Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Tagged: Film

Animated film (2001). Walt Disney Animation Studios. Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. Written by Tab Murphy and David Reynolds based on a story by Murphy, Trousdale, Wise, Bryce Zabel and Jackie Zabel. Cast includes Michael J Fox and Cree Summer. 96 minutes. Colour.

It took 64 years and 41 films for Disney to produce their first arguably Genre SF film. Was it worth the wait? Although unlikely to be taken to people's hearts in the same way as the following year's Lilo & Stitch (2002), it is an interesting addition to the canon, produced during a commercially unsuccessful but enjoyably experimental period for the company and – unusually for Disney – directed as a straight adventure film. In 1914, cartographer Milo Thatch (FOX) is seen as a crank for his interest in Atlantis. However, due to his belief that this lost civilization had access to an unbelievably potent Power Source, an eccentric millionaire bankrolls an investigative mission. After travelling by submarine and evading the giant Robot that guards the hidden entrance, Milo's crew journey Under the Sea to re-discover the miraculous City of Atlantis.

This is definitely "Technology indistinguishable from Magic" (see Clarke's Laws) territory. The amazing power source turns out to be a giant rotating crystal that runs on human souls. This is also responsible for the Force Field that protected the city from the rising sea levels 10,000 years ago and has dramatically slowed down Time (see Time Distortion). Not one for fans of Hard SF; but as a homage to Jules Verne and a simpler age of science fiction Cinema, the film has considerable charm. It also benefits from a mature tone, snappy dialogue and voice acting, and distinctive artwork based on conceptual work from Mike Mignola (see Comics) .

Milo and Atlantean princess Kida (Summer) are a pair of anaemic leads, but the strong and diverse secondary characters might be present for the reason that Disney had intended to produce an animated spinoff Television series. This idea fell by the wayside owing to the film's under-performance at the box office and the early episodes were instead cobbled together into an unsurprisingly poor sequel, Atlantis: Milo's Return (2003). Here Atlantis and science fiction as a whole are abandoned in favour of Scooby Doo-esque adventures revolving around folk legends (see Mythology). [ML]

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see also: Children's SF.

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