Box The Office.
no Star Wars, but then its not meant to be (and considering the
mediocre Episode I, it wouldnt want to be either). It is however
a fine example of pulp science fiction on one of its better days"
Before its cinematic release last summer, Titan A.E., the animated science-fiction
adventure from Don (Anastasia) Bluth and Twentieth Century Fox was being
hyped as a milestone in both traditional and digital animation. It was
going to be something special. Different. Unique. It was going to be
amazing. Then it was released. While it was a passable success on most
accounts it failed to make the return that Fox had expected. It broke
the bank and it broke the studio. Now its out on video. So what
is Fox Animations final film like?
Well, pretty damn good, actually. Its no Star Wars, but then its
not meant to be (and considering the mediocre Episode I, it wouldnt
want to be either). It is however a fine example of pulp science fiction
on one of its better days. The story is set in a 31st Century where
mankind has taken to the stars and begins with the parting of a father
and son as the Earth is destroyed by a powerful alien race known as
the Drej. It then jumps forward to fifteen years after Earth (the A.E.
in the title) where we meet the boy, Cale (voiced by Matt Damon), now
grown into a bitter young man and working as a salvager on a deep space
station run by aliens. With no home, their numbers dwindling and the
Drej as their enemy, humans have fallen to the bottom of the galactic
heap and Cale is really feeling that when he meets fellow human Joseph
Korso (voiced by Bill Pullman), and is told only he can save mankind
by finding his fathers ship, the Titan. From there its a
race across the stars (with some stunning vistas and spectacular locations
thrown in), packed with action, the obligatory romance (with Drew Barrymore
giving voice to Cales love interest and ace pilot, Akima) and
even a splash of intrigue, with the Drej always in hot pursuit.
What makes the film special, and lifts it from perhaps just being an
average film to a good one is the way its been done. Not simply
because of what the animators have been able to do in mixing traditional
cell style animation with the cutting edge 3D stuff, but also the fact
that its a cartoon. Its an animated feature that is neither
a childrens film nor an overly adult orientated piece of anime
(Japanese animation). Instead it is somewhere in between the two, allowing
it to borrow both child-like fantasy elements and more realistic attitudes
towards life and the universe. There is heroism and adventure, but there
is also violence, death and a social hierarchy that does not favour
human beings. To put it another way, as with Disneys Tarzan, though
perhaps to a greater extent, there is the refreshing feeling that the
story is not being compromised to conform to a certain audience demographic.
Another thing that Titan A.E. has in common with Tarzan is its blending
of 2D and 3D animation, and again Foxs film goes further. Elements
of the deep canvas technique used to bring a measure of
depth and perspective to the jungle in the Disney film (by texturing
a painted matte, such as a background, onto a 3D object) can be seen
in Titan, and is, according to production designer Phil Kruden, something
that Fox has been doing for years. Now they have actually gone a step
further by using an aspect of that same technique to render, and to
a certain extent, mask their 3D components. For example, there is a
sequence early on in the film that has Cale in a space suit cutting
up derelict spacecraft. In this there is a matte background of a star
field, on top of which is the 2D cell of the space ship Cale is cutting,
on top of which is the 3D model of Cale in his suit, inside of which
is Cales 2D face. If that wasnt complicated enough, to maintain
a unified feel to everything and to disguise the artificial look of
the 3D model, Cales suit has been rendered in 2D. It is simply
amazing when you think about what actually went into putting together
a single shot, and it looks good on the screen too.
There is a lot about Titan A.E. that is simply about looking good; about
getting the most visually stunning environment and then filming
it in the best possible way (take for example the race with the wake
angels through a cloudy nebula, or the game of hide and seek in the
ice field near the end) but there is a plot tucked away in there as
well. Perhaps it could be accused of being a little basic and the characters
a little underdeveloped but, overall, it works. Its fast, its
fun and it has a planet called Bob. It is endearing pulp science fiction
and it is indeed something different.
Starring: Matt Damon, Bill Pullman, Drew Barrymore, Nathan Lane,
Janeane Garofalo, John Leguizamo.
Director: Don Bluth and Gary Goldman.
Price: £12.99 (video).
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox.
Best Line: Hmmm, an intelligent guard. Didnt see that
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