Titan A.E. [2000]

Director: Art Vitello, Don Bluth, Gary Goldman
Stars: Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman, John Leguizamo, Nathan Lane
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 94 minutes

A visual knockout, Titan A.E. is an ambitious animated feature that combines traditional animations, computer-generated imagery, and special effects in the service of a science fiction adventure plotted with narrative conventions familiar from Star Wars and Star Trek. Credit directors Don Bluth (An American Tail, The Secret of NIMH, Anastasia) and Gary Goldman with crafting a vivid, convincing look to this deep space saga, which conjures some stunning images. A tense opening sequence climaxing in the destruction of Earth, a watery planet where delicate but deadly hydrogen trees float, joyriding in a starship while pursued by playful "space angels," and a nerve-wracking journey through a lethal maze of massive ice crystals each qualify as mesmerizing sequences in any film context. What's visually stunning proves intermittently stunted on the narrative front, however. Orphaned when the evil Drej atomize Earth, protagonist Cale (voiced by Matt Damon) must journey across space to unlock the mystery of his late father's final project, the Titan spacecraft, in a test of faith and filial identity that echoes Star Wars. The Titan itself ultimately poses a cosmic potential familiar to admirers of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Comical sidekicks (Nathan Lane, Janeane Garofalo, John Leguizamo), a sultry love interest (Drew Barrymore), and a roguish mentor (Bill Pullman) all verge on the generic, narrowly redeemed by dialogue from a writing team including Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon. It's likely that Titan's target audience of young males prompted the filmmakers to walk a tightrope between softer family features and more violent, hard-edged anime. Titan's brief bloodshed and coy nudity stop short of PG-13 terrain, though younger viewers might be unsettled by the violence. Young teens will find the proceedings tamer than the video games and anime fantasies that have influenced it. --Sam Sutherland

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