Titan Ae Movie Review
Save its ambitious, eye-popping computer-generated space battle effects, 20th Century Fox's second run at Disney's animation crown is little more than another threadbare cartoon orphan story ("Dinosaur," "Anastasia," "The Lion King," etc.) dressed up in wannabe-anime style and targeted at 11-year-old boys with a toy-friendly, sci-fi storyline and a bad, bad, bad guitar rock soundtrack.
Taking place in a distant future when the Earth has been destroyed and the remnants of mankind are adrift in the galaxy, "Titan AE" follows handsome, cocky, cusp-of-manhood Cale (voice of Matt Damon), the son of a valiant military martyr in our planet's brief defense against a race of energy beings called the Drej.
The Drej blew up Earth with their giant crystalline space ship in an expensive-looking CGI sequence when Cale was just a boy, and now they're hunting what's left of humanity as we flee through the stars. What, exactly, the Drej have against us, the movie doesn't bother to explain. The fact that they look like a lava lamp versions the Terminator's skeleton signals they're bad news, so who needs to bother with, you know, motive?
Cale it seems is mankind's Last Hope -- or so says Korso (Bill Pullman), a rugged war hero pal of the boy's dead dad who comes looking for him in the first reel. It seems he has a map tattooed 31st-Century-style on his hand, and when he wears a special ring his father gave him as they said goodbye, Cale's palm glows, blips, and acts as a compass pointing to the hiding place of the Titan -- an advanced prototype space ship capable of defeating the Drej and saving the human race. How this ship is going to accomplish that is something the movie keeps close to its chest until it has a chance to unleash its visual wowzer finale.
"Titan AE" was written by Ben Edlund (creator of "The Tick"), John August ("Go") and Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), and with that pedigree in irony and idiosyncrasy it's more than a little disappointing that this film turns out to be such a generic cartoon adventure -- complete with goofy critter sidekicks (John Leguizamo apes Peter Lore's voice as a nerdy, frog-like alien inventor) and a sassy, independent love interest (voice of Drew Barrymore) with a veiled, girlie, soft side.
None of these protagonists have any more depth than video game characters, which should come as no surprise since Nintendo-meets-Hollywood 'toon is the really raison d'etre of "Titan AE."
Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman (they did Fox's "Anastasia"), there's no arguing that the movie looks cool -- even if the hand-drawn character never fully blend with their surroundings. The computer-animated exteriors (space ships, nebulae, alien planets full of huge trees with dangerous hydrogen-bubble fruit) are spectacular. I've never seen anything like the liquidy, morphing interior of the Drej pure-energy ship or like the climatic battle sequence that takes place deep inside a labyrinth of incredibly-rendered ice rings around a cold planet.
But the creativity ends with the visuals. The character arcs and lessons to be learned are obvious, the plot advancement depends on people always doing things the hard way and the ultimate purpose of the Titan spaceship is ridiculously superfluous.
But I will admit this: If you desire nothing more than a kiddie video game brought to animated life and don't mind a script burdened by clichés and nonsense ("The human threat ends now!" says the Drej leader. Um, what human threat?!?) -- in short, if you are an 5th grade boy or if you can think like one -- "Titan AE" is a good ride, entertaining enough to inspire a trip to Toys R Us for some tie-in merchandise.