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TITAN A. E.

Review by Alex Haberstroh

Stars:  Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman, John Leguizamo, Janeane Garofalo, Nathan Lane, Tone Loc, Jim Breuer
Directors:  Don Bluth, Gary Goldman
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, English 2.0 Surround, French 2.0 Surround, DTS 5.1
Video:  2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  95 Minutes
Release Date:  November 7, 2000

Film ***

Of all the animated films I watched as a child, An American Tail and Land Before Time stand out the most.  Surprisingly original, these films broke free from the formulaic “Di$ney monopoly,” becoming the first animated films to be made independently of the iron gloved mouse.

When directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman came to the helm of Titan A.E., they were already experienced animated filmmakers with their own particular style.  Titan A.E., though, is, in many ways, a departure from their previous works, trading “cutesyness” for an approach that’s, for the most part, devoid of it: dark, grimy and often brutal.  This is most likely due to the film’s target audience: teenage boys.  And this is where the detractors of the film had a field day and, I would argue, somewhat unfairly.

It is the year 3043, and Earth has been gone for 15 years, destroyed by an evil alien race called the Drej.  The human race, now without a home, is on the verge of extinction.  Cale (Damon), a young man from Earth, is discovered by a man named Corso (Pullman), who tells Cale that he possesses the key to human survival: a genetically encoded map showing the location of the “Titan,” an incredibly advanced ship made by Cale’s father and the human race’s last hope. 

Unfortunately, Corso tells Cale, the Drej are hunting for Cale so they can destroy the Titan and complete what they tried to do fifteen years before with the destruction of Earth.  Cale, hardened by a life of not being cared for, is somewhat reluctant to risk his neck for anyone.  Yet he will join forces with Corso and the motley crew of the Valkyrie to save humanity. 

Many critics who watched this film complained that Titan A.E. was TOO geared towards teenage boys, labeling it a “testosterone-charged epic” limited to thrilling action sequences and breathtaking CGI effects.  Titan A.E.’s plot, they argued, only contained a smattering of ideas from a variety of successful sci-fi films such as Aliens and Star Wars.

While these comments may have some credence (okay, I’ll admit it, the beginning of this film smacked of Independence Day), I think critics were a little too hard on Titan A.E.  In my opinion, the film provided an incredibly exciting story, with both superb animation and computer graphics that exemplify the next evolution in animation.  Watching this film, the viewer is truly taken on a roller coaster-ride through space.  Finally, there were also great audio performances by Damon, Pullman, Lane, and Leguizamo.  While not meriting a four star rating, Titan certainly didn’t deserve the panning it got in the reviews.

In regard to the charge of re-use of old themes, it’s very hard (especially with the sci-fi genre), to make a picture without similarities to any previous film.  Even so, everyone seemed to love The Patriot, a commercialized rehash of Braveheart.  Second, critics constantly attack films that are geared toward teenage boys.  But why?  Perhaps I’m posing this question because I’m still one of those teenage boys, but why is it that films loaded with action are mostly snubbed by critics?  Personally, I’d think they’d look down more on the formulaic “romance” movies that lately have been polluting our theaters.  Can’t Julia Roberts do anything besides star in razor-thin variants of Pretty Woman?

Video ****

Whether it’s the lush earth tones of Colorado, the brilliant Ice rings of Tigrin, or just beautiful hydrogen plants, watching this film will result in the viewer’s eyes needing to rest after the intense workout they’ve just had.  The animators provide a lush palette of color throughout, realized perfectly by the dazzling “THX-certified” Anamorphic transfer that the film is given.     

Audio ****

Fox, proving they could provide stellar sound mixes with their release of Fight Club, once again rises to the challenge of providing an aggressive yet precise mix.  Included is a 5.1 Dolby digital track that would please any audiophile as a disc to show off their system.  The track is a loud, aggressive, “no-holds-barred” experience that shook my room.  Also included is a somewhat subtler DTS 5.1 track that once again, provides a slightly better use of surrounds and deeper and fuller bass.  Although this mix was not as loud as the DD 5.1, I enjoyed the sound quality a little more.  Needless to say, both tracks are “reference quality” and are worthy of attention.  Finally, the disc is rounded out with Dolby 2.0 English and French tracks.          

Features ****

Titan A.E. backs up its “Special Edition” claim beginning with a Director’s Commentary with directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman.  The commentary is generally good throughout, yet strangely doesn’t sound made for the DVD, as both men keep “hoping” that certain deleted scenes will make it to the DVD.  Also included is an approximate 20-minute featurette entitled “The Quest for Titan,” four deleted scenes, two TV spots, two trailers, a Lit music video for “Over my Head,” THX-Optimode which is a mini audio/video system tester and a still gallery. Phew!   

Summary:

This is yet another film that showcases the unbelievable audio quality that only DVD can deliver so well.  Great to watch or merely to showcase to your friends, Titan A.E. is a fun romp through space with spectacular visuals that will move viewers to awe.  So, turn the lights out, whip out the popcorn, and enjoy!