My opinion right after watching the film
My opinion right after watching the film is that I believe that it has a lot of potential, and a lot of good ideas. The idea that humans are seen as inferior in his futuristic world because they are powerful is interesting, but is not well-developed. There is this father-son dynamic that is akin to Treasure Planet, but it is not fully realized or developed. It doesn’t have tonal problems like Anastasia did, and it is one of the few Bluth films that can’t be said is a knock-off, but a lot could have been done better.
Titan A.E. was initially going to be a live-action film, and was in the works at 20th Century Fox since 1998. The project was passed through several writers, as the script was slowly being developed, but after a long time of very little happening, writer Art Vitello was canned from the project. As we now know, it was given to Don Bluth and Gary Goldman afterwards, and the $30 million wasted on the early development went nowhere, since the two were given no script, and were pressured to take it, otherwise all of the animators from Anastasia would be laid off.
Despite their inexperience, the project was on the roll, and Fox Animation Studios were given 19 months (a year and 7 months), as well as $75 million to complete the movie. Over the course of the film’s production, several cutbacks were taking place, hundreds of animators were laid off in 1999, causing several of the scenes to be outsourced to several independent companies, as well as what would be known as Blue Sky Studios. The executive of Fox named Bill Mechanic was forced to leave, and all of these elements caused the promotion and overall content of the film. On June 26th, 2000 (10 days after this film’s release), the studio was shut down, and the building was officially demolished in 2017.
The film starts with some alien species called Drej being alarmed by “Project Titan”, which somehow leads to them attacking the Earth. Everyone is escaping, and Professor Tucker (Ron Perlman) sends his son Cale (Alex D. Linz, and Matt Damon) off with his friend Tek (Tone Loc), since he has to go on another ship to go into the hyberspace. The little boy is given a ring before they separate, an soon after, Earth (and the Moon) is blown up, with most of the human species being extinct.
We skip 15 years, and Cale is grown up working at a salvage yard by an asteroid belt. Humans are the bottom of the totem pole, and is treated like trash, as he is attacked by a bunch of aliens, before being saved by Joseph Korso (Bill Pullman). The latter wants Cale to follow him to find the titan, and shows that the ring on his finger is a map to get there.
Akima talks about being raised by humans, and being told all about Earth (despite never remembering it), before they are separated by the Dregs, who end up extorting the information of the map from him, and is imprisoned. Cale manages to escape the ship, while the others manage to save Akima (of course the female is always the one who needs to be saved/found). More sexual tension is forced before Joseph Korso demands that they look at the map, which reveals the final location of where the Titan is.
Cale flies the ship for a while, and he thanks Joseph for finding him, since it’s more than what his father did for him. It seems like they are trying to form this father/son dynamic between the two of them, but the fact that it took 50 minutes for this to start kind of makes it a bit rushed. He enters Akima’s room (after almost seeing her naked), and she is about to take him to barter stuff to get more stuff from Earth, but they overhear Joseph Korso’s conversation with the Drej’s about them trying to cut him out of it.
They end up seeing a ship, and spend some time (of course through a montage) fixing the ship, before they take off to stop Korso and crew. Everyone makes it through some ice field (with Korso following them). The lovebirds end up there first, and receive some sort of hologram message, as his father explains to him what needs to be done, since it’s clear that he recorded it in case he died before finding his sin. Korso and his ally Preed (Nathan Lane) turn on the two other aliens, since they are asking too many questions. The two crash the hologram message, and is ready to shoot them, but Preed turns on Korso, since he works for the Dregs, and they promised to let him live, as long as the other three died, and the DNA samples are taken with them. All of this does seem to be a bit too contrived.
Of course the climatic battle takes place, and Korso snaps Preed’s neck. Cale and Korso end up fighting over the ring, and Korso ends up falling somewhere. Akima and Cale try to set up a bunch of machinery stuff, right as the Drej’s arrive to attack them. Long story short, Korso sacrifices his life (their relationship is a failed version of what Jim and John Silver accomplished a bit over 2 years later), the Drej’s are destroyed, and everyone is able to create enough power to form a new planet for humans to live in.
The story in itself isn’t a large problem, but the large problem with the movie are how generic the characters are, despite trying to develop them. Cale is the typical young man with father issues, who has to realize he is special, but his transition into wanting to develop the human world is kind of flat. Korso was a friend to Cale’s father, and plans to destroy the human race while profiting, despite growing close to Cale, but the relationship between the two is painfully rushed, and the villain reveal was not executed well at all. Akima has a brief moment where she mentions being raised by humans who long for Earth, but they kind of gloss over it, and she is just there to be Cale’s love interest, and all of the other characters are unmemorable non-factors.
This was around the time where they were trying to infiltrate CGI animation as much as they can, and while I do think it looks nice enough here, it does look odd at times, especially with the traditional animation. Overall, it did not blend as well as it needed to be but the traditional animation is nice. I like some of the effects, and the character designs are really nice, but like I mentioned above, sometimes the simpler approach is the better approach.
I do not remember the music at all in this movie. Some would say that of course I would not remember anything because there are no songs, but there are times where there are no songs, but the score is very effective and memorable to me. I literally do not remember anything about the score, for good or bad. Does it make it mediocre, or bad because I don’t remember anything? I honestly do not know.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on June 16th, 2000, it opened at #5 in the first week, and completely dropped in the second week (losing 60% of its audience). Overall, it caused the film to gross $22 million domestically, and $14 million in other areas, adding up to an international amount of $36 million. The main issue with this gross is that the budget of the film is roughly between $75-90 million. Chris Melendandri (supervisor of the film before his Illumination days) stated that the film lost $100 million for 20th Century Fox, and started the strong of sci-fi animated films flopping in the box office.
The film also received some mixed reviews, where some people enjoyed the adventure elements, as well as the animation, some critiqued it for being very similar to other sci-fi films without a lot of originality. It was nominated for some Satellite and Annie Awards, but lost to its competitors, and only won a Golden Reel Award for its Sound Editing.
The reception that this film has is not necessarily a good one. It is seen as the death of Don Bluth in animated film, death of Fox Animation Studios (where many of the people would go onto Blue Sky), and contributed heavily to not only the death of traditional animation, but the death of sci-fi animated films, since a bunch of those movies would flop over the succeeding 3 years. It does have a cult following though, so not everything went bad for this film.
4 thoughts on “Don Bluth/20th Century Fox/Blue Sky review: Titan A E”
The main problem with the characters is that there are too many and that they don’t act consistent. Frankly, I have no idea why the villain even convinces Cal that he should act heroic when he could have just as well exploited Cal’s greed.
Definitely agree. I didn’t even bother to mention the several others, due to how irrelevant they all were. The motivations for all the maon characters should have been a lot better, and made a lot more sense.
Good ol’ “Planet Bob”, lol!
lmao. Perfect description of this film.