Titan A.e.

on June 16, 2000 by Wade Major
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   Leap-frogging similar recent efforts by the more richly-funded animation divisions at Disney and DreamWorks, 20th Century Fox's "Titan A.E." is a triumphant milestone, a fluid fusion of traditional and computer-generated animation in what is easily the most mature and visually stimulating animated feature yet from a major Hollywood studio.

   Set in the year 3028, "Titan A.E." tells the story of an orphaned Luke Skywalker-like hero named Cale (Matt Damon), the son of a mighty scientist who vanished many years earlier when a strange bio-mechanical race of energy beings known as the Drej attacked and destroyed the Earth, causing humanity's remnants to be scattered throughout the universe in small space-faring colonies. Years later, hope arrives in the form of a roguish Han Solo-type former confederate of Cale's father named Korso (Bill Pullman) who reveals to Cale that his DNA carries a kind of interstellar map to his late father's crowning achievement, the Titan project, reportedly the key to reuniting mankind and restoring their place in the universe.

   No sooner does Cale join Korso and his crew--which includes the fetching Akima (Drew Barrymore), Wookie-like first mate Preed (Nathan Lane), toadish navigator Gune (John Leguizamo) and a temperamental kangaroo-esque weapons specialist named Stith (Janeane Garofalo)--than the Drej appear in hot pursuit, determined to let nothing stand between them and the long overdue destruction of Cale and the Titan project.

   A classic messianic science fiction epic in the mold of "Star Wars," "Battlestar Gallactica," "The Matrix," and "Logan's Run," "Titan A.E." is by-the-book Joseph Campbell-style myth-making, a kind of junkyard Rolls Royce that ultimately transcends its more derivative parts to form a more fascinating, infinitely entertaining whole. Produced and directed by veterans Don Bluth and Gary Goldman ("Anastasia") from a script by Ben Edlund, John August and Joss Whedon, the film employs conventional hand-drawn artwork for the human and animist characters, while using computer imaging to create the space environments, spacecraft and the Drej. If the contrast between the two seems stark and jarring at first, it's likely just the shock of seeing something so radically new and untried. Once the film's characters and story take shape, viewers will invariably warm to the approach, which features a series of set pieces as thrilling as anything previously seen in live action science fiction films. On the whole, it's a monumental achievement, and one which so far outshines its few shortcomings (several overly convenient plot turns and a somewhat pat resolution) that it almost seems unfair to cite them. Voiced by Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman, John Leguizamo, Nathan Lane and Janeane Garofalo. Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. Written by Ben Edlund, John August and Joss Whedon. Produced by David Kirschner, Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. A Fox release. Animated Adventure. Rated PG for action violence, mild sensuality and brief language. Running time: 95 min

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