Disney Marathon: ‘Atlantis The Lost Empire’


This is one entry into the series I’ve been looking forward to. I’ve always liked the art direction of the film and never got round to seeing it. I’m sure it will live up to expectation.

For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 30s blogger), my son Josh (stoic 10 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 8 year old princess) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Released: 2001

Director: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise

Cast: Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Cree Summer, Don Novello, Phil Morris, Claudia Christian, Jim Varney, Leonard Nimoy

Plot: Linguist and cartographer Milo leads an exhibition to the fabled lost city of Atlantis. Their goal is to uncover the technological wonders rumoured to exist there.

Review: First of all, we have to acknowledge the best Atlantis story, the Lucasarts adventure game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. That game was awesome. This movie is not.

First things first, let’s talk about the tone. Genre wise it begins as a Golden Era of Hollywood adventure movie, the type paid tribute to in the aforementioned Indiana Jones series. Things start out that way, and the early 1900s type of tough characters, but as the plot gets more complicated and transitions into sci-fi action sequences, the quality sinks like Atlantis does in the prologue.

Milo (Fox) is another core problem. It wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that different writers worked on the script and had very different ideas about how this character worked. He’s gawky and awkward, but he’s also a cool mechanical engineer who can fix things almost intuitively. He’s quiet and scholarly, but also fiery and passionate. He shifts clumsily between personality extremes with the only consistent quality being a particular unlike-ability. This isn’t the fault of Fox, he did a good job. It feels more like a lack of strong creative leadership.

The rest of the cast shuffle awkwardly from being stand-offish, then like an adopted family of misfits, then villains, than heroes. They could be a fun bunch if they weren’t all defined by a single trait, like early X-Men characters, and the nagging feeling they’re all being set up for a failed spin-off series.

What we do like is the design work. The ships and contraptions of the expedition are very cool in a 1980s Saturday morning cartoon way and we would love to see more of them. Unfortunately many of them get destroyed, along with dozens of faceless background characters. Getting to Atlantis is when we get the really interesting, alien looking designs. As much time as they spend explaining the plot, we never quite knew what we were supposed to take away from all this. All the world building of this ethereal landscape leads to is a moral about greed being bad.

Regardless of what kind of amazing action set-piece we’re looking at, the bland and angular animation style lets it down. Even wonderfully designed characters like Kida (Summer) is animated in a clunky manner.

More than anything else, this movie feels like the full embodiment of the Eisner era of Disney. You can see the merchandising, park ride attractions, toys and sequels worked into every aspect of the movie, as though the creative departments had to justify every decision to feed the bottom line.

Coolest Easter Egg: One excellent Disney film that gets little look in these days is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Captain Nemo does make a cameo though:

Weirdest Trivia: Many of the design choices were influenced by and partly contributed to by Mike Mignola, the creator and artist of ‘Hellboy’ comics.

Rating: THREE out of TEN

THE RANKING

ME

It didn’t live up to expectations. Kinda dull, actually.

Click those titles if you want to see what we said about the other movies.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Robin Hood
  3. Aladdin
  4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  5. Wreck-It Ralph
  6. Alice in Wonderland
  7. Beauty and the Beast
  8. Moana
  9. Big Hero 6
  10. The Great Mouse Detective
  11. Frozen
  12. Tangled
  13. The Sword in the Stone
  14. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  15. Mulan
  16. Cinderella
  17. Emperor’s New Groove
  18. Fantasia
  19. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  20. The Three Caballeros
  21. The Princess and the Frog
  22. Hercules
  23. Oliver & Company
  24. The Aristocats
  25. Saludos Amigos
  26. Home on the Range
  27. Bolt
  28. Dinosaur
  29. The Fox and the Hound
  30. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  31. Pocahontas
  32. A Goofy Movie
  33. Treasure Planet
  34. Chicken Little

AMELIA

Amelia ranked this one pretty highly because – and everyone can rank for reasons they consider important – she has a crystal necklace like Kida.

  1. Frozen
  2. Moana
  3. Tangled
  4. Emperor’s New Groove
  5. Zootopia
  6. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  7. The Great Mouse Detective
  8. Home on the Range
  9. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  10. Mulan
  11. Hercules
  12. Alice in Wonderland
  13. Cinderella
  14. Wreck-It Ralph
  15. Bolt
  16. Pocahontas
  17. Dinosaur
  18. The Aristocats
  19. The Princess and the Frog
  20. Robin Hood
  21. Beauty and the Beast
  22. The Three Caballeros
  23. The Fox and the Hound
  24. The Sword in the Stone
  25. Saludos Amigos
  26. Oliver & Company
  27. Aladdin
  28. Treasure Planet
  29. Big Hero 6
  30. A Goofy Movie
  31. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  32. Chicken Little
  33. Fantasia

JOSHUA

Joshua mostly seemed bored, and had very little to say on this one.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Aladdin
  4. Emperor’s New Groove
  5. Treasure Planet
  6. Moana
  7. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  8. The Three Caballeros
  9. Saludos Amigos
  10. Wreck-It Ralph
  11. Frozen
  12. Mulan
  13. The Princess and the Frog
  14. Robin Hood
  15. Bolt
  16. The Sword in the Stone
  17. Beauty and the Beast
  18. Oliver & Company
  19. Tangled
  20. The Great Mouse Detective
  21. Cinderella
  22. Home on the Range
  23. Pocahontas
  24. A Goofy Movie
  25. The Aristocats
  26. Fantasia
  27. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  28. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  29. The Fox and the Hound
  30. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  31. Dinosaur
  32. Hercules
  33. Alice in Wonderland
  34. Chicken Little