Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Walt Disney Animation Studios 40th feature film.
Walt Disney Animation Studios 41st feature film.

http://www.veoh.com/watch/v19729432JpdRJBxQ

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

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.

Story

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 the uber sexy Helga (Claudia Christian) sneaks into his house to tell him that his dead grandfather Whitmore (John Mahoney) has a proposition for him. When they meet up, they talk about this journal, which leads to me many questions.
So the uber sexy Helga (Claudia Christian) sneaks into his house to tell him that his dead grandfather’s friend Whitmore (John Mahoney) has a proposition for him. When they meet up, they talk about this journal, which leads to me many questions. Anyways, Whitmore says that Milo’s grandfather (who taught him almost everything he knows, and raised him) found the journal, and then in another breath he says that his crew found it when they went to Ireland. When did the grandfather die? Did they find the book many years ago? No, because Audrey (Jacqueline Obradors) says she never met his grandfather, but she was there….when they found it……which was also founded by his grandfather…..It is all a confusing mess.

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.

I learned this just a bit ago that English was based off of Latin (which was the main language of Ancient Rome), and it, French, Spanish, etc were not created until centuries after the fall of Rome. Atlantis already sunk in the water in BCE, and Rome fell in CE. So, what I am trying to say is that it makes no fucking sense for the Atlanteans to understand English IF IT WAS NOT INVENTED FOR CENTURIES AFTER ATLANTIS SUNK. Not only how Milo knowing Atlantean is stupid, but he does not speak it to the Atlanteans, since they somehow understand English.
I learned this just a bit ago that English was based off of Latin (which was the main language of Ancient Rome), and it, French, Spanish, etc were not created until centuries after the fall of Rome. Atlantis already sunk in the water in BCE, and Rome fell in CE. So, what I am trying to say is that it makes no fucking sense for the Atlanteans to understand English IF IT WAS NOT INVENTED FOR CENTURIES AFTER ATLANTIS SUNK. Not only how Milo knowing Atlantean is stupid, but he does not speak it to the Atlanteans, since they somehow understand English.

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.

So they tour around Atlantis, and he then starts to tell her about his crew mates. So farm they seem like they have a nice friendship, but only that. They go for a little swim to read a mosaic, only for.....
So they tour around Atlantis, and he then starts to tell her about his crew mates. So far they seem like they have a nice friendship, but only that. They go for a little swim to read a mosaic, only for…..
The entire crew that we have gotten used to, and Milo has been working for are suddenly villains,who wants to kidnap the crystal and all of Atlantis' belongings. They are going to be rich anyways, since they found Atlantis. I just wish that they had a film with no villain, but they could still have those action scenes. For some reason, I do not feel shocked or angered by the sudden switch.
The entire crew that we have gotten used to, and Milo has been working for are suddenly villains, who wants to kidnap the crystal and all of Atlantis’ belongings. They are going to be rich anyways, since they found Atlantis. I just wish that they had a film with no villain, but they could still have those action scenes. For some reason, I do not feel shocked or angered by the sudden switch.

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.

The plot is a mess. There is a lot that does not make sense, contradictions in the film with certain facts, many things being inserted to only be unimportant, the pacing being a bit off, and it does not give the chance to develop the characters. Plotholes are a pain, and I cannot say it is a Style over Substance case, but you could tell that they tried. Disney tried SO hard to save themselves from the downfall of the Disney Renaissance with this film, and wanted to be more adult and different, but it really failed.

Characters

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.

He is a Gary-Stu as I already mentioned. We have the nice tidbit of his grandfather and his relaitonship with him, but that does not really impact all of his actions in the film. Everything goes his way, he has no flaws, and is not really an engaging lead.
He is a Gary-Stu as I already mentioned. We have the nice tidbit of his grandfather and his relationship with him, but that does not really impact all of his actions in the film. Everything goes his way, he has no flaws, and is not really an engaging lead. Pathetic and lame as he did not even develop or grow.
He is a really lackluster villain. He is supposed ot be intimidating, but he never really is. We do not know much about him for the first 2/3 in the film, so when he does become a villain, there is no emotion or feeling that arises in me. His motivation is a bit eh, since he would have became rich just by finding Atlantis. He did not need to kidnap the crystal and to kill all of Atlantis.
He is a really lackluster villain. He is supposed to be intimidating, but he never really is. We do not know much about him for the first 2/3 in the film, so when he does become a villain, there is no emotion or feeling that arises in me. His motivation is a bit eh, since he would have became rich just by finding Atlantis. He did not need to kidnap the crystal and to kill all of Atlantis.
She is the deuteragonist of the film, but is barely in the film. All I know about her is that sh eants to protect her people, and that is only from her first 10 minutes. For the rest of the film, she is a crystal.
She is the deuteragonist of the film, but is barely in the film. All I know about her is that she wants to protect her people, and that is only from her first 10 minutes. For the rest of the film, she is a crystal. She is not a good character either.

Animation

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.

Music

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.

Reception Today

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.

