a blip on the animation genre, even in spite of the wonderful animated styles, and I’m okay with that. I’m never one to deny when a film is great but not culturally significant, but this movie is important to me because it was one of the first bits of viral marketing I experienced and was caught up in and the movie didn’t disappoint. Hell, in the end “Titan A.E.” caused the crash of an animation studio: but to be honest hand drawn animation was already on its way out and this film sadly became a scapegoat, made slim to nothing in the box office. But the studio had no clue how to market it nor did they try hard, received horrible reviews for considerably logical reasons, and thankfully didn’t hurt the careers of the likes of Matt Damon and Drew Barrymore. In the end, though, I tell you I love this movie.
It’s a tough thing to market a movie that’s aiming for kids and adults but surely enough if you give it a chance, it’s a wonderful epic about space pirates, a young head strong hero, and characters who all possess shades of Whedon’s characters from “Firefly,” in the end, and the more I watch it, the more I wish it were a companion piece. The Drej, an alien race who look like the Cylons, attack Earth in 3028 during a massive war that shakes the planet to its core and ensures an apocalypse that brings the planet into Kryptonian level destruction. Before the carnage though, a few immigrants from the planet have launched into space and attempted to re-colonize and hopefully keep the last of humanity alive. We flash forward into 3043 where our young hero Cale is a ship engineer raised by his father’s best friend, Tek.
Much of Earth’s denizens are now nothing but hobos and beggars along alien planets, with assorted breeds of aliens looking down on them as lower than life bugs, with Cale as one of the primary targets for abuse. Whedon presents brief shades of Superman lore, and his own mythos by presenting Cale as a bit of a savior who holds the key to his race’s survival with a ring his father left behind. This ring acts as a map. Rehashed, sure, but the journey to get to the key to his race that can bring about a genesis is one that grants him betrayal, blood shed, and an ending that warranted a sequel. Bluth’s animation is fluid, often resembling “Heavy Metal,” as Cale and his companions succeed in being fascinating individuals with a goal that I couldn’t help get caught up in. The strongest suit in “Titan A.E.” is the voice performances from the all-star cast; most specifically Matt Damon and Bill Pullman.
As Cale, Damon instills much of the humility and inner rage that he injects into most of his on-screen characters, and Whedon writes Cale as a justified outcast who finds that he’s more important than he’s been raised to believe. Pullman as Captain Joseph Korso is utterly fantastic. Whedon paints Korso as a mixture of Mal and Jayne from “Firefly,” a man who is a tough leader and a bonafide commander, but is not to be trusted. And he shows that when he finally turns coat on Cale and races to find the key to humanity to turn over to the Drej Queen. Cale is now outmatched in man power, shipt power, and pure flight skills. Korso is a force to be reckoned with in the skies, and Whedon quickly tips the scales in the villain’s favor. Sure, the Drej could have been further emphasized for the audience, but this was more about the human characters racing to find that key to humanity that would mean the ultimate end or a new beginning.
As Akima, Drew Barrymore is middle ground and the character of Akima feels added just to give Cale someone to interact with, but the character design is beautiful. There’s also of course the voice work of John Leguizamo who is great as the bug eyed Gune, Nathan Lane is slithery as Preed, and Janeane Garofolo as technician Stith. Most importantly, what adds a great deal of entertainment, and problems for the movie is the rather intense violence and adult content that keeps this film awkwardly in the middle ground of adult fare and kiddie fare. Akima, the resident heroine is shown nearly naked, characters are shot blood and all, and a character even has his neck broken by Korso.
Bluth’s film sports some beautiful special effects and has some great action scenes including a high speed chase through a meteor field, and a stand off between Korso and Cale. The Drej would have been a viable threat if given the screen time, and here they show how powerful they are by influencing one of the few humans left to turn against his own kind. “Titan A.E.” strictly should have been an adult affair, and one that should have been given a chance. Instead it became an excuse for Sony to quit trying with a form of animation that was gradually being replaced with computers and three dimensional characters. I don’t expect everyone to love “Titan A.E.,” I just want people to give it another chance, even the Whedon geeks. It’s too great of a fluid, exciting animation epic to be forgotten or lambasted.