Sunday, August 18, 2013

Movie Review: "Treasure Planet" (2002)

Air pirates, arrr! Join me treasure seekers for a review, arrr!

"Treasure Planet" was Disney's 43rd animated film, originally released in 2002. I was seventeen at the time, but only got to watch the film recently. It bombed in the theatre, only grossing a little over $109 million worldwide while costing $140 million to make. I don't like to look at box office success as a gauge of how good or bad a film is. There are plenty of films that did very well in the theatre, but were actually horrible. Of course, the reverse is also true.

Story-wise, the movie is based on the novel "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson. I actually have not read that novel (criminal, I know), so I can't compare the two. But the story is pretty classic: a young boy goes in search of treasure in a faraway place. A simple and straight forward storyline, which allows this film to focus on making more entertaining characters, which it does well.

There's nothing quite as awesome as air pirates, me thinks.

Stereotypical as many of them are, the characters make this film. Dr. Delbert Doppler's awkwardness and Long John Silver's over bearing nature are probably the most unique, though Morph is extremely entertaining in his own right. On the other side are Jim Hawkins and Captain Amelia; both feature very two-dimensional personalities. Jim's lack of uniqueness makes sense when you think that, as the main character, he's supposed to be able able to relate to the everyday man, with all his worries and problems. Making him very outlandish would defeat that purpose. As for Amelia, she was clearly made to be a direct opposite to Doppler, but without as much character development.

Besides personalities, character designs for all the non-human characters are great. Each one is made to be humanoid enough to where they blend in very well with the humans, but the different animals used allow for a wide range of different designs. My personal favorite design is that of Captain Amelia, who is more cat-like than human, in both appearance and movement.

One thing every character shares are myriad expressions. Doppler and Silver's faces express more than their words, while Amelia's emotions are told by her ears. This is another area where the humans suffer, since they are not exaggerated as much and thus do not have the "extra pieces" to help outwardly express themselves.

Don't pet the kitty when she doesn't want to be petted.

On a random side note, I can't help but compare Doppler to Basil of Baker Street from "The Great Mouse Detective." They both share the ability to greatly vary their expressions in a way that Disney doesn't usually accomplish. Those two characters feature a bit of the magic present in Don Bluth animations.

Yep, I can see it.

The animation took the Deep Canvas technology (originally created for "Tarzan") and used it to develop Virtual Sets, which allowed them to place the camera anywhere in a scene. This is most prominent in any chase scenes and the sea of treasure scene. Computer graphics are widely used in the film, similar to how they were in "Tarzan." However, in "Tarzan" most of the CG rendered naturally occurring items, such as vines and trees. In "Treasure Planet" it's used for mechanics, and it tends to stick out when seen next to a traditionally animated character. The CG robotic character B.E.N. isn't very enthralling (Robin Williams would have done the role justice) but his eyes are rather distracting and his movements don't quite mesh up with other characters. The same thing can be said for Silver's mechanical arm, but it looks as if more effort was put into it to make it blend in.

This design just screams Robin Williams.

Overall, the film has a good story, excellent characters, nice fluid animation, and plenty of laughs. I don't know why this has done so poorly in sales, as both my husband and I found it rather captivating. Even DVD sales have not been great. Maybe it's the "we've seen this story before" mentality, but that's almost every Disney movie, so that doesn't make sense. It has rather good ratings on various sites (including a 68% at Rotten Tomatoes). The general consensus is that the film is "mediocre." For me, though, not every film/novel/etc need be epic. Sometimes it's nice to roll along and just enjoy yourself.

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