Wherein I Gush About 'Titan A.E.'
So very few give this animated movie the respect and appreciation it deserves, and frankly, I'm tired of it.
First of all, let's just get this fact out of the way: Titan A.E. was a financial flop. It only made 36.8 million in the box office, which is just an appalling number when you compare it to what is considered a flop in Disney standards, Treasure Planet, which made 109.6 million.
And I really don't know who to blame for that number. Do I blame the marketing team? Did they not do their job? Do I blame the critics for being way too harsh on a movie that didn't deserve it? Do I blame the movie goers of the time, who clearly didn't know what kind of gem they were blessed with?
You know what? It doesn't even matter at this point because, though it was a financial failure, Titan A.E. is a great animated movie for older audiences, and it deserves your respect.
What the hell is 'Titan A.E.?'
Sit your ungrateful asses down I'm about to summarize a plot. Titan A.E. (after Earth) is a movie set in the future where Earth has been destroyed and the dying last dregs of humanity are given a savior in the form of teenager Cale Tucker with the map that can secure all of humanity a home and the hope of survival.
Okay, stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled should you have somehow avoided watching that movie this far into your life. If you don't care, read on.
Well, how did we destroy Earth? Did we finally blow ourselves up? Well, it's funny you ask, and even more funny that you just automatically assumed we did it to ourselves. No, the alien race known as the Drej were a bunch of salty deadbeats who were scared of what humans could do with the powerful Project Titan, which is explained later on in the film as being a massive project that enables the creation of a planet. To combat this problem they set out to destroy the entire human race, most easily by just destroying the planet. They nearly succeeded save for the survival of a precious few ships and more importantly the survival of the child of the scientist who succeeded with Titan. Enter, Cale.
The movie sees him first as a young boy stricken with the loss of his father, and then later as a teenager, who is not quite content with his life but not sure what to do about it either. During an attempt to cut line after a working shift he runs into another human, Akima Kunimoto, which then leads him to meeting Joseph Korso who knew his father. He joins them on their ship, the Valkyrie, with the rest of their crew: Preed, Stith, and Gune. They journey to find the Titan that could give humanity a fighting chance, pursued by the Drej and facing challenges that change them all.
Towards the end of the movie you find out Korso is a no-good, dirty rat, Preed is his slimy accomplice, but Cale and Akima are rebellious teens on a mission that sees them destroy the Drej and do away with their treacherous crew mates in time to start up Titan and create the planet Bob.
Yes. Bob. Cale decided the name of his new planet would be Bob. Wish there was a sequel so I could know what he named his kids.
Why did people hate it then?
Honestly, I'm not entirely sure. Some complaints were that the plot was too formulaic and not original enough. Okay, but Fast and Furious is still going despite always being about people driving fast cars and literally not much else? For me, I'd never seen a movie about aliens not only attacking Earth but succeeding in completely destroying it. What was unoriginal about a movie where humans are not only considered the equivalent of losers to other alien races, but that their number one enemies were literally energy?
Were there plot holes? You bet your bottom dollar. That critique could go to so many movies that are critically acclaimed though. This isn't Star Wards though, they weren't about to dedicate the kind of manpower you would need to draw out a two and a half hour animated movie just to give you guys some background knowledge when you can just state the problem and go. Did you think the plot moved too fast? So did Men In Black, honestly, but nobody was about to argue with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Especially not Tommy.
Even if a plot is fast-paced, so long as the directors can get you to suspend your disbelief quickly enough, such a thing won't bother you until later rumination. For me, Titan A.E. hooked me quickly enough to not think about how maybe Cale shouldn't have just run off with the next pair of humans he met.
Why do I like it so much?
Thank you for asking, I have a list.
- The animation style is one I adored when I first saw it, I think... maybe a few years after its initial release. At that time, I hadn't seen too many animated films that meshed so much 3D animation with traditionally drawn styles. For example, many of the background would be rendered in 3D, and outer space itself would be along with the ships. The Drej were completely 3D, making an interesting contrast when the clashed with the crew of the Valkyrie. The whole "Wake Angel" scene was beautifully done because it was in 3D, giving it an otherworldly feel that matched well with the surreal scene of Cale piloting the ship to mimic the flight of those bird-like alien creatures.
- The voice actors. It's not a compelling reason, I'll grant you, but I loved that my rebellious little Cale was voiced by Matt Damon. And Akima as Drew Barrymore! Ugh. Of course, now I question why they didn't find an Asian actress for the role but you know, I think perhaps animated characters aren't as big an issue as live action movies white washing characters. Oh, big shout out to Timon playing Preed, one of the villains.
- The soundtrack was just so great. Sometimes I'll go on YouTube just to listen to try and find a video of the Wake Angel scene they haven't taken down yet so I can put it on loop to get that combination of The Urge and that animation. The bands who participated in the soundtrack really worked to add some funky electric sounds to incorporate that cosmic element of the movie and keep the audience still understanding this movie is a science fiction flick before giving them those power chords. "Not Quite Paradise" by Bliss 66 anyone? And OH MY GOD "Cosmic Castaway" by Electrasy is such quality.
- Badass females, which isn't a defining factor for everyone, I understand, but as a girl myself I just love female characters with more brass than most of the men in the films. Akima Kunimoto is of course who generally comes to mind, but we can't forget the trigger happy Stith! Maybe she got duped by Korso, but they all did, and no matter what was happening, she was a fighter who wanted to do the best for her crew. Akima kept Cale in line from time to time, and was seemingly a trusted and talented crew member valued by Korso before his reveal as a traitor.
So in Conclusion...
People are sleeping on this film and it's not only disrespectful, it's just sad for them. Titan A.E.'s problem may have been that it just wasn't meant for that particular time, but that can't be right because that animation and soundtrack and overall feel of that movie is so wonderfully nostalgic to the beginning of the 21st century that it makes my heart swell. I'm not sure honestly, but I do know that if you gave this article a chance and haven't seen the movie that you need to at least try it once—view the whole thing from start to finish and see what your opinion is. Are there any movies that you seriously consider underrated that you think got an unfair wrap? What cult classics didn't bloom in the box office, but have planted a firm love in your heart?