Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Starring the voices of:
Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Cree Summer, Don Novello, Jim Varney, Leonard Nimoy
Directed By:
Kirk Wise, Gary Trousdale

I'll be honest. I was surprised at the level of maturity of this movie. Unlike most of Disney's animated features, this one seemed to be written for an older age group. Set in the early 1900's, Atlantis begins as Milo Thatch (Fox) tries to convince the museum he works at to fund a fact-finding exploration to Atlantis, a hunt he's so obsessively tried to gain. When the eccentric millionaire Whitmore hands him the Shepherd's Journal, a book detailing how to get to Atlantis written in an archaic language that Milo understands, and an offer to fund his expedition, Milo jumps at the opportunity.

Milo finds himself a part of an odd crew, consisting of a variety of quirky characters, each adding their own humorous part to the story. As the hunt begins, the ship comes under attack by a large mechanical crustacean, an apparent guardian of the lost city. The attack leaves their ship destroyed, numerous crew members dead and the remainder of the crew in an underwater cavern, which fortunately is on the correct path. After some trekking (which is vaguely familiar to Journey to the Center of the Earth), they finally find Atlantis, which has become a decrepit and decayed society. Milo grows a fond relationship with Kida (Summers), the strong-headed princess who tells him of how Atlantis came to this state.

The sets/backgrounds are wonderfully designed by Mike Mignola, and the whole movie comes across with great color and design. Character interactions are nice and the supporting cast is given enough screen-time to add flavor and humor to the story. I found the main characters nicely portrayed, even if a little dry. As with all Disney features, the voiceacting is topnotch and the animation is clean and well realized.

The lack of a musical aspect (no catchy songs to carry moments where the script might be a little thin or plain) and Disney's almost prerequisite cute characters may catch some filmgoers off guard. This is not to say that this good vs. evil tale isn't appropriate for all ages. The story serves as a morality play, garnished with more classical science fiction and action aspects, like an animated Indiana Jones or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Atlantis is a great animated feature that strays from Disney's prepackaged norm. The only real problem I had was with the quick pacing of the story. The first part of the film moves so fast that there is very little time to develop many of the characters. While you're given an idea of what they're like, most feel shallow and you don't get a sense of their motivations. Having said that, if you're looking for an action-based film for the older kids, or those who are just young at heart, check this one out. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

- - Kinderfeld

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