As the 2000s began, the animated film landscape was about to make a dramatic change. Computer animated films were beginning to take off not only critically but also commercially and traditional animated films were sadly starting to fail at the box office. As a result, companies unwisely thought that audiences didn't want to see traditional animated films due to them being outdated rather than realizing their stories were weak and most of the traditional animation studios were wiped out by 2004. One of the victims of these closures was Don Bluth. After making his triumphant comeback with "Anastasia" in 1997, he was set to continue making films with 20th Century Fox into the 2000s. However, Fox decided to layoff some of the staff of the studio before ultimately closing them in 2000 after they put out what ended up being Bluth's final film, "Titan A.E." This sci-fi film became a huge flop at the box office and critics mostly gave it mixed reviews. Having finally seen it, I can understand why some were mixed on it as I do have problems with the film, but I can't deny that I did have fun watching it. This film is by no means perfect, but for a fun action sci-fi film, I think it did its job.
In the year 3028, Earth is destroyed by than alien race known as the Drej. Many of the humans escape the planet on ships though with nowhere to go and end up being treated unfairly by the aliens. Fifteen years later, one of Earth's survivors, Cale (Matt Damon), is working in a salvage yard alone after his father abandoned him during the Earth's destruction. One day, a ship known as the Valkyrie arrives where Cale works where its captain Korso (Bill Pullman) tells him about his father and how he was on a ship known as the Titan which has the capabilities to make a new planet similar to Earth and that Cale has the map to the ship given by his father that was encoded in the ring he gave him. After escaping the Drej, Cale joins Korso on the mission to find the Titan along with the pilot Akima (Drew Barrymore), the first mate Preed (Nathan Lane), the scientist Gune (John Leguizamo), and the gunner Stith (Janeane Garofalo) and save humanity before the Drej destroys them.
While watching this film, I really did marvel at the huge ambition it had. I read this film initially started off as a live-action film and that Bluth took it on after "Anastasia" as Fox gave him no other screenplays and did the best he could with it despite having limited experience working in the science fiction genre. I don't think the project paid off entirely as this film does have a fair bit of problems, but I think I enjoyed it enough. To start off, the story is a lot more mature than Bluth's previous film. Out of all of the animated films he directed, this one feels the most adult and I do kind of admire that. It does get off to a rocky start as the opening feels rather rushed where we see a young Cale playing with his invention before we are immediately thrown into Earth being evacuated, the Druj invading, and eventually the planet's destruction all in five minutes. It grabs your attention for sure, but I do wish there was more time given into knowing Cale's father and what Earth was like before its destruction. The story does improve as it goes on and despite it having elements taken from other sci-fi films, it still has a lot of fun action scenes and suspense to keep the audiences entertained. I do wish the film was a little bit longer though and also went for a PG-13 rating. I think the film was slightly held back by still trying to appeal to children, but I think it would've been a lot better without that restraint as more time could've been used to flesh out the story. As far as the animation goes, I got to give it credit for how amazing it looks at times. This film takes full advantage of blending computer-animated backgrounds with its traditional animated characters and I really think it paid off. There's a lot of cool camera tricks seen in this film. The worlds in the film also looked visually spectacular at times with one highlight being a scene in a galaxy filled with ice. That really stood out. With that said, some of the computer animation hasn't aged very well and looks rather dated with the destruction of Earth aging the worst. I also think that the blending of some of the traditional animation looks uneven. Near the beginning, Cale is scene wearing a CG spacesuit and his head feels likes it levitating in the suit. It looked rather bizarre. As far as the characters go, I did admire most of them. I didn't like Cale at first as he seemed annoying and full of himself, but he did get better as the film went along and I'm glad the film didn't bring back his earlier attitude. I also admire the chemistry between him and Akima as it felt believable and Damon and Barrymore worked off each other rather well. The rest of the crew on the ship is fun, but I do think the characters are underdeveloped and I wished to learn more about them. As far as the Drej go, I think they made for intimidating villains due to how they looked, but I was really unclear by their motivation to eliminate the human race. The film states that it's due to the aliens fearing what the human species will become, but I don't understand what exactly they fear about them. I wish the film delved more into that though. I also want to briefly mention the soundtrack for this film because it is horribly dated. The film decided to go with a techno sound and it stood out like a sore thumb. I didn't mind Graeme Revell's score as I thought it worked with the action, but rather the songs they placed in some of the scenes. They just did not work with this film.
In the end, I think I admired "Titan A.E." more than I should've. The story is fun mindless sci-fi, the animation is sometimes beautiful though sometimes dated, and the characters work even if some are underdeveloped. I do think it's a fun film, even if it's not one of Don Bluth's best and has some huge flaws. I personally see this as a film to turn off your brain and just go along with the ride If you go in with that mindset, I think you'll have a good time.