Treasure Planet vs. Titan AE
We all know the basics of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel Treasure Island, a lonesome kid with an absentee father and who craves adventure gets his opportunity when a stranger blows through town and hands him a map. There begins a treasure hunt destined to go down in history, hampered by the betrayal of a father figure driven by greed, all coming to a climactic moment when the treasure is eventually found and the traitorous father figure shows he’s not all that bad in the end.
Imagine all of that… IN SPAAAACE!
In 2000, Don Bluth released a tale of humanity’s extinction, and the race to find it’s last hope, a powerful ship – The Titan – that could take the last remaining humans from their drifter colonies and slave pens, and return them to their former glory. Determined to destroy the ship and exterminate humanity are the Drej, a hive-like creature comprised of pure energy, countless in number, and immeasurably destructive.
The logic in Titan AE gets a little stretchy at times, mostly where technology is concerned, and their are moments when you may have to put disbelief away altogether to enjoy what is an otherwise very good film. For example, protagonist Cale (Matt Damon) is shown from scene one to be a technological whiz-kid, but his grasp of the wholly alien technologies employed by the Drej seems a little convenient to the plot.
However, the characters in the film are fantastic, and so is the dialogue. There are some truly spectacular moments, such as the chase between floating ice crystals that turns into a game of cat-and-mouse in a hall of mirrors; or the rescue from slave pens that is almost scuppered when the guard proves to be uncharacteristically intelligent. Only one character could truly be considered truly ancillary: the kangaroo-like Stith contributes nothing to the plot, but makes for some hilarious moments when gun-rage takes a hold of her reason.
Guard: You’re lying! He’s not a slave and you’re not traders. He doesn’t carry himself like a slave! Look at the way he stands… probably ex-military. Akrennian traders always threaten before they ask a favour, it’s tradition. [to Stith] And your robes are made out of bedspreads.
Preed: Just out of curiosity, did we have a plan “B”?
[Stith charges the guard and lays him out with a brutal boot to the Head]
Preed: An intelligent guard. Didn’t see that one coming.
Titan AE paints a beautiful picture of humans struggling to survive in the scummier corners of other civilizations, while also providing a compelling adventure story to boot. If you can ignore some bad science in your kids’ cartoons, it’s well worth a watch. If you can’t, I discovered that much of the issues get ironed out by the novel.
The more direct, 2002 retelling of Treasure Island takes the source material and whacks the scale up by thousands, quite literally. Flint’s amassed hoard is now the product of raiding thousands of ships to create the “Loot of a Thousand Worlds”, although in the hundred years since his disappearance, his methods remain a mystery. John Silver is now a full blown cyborg, complete with pneumatic peg-leg and multi-function arm, and his motley crew of pirates now have nightmarish alien forms to accompany their general shiftiness.
Disney’s re-imagining of the classic has a lot going for it: a fantastic visual style brought to a tried and tested tale, although with plenty of wiggle room for some original twists (none of which I will be spoiling here). The benefits of Disney money create a unique and fantastical universe, but the hand of the merchandiser is evidenced by the readily marketable add-on characters, the admittedly adorable Morph – who is basically Ditto from Pokemon, let’s be entirely honest; and B.E.N, the slapstick foil robot and “Jar-Jar Binks” of an otherwise likeable cast.
Treasure Planet adheres very closely to the source material, instead of simply finding inspiration from the tale. There are some clever little references dropped in for the attentive, such as someone yelling “We’re going to need a bigger boat” in the treasure chamber, or the unsubtle innuendos from the bumbling genius character Dr. Doppler (David Hyde Pierce) for the parents who might be watching.
Doctor Doppler: Dang it, Jim. I’m an astronomer, not a doctor! I mean, I am a doctor, but I’m not that kind of doctor. I have a doctorate, it’s not the same thing. You can’t help people with a doctorate. You just sit there and you’re useless!
While Treasure Planet clearly trounced the earlier film in the box-office, I find Titan AE stands up to more rewatching. All in all I found it to be a better watch, better written, and generally more original. While both have obvious ties to Treasure Island, I have to say that Treasure Planet sticks to hard to the source material, and frankly the Muppets did a better job.
As always I’m curious to hear your opinions. You were most vocal last week, and I enjoyed the challenge to my opinions (you guys are great, seriously). But I’m still looking for a title to my film article series if anyone would care to help.