My opinion right after watching film
My opinion is that I thought I was going to be extremely angry right after watching this film, but all I feel is disappointment. Disney tried to do something completely different, and it failed. The characters are flat (with a Gary-Stu for a protagonist), the logic behind Atlantis and some other plot points either do not make sense, or has some holes to it, and it just does not have as much heart as it wants to have. While the animation is extremely stylized, and the score is good for the theme, there are some issues with this story, and it seems like they wanted to put the style and action first.
Production for this film started in 1996 when Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, and the entire Hunchback of Notre Dame crew met up for a lunch. The production crew wanted to do a film and bring back the entire group of Hunchback (after it was recently released in theaters) based in an Adventureland setting, with them setting on the location of Atlantis. I have my own theory as to why they started with this project……and WHEN they started this project. Hunchback and Pocahontas has already under-performed to the studio, and it is known that the audience was getting tired of the repetitive formula, so….they decided to go with the complete opposite route; ala this film.
They went to countless seminars and museums to study early 20th century technology and gear, for the style of the film. They wanted to dismantle the idea of Atlantis having Greek architecture, so they got Mayan and South Asian designs for the look of Atlantis as well. They created their own language “Atlantean” for the film.
Milo was going to be related to a pirate, but they made him related to an explorer, so his thirst for exploring and thirst for Atlantis would make more sense. The designs of the film were based off of the man from Hellboy; Mike Mignola’s drawings. There were also a bunch of new programs created for this film, as they replaced the epic songs with epic action scenes. This is the third (including Dinosaur, The Black Cauldron, and The Rescuers Down Under) to have absolutely no songs.
The film starts in at least before 360 BC with a large tidal wave, that is about to destroy Atlantis, and when a blue light calls Kida (Cree Summer)’s mother, it takes her up, and it somehow protects Atlantis from the wave, but it does end up underwater.
It then switches to 1914, when we are introduced to our protagonist Milo (Michael. J. Fox) who is a cartographer and linguist. He is preparing for a presentation which if successful, it will prepare him to fund to go find Atlantis. Atlantis happens to be extremely advanced, and instead of it being in Ireland, there is a mistake, which means Atlantis is near Iceland. He already has a route to find the journal by Iceland, but he gets a note at 4:00 that his meeting was pushed back to 3:30, and then another one that says he missed his meeting. This is an excuse for his council to avoid seeing him, as they think he is crazy for wasting so much time on a “myth” about Atlantis.
So Whitmore prepared this expedition for years, and since Milo is now ready and old enough, they take off. Milo goes on the submarine Ulysses with the team Whitmore sets up, and he is excited, but nervous. The crew is Vinny (Don Novello), a demolitions expert; Mole (Corey Burton), a creepy, irritating geologist; Dr. Sweet (Phil Morris), a black, talkative medical officer; Mrs. Packard (Florence Stanley), an old lady for a radio operator; and Cookie (Jim Varney), a cook. Milo has some weird first meetings with them, but we are interrupted when a large root attacks them underwater, which is an excuse to have an action scene.
So some people die in the battle, and their submarine is destroyed, but they proceed with Milo leading them with the book (though NO ONE has ever been to Atlantis before, but….the person that wrote the book has a route of it….). They reach a bump in a road, but since Milo is apparently a mechanic, he fixes it.
Here is another reason as to why I cannot get with in this film; Milo is a Gary-Stu. I am not even joking. He has NO flaws, everything he does is the right thing, he suddenly has great social skills, and he does not even develop. He goes through no struggles, changes, or does anything that is less than perfect (though there is one scene with the fire). Point is, he is perfect. Not a good thing.
So the group decides to ask Milo to join them as they eat, and this leads to a scene where we find out a bit about the side characters, that is not really that important to go through, but it is a bit nice to see them TRY give depth to some of their characters. It is not enough, but at least they tried. The crew go to sleep, and Milo goes to use the washroom, but these fireflies (that literally turn into fire when they touch anything) causes a fire; forcing them to evacuate in a rush, with most of their gear ruined.
Milo is separated from the others, and these foreign humans (wearing huge masks) are intrigued by him. One of them (Kida) heals a cut he got, and then disappears. As his team recruits, he follows Kida, which leads all of them to finally reach Atlantis. Him and Kida exchange in a conversation, which leads him to discover that Kida can speak French and Spanish.
She takes them to her father, and the king of Atlantis Kashekim Nedakh (Leonard Nimoy), which he refuses and demands them to be killed, as no one lives and sees Atlantis. Kida tries to tell her father that they could help the Atlanteans, but he refuses. Commander of the expedition; Captain Rourke (James Garner) convinces the king to let them stay for a night, so they can regroup their supplies to leave. The king tells his daughter that she would have killed them on spot a thousand years ago, and they argue about the Atlantians suffering.
