Don Bluth is a big name in the animation world, and I can almost guarantee you’ll have seen something that he created, whether you’re aware of it or not. Bluth was responsible for the video game Dragon’s Lair, as well as a number of films that went up against Disney back in the 80s and 90s, including The Land Before Time, An American Tail, and Anastasia. Titan A.E. marked Bluth’s first foray into science-fiction.
The film is set in 3043, and follows Cale (Matt Damon), one of the few survivors of the human race following the destruction of Earth fifteen years before, when the planet was blown to pieces by the evil Drej. Cale is approached by Korso (Bill Pullman), an old friend of his father, and an outlaw captain. It turns out that Cale holds the key to the location of The Titan, one of the most advanced ships in the galaxy, created by his father. Working with Korso and his crew, Cale must track down the location of The Titan before the Drej find it and destroy the future of mankind.
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The story is pretty good, and manages to move at a very brisk pace. The characters go to a fair few unique locations, like worlds filled with giant gas balls, slave auctions on space stations, and the interior of giant spaceships. The plot is one big chase movie, with two groups after the same mcguffin, but manages to throw a lot of wrenches in the works to make it interesting and fun throughout.
Whilst the film was pretty well received, and has received more praise and notice in the years since, it was a financial failure and barely made half of its budget back. This was in part due to Fox not really knowing how to market the film, but also the expensive and difficult production. Titan A.E. mixed together traditional hand drawn animation with CGI, and whilst there are some points in the film that things don’t look particularly great, it’s actually aged pretty well.
Some of the its effects are still very impressive, and the chase through the ice rings is not only a stand out moment in the story, but one of the cooler sci-fi film sequences around. The combination of hand drawn animation and CGI come together perfectly here, and the sound design is spot on. But this is far from the only impressive scene in the film, and there’s a lot here to be impressed by or find interesting.
One of the biggest downsides of the film being a financial failure is the fact that we’ll not be getting more work based in this universe. There are so many hints at big ideas and interesting concepts here, like humanity being on the back foot and scattered across the galaxy, or how a species that’s living energy like the Drej would operate, yet we never get a huge amount of depth to any of it. This isn’t a big fault of the film though, as they pack a lot into the relatively short run-time.
There’s a lot of world building and character moments crammed in, so we’ve never got the time to slow down and go into the smaller details. There was some attempt at this in the comic and novel prequels that were produced at the time, but even here there’s still a lot about this universe that I’d love to see more of. Unfortunately, Titan A.E. is something that has – for the present time at least – to stand on its own.
Titan A.E. was first released in the UK on 28th July 2000.