Disney Movie Review: 43/52 - Treasure Planet
Ryan Dosier - With the release of Treasure Planet (2002), Disney animation starts to fall into a rut that they wouldn’t escape for 6-7 years (depending on your opinion). The scope and the ideas behind Treasure Planet are huge and impressive, but the execution is unfortunately lacking on almost all fronts.
The idea to take Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island to space is an interesting one, but one has to wonder if a more straightforward animated adaptation would have been better. Yes, space is modern and fun, but the vast landscape in this film fails to capture the adventurous nature of the original story. Give me the high seas and desert islands for Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver over spaceships and robots any day.
But I digress. The flaws present in Treasure Planet are consistent throughout. The character designs of the alien creatures are, for the most part, very weak. There is very little attractive or interesting about the look of the characters. The most appealing is the cyborg Long John Silver, whose robotic arm, eye, and leg are quite appealing. But on the whole, creatures like Dr. Doppler, Captain Amelia, and Billy Bones just do not look good. The designers should’ve taken note from films like Lilo & Stitch for greater looking creatures.
There are numerous dynamic and exciting moments throughout the film, especially near the beginning when Jim is surfing on his flying board. The scene in the supernova is exciting, the climax is exciting, and a handful of other moments are fun, but as a whole the film rests on its laurels. There is a lot of wasted potential that is spent on humdrum montages with Silver and Jim bonding.
The writing of Treasure Planet is weak. The jokes are extremely lazy and involve fart jokes, funny sounds, and silly voices. Gone is the wit and smart dialogue of Lilo & Stitch and The Emperor’s New Groove. It’s very unfortunate that a film written by the men behind The Little Mermaid and Aladdin lacks charm and whip-smart dialogue.
Long John Silver is the only truly entertaining character in the film. He is troubled and appealing throughout and is the only character that really seems to grow. Yes, Jim Hawkins is the protagonist who we’re supposed to root for, but I am more delighted by Silver’s evolution by the end of the movie than I am Jim’s. Silver’s animation is also very impressive, with a great mix of hand drawn and computer generated animation. It’s the first mix of this style on a lead character and it is wonderful.
The voice acting in Treasure Planet is good, but not great. David Hyde Pierce is the most surprisingly entertaining in the film as Dr. Doppler. He is manic and delightful. Martin Short voices B.E.N., and he is fantastic, but doesn’t appear until 45 minutes into the story, which causes him to lose a lot of potential. Short should steal the show, but he doesn’t have enough screen time to make it work.
While Treasure Planet has a few merits, for the most part it lacks any of the magic present in most of the previous Disney features. There are some fun moments and fun characters, but Treasure Planet never reaches any sort of peak. It drudges on until some legitimately exciting moments at the end, but that is not enough to save the film. Treasure Planet has potential to be out of this world, but instead it stays grounded and dull.