" I lost my position as the team’s water distribution engineer "
— Adam Sandler, The Waterboy

MRQE Top Critic

Noi Albinoi

Mystery and ambivalence about this Bleak portrait of isolation are amplified on DVD —Marty Mapes (DVD review...)

Noi the Albino spends winter in Iceland alone

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Titan A.E. compares favorably with Star Wars. Its plot is a solid, serious Hero’s Journey, and the visuals are elaborate and impressive. It has interesting aliens, formidable villains, and not so much comic relief that you start getting annoyed.

Humanity’s Last Hope

Space Boy Cale

This animated feature (from producer/director Don Bluth) opens in Pierce, Colorado, a thousand years in the future. The whole town is evacuating as ominous winds from approaching enemy spaceships stir the air. A father and son are separated, a gold ring passes to the boy’s hands, a promise is made. The boy’s ship escapes in the nick of time. Watching out the porthole, the boy witnesses the destruction of Planet Earth.

Fifteen years later, the boy, Cale, is now working construction on an alien asteroid. A fellow Earthling named Korso, a friend of his dead father, arrives on the asteroid and speaks with him. Korso invites the boy on an adventure to save humankind. He says that Cale is humanity’s last hope, and that they need to be on their way. Cale refuses to believe Korso’s story — until the Earth-destroying aliens show up trying to kill him. Then he has no choice but to leave with Korso.

The Hero’s Journey

The plot is hardly original, but it is timeless. Like Star Wars, it draws from the ancient storytelling traditions of the mythic hero (read Joseph Campbell’s work for more details on the Hero’s Journey). Cale, our hero, is called to adventure, refuses the call, then realizes he must accept. He has a spirit guide (Korso) and a magical tool (his father’s ring) with powers only he can use.

If you prefer, you could call the plot recycled, except that somehow, these ancient stories always seem fresh and interesting. This time-honored formula must touch something deep in the human psyche. Titan A.E., like Star Wars, uses this connection to good effect. The science fiction setting allows interesting worlds and aliens, but the timeless human story makes it click with audiences.

Settings and Detail

The movie is set in a great big universe with all sorts of interesting worlds and creatures. The last moments of earth are painted a desert-like, faded-memory beige. The tribe of batlike “Gowl” live under a dark red sky, near an oily sea with hydrogen trees growing from the ocean. A space dogfight takes place among clusters of gigantic crystals of gray-green ice.

These exotic settings are rendered lovingly by animators. Every location in every scene is given rich detail. For example, the walls of the cells in the Drej prison are made of matter/energy, with slow pulses of blue power constantly moving through the surfaces. The dogfight among the ice crystals involves myriad reflections on the surfaces of the shards. Titan A.E. has been at least two years in the making, and visually, the end result was well worth it.

Performances

Matt Damon plays the main character in a plain vanilla tone. Generally, that’s appropriate for an “everyman” hero (consider how plain Luke Skywalker is compared to his friends). But Damon plays Cale with a little too much indifference. I couldn’t help but notice that in a many scenes, it sounded like he was reading his lines, rather than speaking them.

Other performances and characters came off better. Janeane Garofalo plays Stith, a leggy lizard with Garofalo’s own brusque air. Bill Pullman gives Korso a gruff G.I. Joe personality. Drew Barrymore gives the smart, wiry girl Akima a feminine charm. A froglike absent-minded professor and a jackal-like, notch-eared mercenary round out Korso’s crew.

As I mentioned, there are some flaws with Titan A.E. At one point the plot takes an unfortunate detour, and Damon didn’t quite give Cale a unique personality. But the overall impression left by Titan A.E. is positive. It’s visually impressive, lovingly crafted, and timelessly told.