1 The Mickey Mindset: Disney Animation Reviews #41: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Disney Animation Reviews #41: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Disney Movie Review: 41/52 - Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Ryan Dosier - Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) is a film that is hard to categorize and discuss. It is an action-adventure period piece while also being a mythical sci-fi fantasy. The idea to pair these genres is a noble one, but unfortunately for the most part the execution in Atlantis just does not work. It lacks the excitement of the action in Tarzan or the solid humor in The Emperor’s New Groove and makes for an overall disappointing film.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some strong aspects to Atlantis, because there are a few. The voice acting is very good for each character. The large cast allowed for many talented voice actors to show their chops. Michael J. Fox stars as Milo Thatch and he is unsurprisingly great. Though all of the voices (really, all of them) are great, my favorite is Jim Varney, who voices the chef Cookie. Varney (best known as his character Ernest) also voiced Slinky Dog in the first two Toy Story films and he brings his unbridled down-home country humor to every role. Cookie is hysterical and has the best lines of any character. The great Leonard Nimoy even voices the king of Atlantis and handles it deftly (as only Nimoy can). 

The background design and character design is also spectacular. The backgrounds become exceedingly breathtaking as the film dives deeper and deeper into Atlantis. The design work done on the Atlantean city, language, and artwork is outstanding and is truly the highlight of the film. The characters also look great and strikingly different from any other human characters from Disney. They have well defined features and realistic muscles and bone structures. It is quite impressive.

One of the first problems that Atlantis encounters early on is its scope. It is simply too big to contain in one hour and a half long film. There are so many characters and so much to explore that the surface is barely scratched in the movie. The large cast of characters is especially problematic. Though all of them have their likable traits, they all outshine one another in a rampage of one-liners. Too many funny supporting characters water down the humor and Atlantis is a prime example of this.

The plot is also convoluted and extremely difficult to follow. Again, there is far too much story being told in far too little amount of time. So many scenes and plot points could have been edited down to be more simplistic but instead there are complicated magic rules, odd discussions about ancient customs, and many other confusing moments. The story is too densely packed to enjoy. Oddly enough, the great Joss Whedon is credited for some of the story of Atlantis, which at least explains some of the better dialogue. 

Atlantis is jam-packed with violence and action—perhaps the most in any Disney animated feature to date. There are literally hundreds of deaths in the film, which is jarring when watching a Disney film. This action-heavy style can work, of course, but only when the emotions balance it out. That is not at all the case with Atlantis. There is no emotional connection to any of the characters so all of this hard work and action goes to waste. The care and dedication put into the animated action sequences is astounding and breathtaking, but this same care and passion was not put into the story so it all feels fruitless.

Definitely one of the weaker Disney films, Atlantis: The Lost Empire never becomes anything wonderful. It has plenty of potential to be great, but with a weak story, massive cast of characters, and little emotional connection, the film falters. The great voice acting and the astounding visuals make Atlantis worth watching at least once, but after that don’t be surprised if it remains lost.

1.5/5 Flying Fish Things

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