Titan A.E. DVD Review

You hear it all the time. "I don't read reviews; I make up my own mind." Well, a lot of good that does. If more people took the time to read reviews from critics, they would discover films like this. A box office bomb but a critical success, "Titan A.E." is a magical ride, on par with most of the stuff Disney has pumped out over the years. Actually, it's probably better.

When the Earth is blown up by an alien species called the Drej, the few human escapees left are struggling to survive fifteen years later. One young man named Cale (voiced by Matt Damon) holds the key to restoring the race, totally unbeknownst to him. A mysterious stranger named Korso (Bill Pullman) finally finds him to reveal the truth to Cale. The Drej are determined to stop them from discovering the Titan, the machine that holds the secret the human race has been waiting for.

Likely because of a darker, edgier tone that prevented kids from getting involved, "Titan A.E." just couldn't find the right audience. It should not have been aimed at kids so much, but the sci-fi fan looking for a great ride with a completely unique look. A mix of gorgeous hand drawn and CG imagery, the two styles blend beautifully, creating incredible worlds filled with color, totally unlike anything you've ever seen. Most of the film will stick in your mind for a long time to come.

At the helm are Don Bluth and his co-director and Gary Goldman. They've worked together for years, fondly remembered for taking video games in an entirely new direction with "Dragon's Lair." They bring their impeccable and realistic style of animation to the film with great results.

Of course, you can make a film look as great as you want nowadays. The story here is admittedly weak, sort of strewn together from parts. Barring a rather nifty plot twist, there's not much to it. The movie is saved, and made really, by its ambitious visuals.

That's fine for most people and certainly the draw for kids. As long as a movie has the all-important "hook," you're in. Whether it's great action, acting, drama, or just a great look, a movie just needs something to draw you into its world. "Titan A.E." clearly has one all its own. You'll never see anything else like it. (**** out of *****)

It has been said that DVD just isn't a format for animated films. In all honesty, that's true. There are two major issues plaguing this disc: Aliasing and compression, the usual suspects. The compression is probably the bigger issue of the two as most of the film is set in red tones that show every little nasty block. That in turn causes some edge enhancement. It's a beautiful movie and you can still see that, just not as much as you would hope. (***)

Thankfully, it doesn't take long for the audio to pick up the slack. Within the first five minutes of this film, the DTS track on this disc will likely have the neighbors, friends, and family calling the cops. This is an intense audio experience with an insane amount of bass for the LFE channel to eat up. Movement occurs fluidly through all five speakers. It's all mixed very well as the dialogue is never drowned out.

Since the movie is so action-packed, there's hardly a moment when you won't be worried about hearing that inevitable knock at the door for disturbing the peace. This is a must buy with any home theater purchase and a great example of how DTS is an improvement (the 5.1 track here is good, just lacking the punch). (*****)

Bluth and Goldman start off the extras portion with a commentary. They're very enthusiastic about their work and proud of what they accomplished. They should be. They spend plenty of time on how they made it all work, but also provide some background as to how it all came together.

A fairly wasteful featurette, "The Quest for TITAN: A Fox Kids Special" is a blatant commercial plug. There is some behind-the-scenes stuff, just nowhere near as much as there should be. It's nothing more than an infomercial to sell the film to younger set on Saturday mornings. It obviously didn't work.

The final worthwhile features are some deleted scenes. There are two alternate, unfinished takes that vary a little bit from what's included. Those are probably the most interesting to watch of the group. A music video, four trailers, and a still gallery finish the disc off. DVD-ROM users could have accessed a link to download a video game demo (which was never actually released commercially), but that's been dead for some time. (**)

So, how bad did this one perform? With a budget near $75 million, it barely made $22 million during its theatrical run. It's also the film that shut down Fox's animation studio for good. That's probably as good a sign as any as to why we'll never see a sequel.

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