Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Starring the voices of Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Claudia Christian, Cree Summer, Leonard Nimoy, Don Novello, Phil Morris, Jacquiline Obradors, Corey Burton, and John Mahoney.
I saw this film at Edmonton’s Gateway 8 cinema. It’s an early-80s style suburban multiplex, like the ones I was introduced to movies in. It reminded me a lot of Park Plaza 7, the Famous Players theater in Red Deer where my grandmother would take me to the latest Dinsey animated film every summer. It was there that I saw one of my favorite Disney animated films, The Black Cauldron, which became famous as Disney’s first attempt to break out of the standard Disney formula. So, it just makes sense that I was in such a similar theater to see Disney’s latest attempt to break out of said formula.
The year is 1914, and we meet with Milo Thatch (voice of Fox). He’s an expert on ancient languages, and he’s been trying to get the museum he works for to fund an expedition to Atlantis. Of course, the museum dismisses Thatch’s work as fantasy. Enter our Preston Whitmore (Mahoney). It seems that he was an old friend of Milo’s grandfather, the first Atlantis expert. Whitmore has come across the map to Atlantis, and is getting ready to fund the expedition. He wants Milo to join up. Of course Milo joins, and soon he’s off with a bunch of mercinaries, led by Captian Rourke (Garner) in a Nautilis-type submarine on their way to the lost continent. After peril after peril, they arrive, and find a thriving society. Or is it? Prinsess Kada (Summer) believes the Atlantean way of life to be dying, and perhaps these outsiders can help. Of course, though, Milo is on an expedition with a bunch of money-grubbing mercenaries, and soon the mercs break out the guns and seek to loot and plunder Atlantis. Can the Atlanteans stop the plunderers? Can Milo help Kada save Atlantis? It’s Disney, so I think you can figure it out.
This is a Disney movie, so, as always, the animation is top-of-the-line. But, maybe it’s just a bit better. Hey, if you’re going to set a movie at an undersea city, why not have the princess run around for the whole movie in a bikini? But I digress. The voice work is good, with Fox being a great nerd-turned-hero. And I’m glad to see that Disney is starting to use veteran voice actors like Cree Summer (the voice of Penny on Inspector Gadget) rather than feeling the need to fill every role with a celebrity. Disney ruled theaters with this brand of action film back in the 50s, with films like 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Treasure Island, but this animated version just didn’t seem to live up to those classics. This isn’t a great breakaway from the standard Disney formula, but it is a baby step in the right direction. As an action film, it was pretty good. I’d say it was about as good as The Mummy Returns. (Geez, what was it this summer with treasure-hunting adventure films?) And yes, like what one critic pointed out online, there are some similarities to Stargate. But I like Stargate. And I liked this. Still, though, it was no Black Cauldron. Maybe it’s just because Oma didn’t take me.
Oh, and in one little trivia note, this was the final film of Jim “Ernest” Varney, who gave voice to one of the mercenaries. The film is dedicated to him.