Disney’s “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” (2001)

Image: Disney, Wikipedia

PLOT –

The plot of “Atlantis” is that of an adventure film with high hopes. We have the classic character setups, the call to adventure, the rising action and peril as we reach the destination, the secrets within the destination itself, and the final outcome.

Yes, we do have it all, but it’s boring, tedious, and overly complex. There are several minute-long sequences that can be cut and not change the plot at all, and several questions are left unanswered at the end. The divide between pure science and magic is blurred here, and the audience is left as confused as the characters at the end of the film.

There are also several character beats that don’t really make sense, such as some crosses and double-crosses near the end (that happen mere minutes from each other) and some characters that aren’t really needed at all, but we’ll get into that in the next section. These high hopes shoot for the moon but don’t even touch the atmosphere.

My PLOT RATING is 4 / 10.

CHARACTERS – 

Milo (Michael J. Fox) is quite the earnest character when we first meet him. Milo never really leaves that science comfort part of his life and steps up as a hero, serving as a guide to the crew. He feels so out of place in the real world intentionally, and feels more at home in Atlantis as the film goes on. His voice doesn’t really match his character design well, however, and is somewhat jarring.

Helga (Claudia Christian) is the classic femme fatale, the wild card whose alliances are in question throughout, yet she isn’t seen much. She’s competent and brave, yet her constant anti-heroism doesn’t flow with the plot.

Preston Whitmore (John Mahoney) is mostly the benefactor of the expedition who has a cameo at the beginning and end. His voice doesn’t really match his character, and while I like his design, it’s too similar to Cookie, another character here.

Moliere (Corey Burton) is an annoying character obsessed with dirt, uncleanliness, and digging. He’s basically a mole…. Moving on now…

Doctor Sweet (Phil Morris) is a kindhearted doctor who mixes social matters and medicine. He is the heart of the group and helps where he can.

Vinny (Don Novello) is the demolitions expert. His one-liners help save the film, and his deadpan, snarky manner make him one of my favorite characters in the film.

Audrey (Jacqueline Obradors) is a young female Latin American mechanic. She acts tough around the crew, and is really hands on with machinery. She has a soft spot towards the others and has a good heart.

Cookie (Jim Varney) is the crazy cook. Most, if not all of his dishes consist of beans and only beans, and his character does have some funny moments, but they mostly center on the same joke or two.

Mrs. Packard (Florence Stanley) is one of the best characters here. She’s the sarcastic ‘done-with-it’ secretary character that we can all relate to. Every line from her is delivered with the most bored tone, and it’s all gold.

Rourke (James Garner) is the leader of the expedition. He is strong, confident, and intelligent. He does have a dark secret however, but is one of the best characters in the film structure-wise. Interestingly enough, as of this writing, I’m making my way through the show Maverick starring James Garner. Funny how life works out…

Kida (Natalie Strom, Cree Summer) is a pretty good character here, yet at the end of the film her personality goes absent, and it is unexplained why this change was needed. She does bond with Milo over the culture and language of the Atlanteans, which is nice.

Atlantean King (Leonard Nimoy) doesn’t have much character. He is more of a plot device than anything, similar to his daughter. While not wasted, Leonard Nimoy could have had some better time in this role.

Mr. Harcourt (David Ogden Stiers) has a brief cameo at the beginning, looking heavyset as all Stiers characters are, and he does help spur Milo on his journey to Atlantis.

All of the characters are great on their own, but in an ensemble piece that lasts 96 minutes, they don’t have enough screen time to shine as bright as they could be, and they all rely on stereotypes and overused character conventions.

My CHARACTERS RATING is 5 / 10.

DIALOGUE – 

The dialogue here is pretty good, and it works for the characters. Not much about Atlantis is explained, however, but the actors all get their share of lines and moments, however small they may be. Novello and Stanley get some of the best one-liners, and overall, Fox and Garner move the plot forward. No lines are really that memorable though, mostly while watching the film.

My DIALOGUE RATING is 6 / 10.

EFFECTS – 

The effects in this film are pretty good, mostly traditional 2D animation blended with some CGI elements that do glaringly stand out. One of the most impressive is a huge Leviathan, and the Ulysses ship the characters ride at the beginning of the film. Lighting effects shine here, and the backgrounds look good, if bland in some places.

My EFFECTS RATING is 7 / 10.

MUSIC – 

There are no lyrical songs in this film, and the music isn’t that memorable, but serviceable for the film. “Where the Dream Takes You” by Mya is okay at best, generic and bland at worst.

My MUSIC RATING is 5 / 10.

OVERALL –

Atlantis is only serviceable as a film when it wants to be amazing. They really tried too hard, added CGI elements, hired some top-name talent, and put their all into this film, but something somewhere didn’t gel well with the general public. I barely remember this film after watching it, and aside from the Leviathan scene and the laughs from some one-liners, I barely remember watching it as a child. This film could have worked better as a television series. They could have had better pacing for story and characters, more budget for effects, and more memorable dialogue and music than this film that thought it could have done all that in such a short time.

Image: Disney, Charactercentral.net

My OVERALL RATING for Disney’s Atlantis is 27%.

Next time…

We exit the ocean around Atlantis…

Only to enter a much larger ocean…

Home to Lilo and Stitch.

Stay tuned!

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