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TITAN A.E.

by: James Berardinelli

Titan A. E. represents an ambitious attempt by co-directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman to fuse traditional animated techniques with the latest in computer graphics, and to present it all through a plot that owes more to Japanese anime than to classic Disney. The result is a mixed bag, characterized by some obvious high points and equally apparent flaws. Nevertheless, taken as a whole, Titan A. E. is an engaging experience that tops Dinosaur for the best animated adventure to reach theaters thus far this year.

The story certainly boasts more complexity than that of Dinosaur. Instead of relying solely upon visual splendor, Titan A. E. takes the time to develop a reasonably interesting plot and populate the cinematic canvas with well-defined characters. Admittedly, the movie's scripting fails at the end - a rushed and somewhat jumbled series of events that relies on an individual acting completely out-of-character - but, for about 80 minutes, Titan A. E. can claim something that few recent animated features have been able to highlight: an intelligent screenplay.

The year is 3028, and Earth has been destroyed by the merciless attack of an alien race known as the Drej. There are survivors, although the ragtag bunch of humans is scattered to the far corners of the quadrant, and the Drej, bent on genocide, pursue them doggedly and seemingly without reason. For humanity, there is hope, however, in the form of a giant spaceship called Titan, which was successfully launched before the planet's destruction. But it is lost in deep space and only Cale, the young son of the Titan's captain, possesses hidden information about its location.

In 3042, Cale (voice of Matt Damon) is a young man living an aimless life on Salvage Station Tau 14. It is there that Captain Korso (Bill Pullman), an old friend of Cale's father, finds him. Korso has assembled a motley crew that includes a beautiful navigator, Akima (Drew Barrymore); an indolent first officer, Preed (Nathan Lane); a short-tempered weapons expert, Stith (Janeane Garafolo); and a brilliant-but-erratic scientist, Gune (John Leguizamo). Together, they have one goal: find the Titan, and they need Cale's help to do it. Although initially reluctant to join Korso's quest, Cale has a change of heart when he learns that the Drej are out to get him because they, like Korso, need the information he is in possession of.

In essence, Titan A. E. (the "A.E.", incidentally, stands for "After Earth") is a tale of the indomitability of the human spirit - sort of the same idea conveyed (badly) in both Independence Day and Battlefield Earth. So, despite a fair amount of violence and the presence of some cold-blooded aliens, the overall message is a positive one, and the final fifteen minutes are full of feel-good moments. The romance between Cale and Akima is well enough developed that it doesn't seem like a throw-in.

Titan A. E. is interesting for a number of reasons outside of the most obvious - that it presents 90 minutes of solid, family-oriented entertainment. For Fox Animation and its 61 year-old veteran animator, Don Bluth, this represents the much-anticipated followup to 1997's Anastasia, the first recent challenge to Disney's cartoon superiority. However, while Anastasia was very much in the Disney mold, right down to the plucky heroine and song-and-dance interludes, Titan A. E. is unlike anything the Magic Kingdom has produced. Borrowing heavily from Japanese anime, the film ventures into an area that mainstream animated features have avoided: science fiction. And the results indicate that this may be an ideal format for future space operas. In fact, some would argue that George Lucas' new Star Wars trilogy is only a step away from animation.

The movie is a combination of hand-drawn elements and CGI. The traditional aspects a

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