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Atlantis: The Lost Empire (Collector's Edition)
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (Regular Edition)
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (Soundtrack)

Atlantis: The Lost Empire Review

Directed By: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise.
Starring: Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Claudia Christian, Jim Varney, John Mahoney, Don Novello.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire has a hard enough time with it's unconventional plot line and lack of musical numbers (that has made Disney animation so popular) without having to fight off a big action flick starring Angelina Jolie. But for some reason that is exactly what the brains behind marketing and release dates did. And so, without further ado, Tombraider proceeded to kick Disney's ass!

Back in 1954 Disney first jumped into Jules Verne territory with 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. A big, live-action fantasy flick that would be remembered by all for the giant squid fight. Almost 40 years later Disney returns to this kind of material and surprisingly is less successful with it. The reason that it is surprising is not that the Disney company has managed to make better films without good ol' Walt around (they haven't) but that they steal from about 20 other trend-setting sci-fi flicks and still manage to make a rather mediocre and lifeless film with all the lifted material.

Some of the stolen bits are actually homage's to the original while other ones hope the kids have yet to see Aliens or Raiders of the Lost Ark. A shot stolen directly from another Disney film The Black Hole is so subtle that unless you have seen the film recently it will pass right by you (I am curious to see if it will be mentioned on the DVD track).

Other films that get the nod from Atlantis? Well, The Rocketeer, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, and to a lesser degree, The X-Files.

Based loosely on Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (and we are talking loosely, don't use this as a cheat sheet for your English exam) Atlantis gives us wanna-be explorer Milo James Thatch (voice of Michael J. Fox) who is given a mission shortly after receiving a gift from his grandfather. This gift is the Shepherd's Journal, an ancient book containing information about the lost continent of Atlantis. Milo must lead a motley group of mercenaries into the depths to discover Atlantis and its secrets.

About ten minutes into the fim, with the basic outline laid down in front of you, one can start to chart the course of where this is all going to end up. In fact, the obviousness of some of this makes one shake their head in disbelief, especially at some of the wild leaps in logic. For example: Atlantis is an advanced civilization that discovered flight at a very early time, yet build their bridges out of rickety wood apparently for the reason of creating tension for newcomers who might drive their beat up trucks over it.

The question is, who is this movie made for? Was it made for a been there, seen that style critic or for kids? Obviously for kids, but a little cross-over appeal never hurts.

On the upside, some of the voice work/actor selections were great ideas. Such secondary characters as Mole, Vinny, Audrey, Doc Sweet are all memorable in their own ways. Extra points to the casting director that picked Don Novello (aka Father Guido Sarducci) to voice the Vinny role. Not a stretch for him by any means, but I have always loved listening to his cadences and this proved to be no exception. Another great talent with a voice to match is James Garner who plays the blatantly devious Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke. No real shocks from this character at all, he's untrustworthy at the beginning and only grows worse as the movie motors on.

As for Michael J. Fox who voiced the hero of the picture, Milo, it is not as if he didn't give his best. It's just his best can not lift the material that he was given. His jokes fall flat for half the time though Fox's talent does shine through as a likeable guy, it just comes off as old-hand.

To give Disney it's due they have been trying to feel out new techniques, styles and looks with the still new-ish form of computer animation and blending it with traditional animation. The results are not always perfect (though very close in Tarzan). But visually a fascinating watch nonetheless.

Mind you, it could've been worse. At least when the film ended I didn't feel I had been cheated out of my admission. I will undoubtedly check out a special edition of this DVD as they usually have some interesting commentary and solid behind the scenes featurettes but as to whether or not I will add it to my collection is something else.

Copyright© Written By: Rob Paul

DVD Information:

Special Features:

Audio Commentary with Filmmakers
Deleted Scene: Viking Prologue
How To Speak Atlantean

Widescreen 2.35:1 (Anamorphic) Standard 1.33:1 Audio: ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1

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Evil Ash

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