Final Score

Story: 4.5/10

Characters: 4/10

Animation: 8/10

Music: 7/10

= 23.5/40 = 59%

Next Time…

Review: September 29th, 2014
Review: September 29th, 2014
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15 thoughts on “Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

  1. Good review. As to why the Atlanteans never age, my guess is the crystal keeps them alive longer? I don’t know. As for why they can speak English and other languages and not their own, well, that could’ve been explained more. I know the flaws, but at least they tried something new. I consider it a guilty pleasure, at least for me.

    I do understand why they wanted to try something different, but if they were going to go an Indiana Jones action adventure flick, then I say go all out. An extra hour to hour and a half might have helped to develop characters and such. I know animation is expensive and time consuming, but hey, if it helps to make the film better, than go for it and you’ll be rewarded.

    This is my idea as to how to make this film work a little more (in addition to making it longer):
    The Leviathan scene is great. Keep it in. And if they had to put in a villain, don’t make it Rourke, the guy who wants even more money even though he’ll get rich already. I was thinking more of a civil war type conflict going on in Atlantis. The king wants to remain in isolation because if he tries another stunt like he did in the beginning of the film, Atlantis will be destroyed for sure. But a younger Atlantean (I’ll call him Zika [zee-kuh]) claims that they are wiser and know how not to use the crystal. He believes that by properly utilizing the crystal, he can bring Atlantis back to its glory days and make other nations bow before it. Civil war erupts between the two sides and our heroes join the king’s side to stop Zika’s intentions, knowing that if the crystal’s power is unleashed like that, the world will be weakened, or worse, destroyed.

    I’ll stop there, as I don’t want to make this post longer than it should be.

    I’m not trying to make this sound like bad fanfiction (I’m not a fanfiction writer myself), but this is just my idea as to how the film could have maybe been better.

    On to Lilo and Stitch, the film that almost saved Disney from going deeper (before Treasure Planet’s disastrous box office numbers undid the good that Lilo and Stitch did for Disney).

    1. I don’t know about an hour-an hour and a half longer, but it definitely should have been longer than the actual film was (which was the typical 80 minutes), to pull all of this off. But even still, they paid almost no attention to character development, or to build off of the weak characters.

      Your description of what should have happened is a whole lot better than the actual film, and was actually interesting. It would have been something if this film was so unintentionally heartless.

      1. Thanks. I’ve been thinking about the idea for a while. I’m more of an ideas guy than someone who goes into exact detail. Like if I were asked to write an actual script or story with dialogue, character development, descriptions, every action, etc., I probably wouldn’t be very good at it (except for maybe a few bits here and there). But mostly, I do better at broad concepts than details, provided it’s a subject I’m interested in and I have time to think about it. Do you get what I mean?

        Look forward to your Lilo and Stitch review! By the way, have you ever seen the TV series? It’s a good setup for a series and I think it’s done pretty well (though you’d have to watch Stitch The Movie to find out how it all comes to be).

  2. I can’t get over the fact that the plot is basically Stargate, only worse…and Stargate is already a guilty pleasure of mine.

    I really don’t get why they insisted on making Atlantis a dying culture instead of a culture in hiding, but if they do so, they certainly shouldn’t have made Kida old enough to remember what happened the day Atlantis went down. Most of the plot holes in the movies would have been solved if they had left out this part.

    1. I have never watched Stargate, but I have heard that this film is a lot like it.

      It makes no sense with the aging thing, and they never really explain it either. A lot of the holes would have been handled if this was gone, though the film still would have been a hot ass mess. What in the hell was Disney thinking with this?

      1. Well, this is the plot of Stargate: Nerdy guy is trying to convince the academia of a theory, without success. Just as he is really down (no job, shattered reputation), he is hired by the government. With his linguistic abilities he manages to do an important translation and is then send through the “stargate” on another planet, though he is treated as outsider by the group of soldiers who went with him. There he encounters an Egyptian based culture. Exploring the town with the daughter of the chief he finds some old writing (because the people present have forgotten how to write because it was forbidden for generations) which he then translates, which leads to a somewhat romantic scene. In the end of the movie he decides to stay on the planet with his beloved. Sounds familiar?

        There is naturally more to the plot than this, but the parallels are so glaring that for once I have a hard time to handwave it with the “nothing under the sun is new” explanation.

  3. I can’t say that you are wrong and I was expecting to hate this but I really enjoyed it. I guess I got caught up in the adventure, the steampunk style and the fun characters. The story does have big holes but so does Indiana Jones or any other story in this genre so it didn’t really bother me. I thought it was cool to hear the language they had created but understand they can’t do that the whole time. I didn’t like it at 20 when it came out but today for whatever reason I really enjoyed it. Go figure!
    And I was kind of glad they didn’t explain everything. A lot of these kind of movies get bogged down in exposition about the world and rules of the world. I was ok with just accepting it and moving on with the story. For the exposition is when movies like Stargate get boring.
    I’m not saying it was perfect but I really had a good time watching it.

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