Cartoon `Titan' is small in every way

Review: Animated sci-fi adventure is all mayhem and very little else.

June 16, 2000|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

"Titan A.E." is like watching a 90-minute game of the video game Asteroids - all bang and no buck.

This latest from animator Don Bluth follows in his tradition of films that look great but have little story and less heart. "Titan A.E.," which aspires to be the full-length cartoon that George Lucas has yet to make, features all manner of interstellar mayhem: rip-snorting shoot-em-ups, barroom brawls, exploding planets, you name it.

Too bad all this isn't in the service of some sort of narrative. But when "Titan A.E." (the initials stand for After Earth) isn't blasting , it's not doing anything. That's probably why it spends all its time blasting.

The film starts off with some bad news: 1,028 years from now, our planet is toast. That's when the exceedingly nasty Drej, translucent beings with a serious attitude problem, decide our advancing technology is a threat. So they obliterate the Earth, and the only survivors are those lucky enough to have escaped via spaceship.

That includes young Cale, whose dad sends him off into space with two things: a promise that they'll meet again some day and a map implanted in his hand that will lead future generations to the Titan project, a sort of super space station that promises to replicate the Earth and once again provide humans with a home.

Flash forward a dozen years or so. Humans are pretty much the dregs of the solar system, homeless vagabonds eking out a living where they can, hoping that the universe's stronger creatures will just ignore them.

But then destiny comes calling on Cale (now voiced by Matt Damon) in the person of Captain Corso (Bill Pullman), a former associate of his father's who figures it's about time that humans had a home again.

A reluctant Cale agrees to go along for the ride because A) Corso invokes the name of his dead father, and B) Corso's ship is piloted by a spitfire named Akima (Drew Barrymore), the first woman Cale's seen in a decade or so.

Thus, it's off to save Earthlings from the evil warlords who have rendered them homeless.

Of course, they kick a lot of alien butt along the way. In fact, the whole film is one butt-kicking scene after another, as creatures go after creatures, ships go after ships, and Cale goes after Akima.

Obviously, the animators had a good time. The battle scenes can be breathtaking, and the animated aliens are impressive-looking (although the animators don't do so well with walking, giving everyone a sort of John Wayne gait).

But the action is incessant, with only momentary stops along the way for plot points. Any sequence that doesn't involve action is dispensed with in seconds (including a ludicrous mid-mission repair job by Cale.)

And just to compound the fracture, the film displays nary an original thought. "Titan A.E." is a pastiche of just about every sci-fi film of the past 35 years, from "The Day the Earth Stood Still" to "Superman," from "Star Trek III: The Death of Spock" to "Star Wars."

You'd do better to watch any one of them.

'Titan A.E.

Featuring the voices of Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman.

Directed by Don Bluth and Gay Goldman

Released by 20th Century Fox

Rated PG (animated interstellar violence)

Running time 90 minutes

Rating **

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