Rated PG - Running Time: 1:34 - Released 6/16/00

While the production company founded by former Disney animator Don Bluth has turned out several notable films set in the past (An American Tail, The Land Before Time, Anastasia), his newest opus, Titan A. E., takes place about a millennium from now. Bluth and his long-time partner Gary Goldman directed the film, aided by Art Vitello, creator of many animated TV series. Its screenplay was adapted by Ben Edlund, John August, and Joss Whedon, based on a story by Randall McCormick and Hans Bauer, and features the voices of several major-name actors.

The film opens in the year 3028 A.D., during a global evacuation. The earth is under attack by the Drej, an evil race of blue frogmen-looking guys made up of pure energy. Don't ask me why these transparent, ice-blue creatures have such a grudge against the human population, but it's obvious they're plenty ticked. During the panic to get off the planet, young Cale is left in the care of a friend by his father, who must leave to fly the spaceship Titan to an undisclosed location to hide it from the Drej. Before he leaves, however, Cale's dad gives him a special ring and promises that as long as he wears it, he will be safe. Both parties get away just in time to see the earth destroyed.

Fifteen years later, Cale (voice of Matt Damon) is working on a space station made up of recycled pieces of junked spacecraft when the Drej attack, focusing on him as the prime target. This is because the ring he was given actually contains a map showing the present location of the Titan. Although Cale's dad was killed, the ship, hidden somewhere in deep space, possesses the power to establish a new planet for all the displaced Earthlings. Cale is convinced by Captain Joseph Korso (Bill Pullman) to come along and find the ship before the Drej do, thereby saving all humankind. Korso's crew consists of several strange creatures, featuring the voices of John Leguizamo, Nathan Lane, and Janeane Garofalo. The one human crewmember is pilot Akima (Drew Barrymore), with whom Cale immediately develops a predictably antagonistic relationship (at first). The two lovers always have to dislike each other at first, you know. This crew takes off on an interstellar adventure through many spectacular portions of the universe, eluding the Drej and complaining about the food.

The main strong point of this film is its visuals. Whether flying through a grove of bright orange "hydrogen trees" or playing hide-and-seek among thousands of gigantic ice crystals in space, the movie features several of these spectacular visual set pieces, and the plot is sometimes barely able to keep up. Moreover, it is surprising to me that such a list of venerated comic actors as Lane, Leguizamo, and Garofalo are not able to craft characters any more memorable than this; they all seem strangely out of place in such a straightforward space adventure. Leguizamo's "Gune" is probably the most interesting characterization, as a sort of genius mad scientist with the personality of a 5 year old, but it seems ever-so-closely patterned after Peter Woodthorpe's "Gollum" character from The Lord Of The Rings.

As has been a problem before in Bluth's films, the character/motion animation seems grossly incongruous with the beautiful digital backgrounds and effects, resulting in a sort of "Scooby-Doo goes to Fantasia" feel. Better blending is definitely in order. It's not Bluth's best work, but Titan will serve well enough for a few weeks before it fades into video-store obscurity. ****

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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