Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 4.9/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 6/10

ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE (2001) - Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

Atlantis is a legendary island first mentioned by the Greek philosopher Plato. It was known as a naval power that conquered many parts of Western Europe around 9600 BC. After a failed invasion of Athens, Atlantis mysteriously sank into the ocean. Now this is the perfect element for Walt Disney Pictures to bring to life to intrigue its young audience. 

From the directors of Beauty and the BeastAtlantis: The Lost Empire sets itself in the year of 1914, telling the story of a young cartographer named Milo (Michael J. Fox) who is alienated for his research on Atlantis and believes that he has found "The Shepherd's Journal," an ancient manuscript that contains directions to the lost island. The film follows Milo and a crew of adventurers as they attempt to discover the city.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire, at the time, made greater use of CGI than any of Disney's previous features. In addition, it remains one of the few to have been "shot" in anamorphic format. IfAtlantis was traditionally animated instead, then it might have lost its visual power, which is the strongest element in this film. The visuals are breathtaking and unique, especially for a Disney movie at the time. The native language of the city was created by Marc Okrand, and every detail is presented, enhancing the experience of "living" at the lost island. It delivers a dimension of reality for the civilization, and with the help of computer-generated imagery, they feel as real as ever. This overwhelming wonder was largely because of the film's digital production. Instead of focusing on a deep script like before, directors Trousdale and Wise both used a "virtual camera" for the cinematic shots within the film. With the ability to operate in the z-plane, the camera was able to move through wire-frame sets, creating a unique 2D and 3D experience.

The score was organically written and harmonically fresh, scored by the renowned James Newton Howard. In Atlantis, several key scenes did not contain any dialogue, and relied on visuals and music to convey the scenes' emotions to the audience. With an elegant combination of chimes and bells, James Newton Howard pulled off an impressive and expressive soundtrack.

Underneath all the fascination of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, the characterization and script are both heavily flawed. It struggles to be complex enough for adults yet simple enough for children and ends up giving neither audience exactly what it wants. Michael J. Fox is a terrific voice actor, and here it is clear that he tried his best to bring Milo to life. In a way, he did. However, the characters alone in writing concept were bland and not fully fleshed out. I found it extremely difficult to care for any single character in this film. 

The Disney creators invited us to dive under the sea to the mystical world of Atlantis. Unfortunately they forgot to bring an engaging plot with them. They trailed off the script way too much for the visuals, similar to DinosaurAtlantis, made by clever people, was not the least bit interested in being clever itself, except maybe one minor character in the film.Atlantis pays much attention to the architectural designs, however too much attention. It requires more depth and meaning for the characters, the people who we as audience members follow and fall in love with, something that Disney was effortlessly good at. Here, it is all missing, lost in the waters. The thin line between visual eye candy and true storytelling gets crossed back and forth. In summary, Atlantis: The Lost Empire should have been more daring. It loses sight of character and story behind all the spectacles that are still enjoyable to behold.

In conclusion, Atlantis: The Lost Empire is still a delightful movie. Despite Atlantis being a special addition to the Disney canon, it is still a peculiar animated film that features no children, no cute creatures, and no songs. It bears its own form of nostalgia, different from all other Disney movies. The story is exceedingly bland and also familiar, but Atlantis: The Lost Empire remains an eye-popping adventure. The distinctive direction that Disney took with this movie is what makes it memorable. It is rich with invention and lyricism, a nice entertaining way to bring the legend of Atlantis to life.


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