Milo is forced to talk to Kida, and they end up going on a walk, when she grabs him. He asks how Atlantis became in the ocean, which she replied that the gods were jealous of her, and she could remember people screaming, and that it was the last time she saw her mother. He soon realizes that she remembered because she was there. So apparently, she is thousands of years old. How and why do the Atlantians age slower than everywhere else in the world? Never explained. He tells her that they would have never went to Atlantis without the book he has, which he soon realizes that she cannot read or write in her own language. Okay, not only is it stupid that non-Atlanteans that have never went to Atlantis can read Atlantean, but how are the Atlanteans (who have been stuck in their word, and clearly living for thousands of years) NOT be able to read or write their own language? It does not really make sense.
They capture Kida, and they go to the King’s room to see where the crystal is, and punches him when he did not give any information. Rourke realizes that the crystal is right by the King’s eye, so him, Milo, Helga, and Kida make their way to the crystal. Kida ends up sacrificing herself to the crystal, and tells Milo in Atalantian that everything will be fine. This sequence is pretty cool. Despite this, Rourke puts her in a metal crate, which angers Milo, as they will kill the Atlanteans if they take the crystal, and goes on some speech, which convinces all of them but Helga and Rourke to change their minds.
Rourke has had it with Milo, so he punches him in the face before taking off. He checks on Kida’s father, who suddenly trusts him enough to tell Milo to save his daughter and Atlantis, before he dies. That must be a crappy way to die; with your daughter potentially being killed by the crystal, and Atlantis potentially dying. They all go on the machines to chase after the villains, which Rourke of course knew about, so he has people to shoot them down. He betrays Helga by pushing her off the hot air balloon, only for her to shoot it down. Milo gets to him, and uses a broken glass (which has Kida’s crystal stuff on it), and causes Rourke to turn into stone before dying.
So Kida and Atlantis is saved, and the crew mates decide to head back, with Milo staying with his love Kida (which I have mercilessly torn apart on this blog post right on here). Milo and Kida become King and Queen of Atlantis (wouldn’t he die off in 60 years, for her to have thousands of other husbands afterwards?), and the crew return to Whitmore, who tells them to make up a story on how Milo, Helga, and Rourke disappeared.
I am not going to go through all of the characters, since almost half of them are just useless sidekicks. The crew members are just stereotypes really. We get a bit of insight on them, but it is not enough, as they are still not that likable or funny. The mains? I have a bit of an issue with them.
The animation is actually pretty good. While the background characters are pretty dull, the CGI is better in this film, and ages better. The character designs was a very unique way to stylize the film, as they are very angular, and boxy. Mignola even worked on the film to help with the animation and the style that they wanted to base of his work on Hellboy. The backgrounds are very detailed and pretty to look at; especially when the scenes are in Atlantis.
There are absolutely no songs in this movie, which makes sense because this is an adventure sci-fi film. Well, the score is pretty good and very. It has a unique, foreign sound to it, and when things are fast paced, the score makes the action scenes more exciting. The music is fitting for the sci-fi theme, and fits the film well. You are not going to instantly remember it though.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on June 3, 2001 (premiere), and June 15th, 2001 (theatrically), it did not do so well. I explained in my Shrek review that these two films were in theaters at the same time. Before Atlantis was even released, reporters, bloggers, and theorists predicted that Atlantis would have a struggle competing with Shrek at the box office, as people’s interest in CGI was only increasing, and this was a creative gamble, especially when this film is so Anti-Disney with what is in the content of the film, and what WDAS is typically known for. It was in theaters for 25 weeks, and it made only $186,053,725 internationally, with $84 million coming from North America. This is a bigger issue because the budget is $100 million, and it was the third flop in a row (after Fantasia 2000 and The Emperor’s New Groove).
Not only that, but they got mixed reviews for this move. Many praised it for it’s visuals and fast pace, but it was panned for not having a coherent plot, bad character development, and just a lackluster Disney film overall. Thomas Schumacher, president of Walt Disney Feature Animation, said about the failure of this film, “It seemed like a good idea at the time to not do a sweet fairy tale, but we missed.”
This was the moment when people knew that Disney was in a Post-Renaissance era, and that they are about to reach rock bottom, but they would still continue down this experimental, anti-Disney path.
Today, it is forgotten by the general public, and is only remembered by hardcore Disney fans who know the canon list. It does have a cult following, but the Disney company does not speak about this film, as it is known as one of Disney’s worst and biggest failures.
= 23.5/40 = 59%