Cool Things: Titan A.E

Does anyone else out there remember this movie? Because it was awesome.

It had a pop-punk soundtrack that was either the best or the worst of it’s era, depending on how much you like that kind of thing, and the art, both hand drawn and digital, was beautiful. The CG hasn’t held up that well with time but for a film produced in the 1990s and released in the year 2000 it’s pretty impressive. The hand drawn stuff is just plain top of the line, classic stuff. It’s never going to age or look bad.

Seriously, whether you absolutely love space opera or you’re just looking for a fun, simple primer to the genre, you can’t go wrong with this movie. It’s animated, sure, but the story is not just for kids, the main characters are fun and the animation is gorgeous. Makes you wonder why there aren’t more fully animated space operas – it really solves the problem of aliens looking fake next to their human counterparts.

Okay, enough about how this film looks. It’s a visual treat but movies need to be more for me to recommend them.

Titan A.E. is an incredibly bold movie, a reminder of different times. For starters, look at the title. That “A.E.” part? It stands for “after Earth” and it’s a signifier of time period, like B.C., A.D. or B.C.E. Yes, this film begins with the death of Planet Earth, not from pollution or relentless warfare but planet destroying superbeings! Humanity has somehow drawn the ire of an alien race called the Drej who decide that blowing up our planet is the best way to deal with us. We’re not told explicitly what they dislike about us but we do know it’s somehow tied to a large spaceship called the Titan.

The creators of the Titan manage to get it off Earth before the planet is destroyed but they kind of disappear afterwards. Cale, our hero, is the son of a chief scientist on the project who’s left effectively an orphan. Humanity, with no home planet or interstellar real estate to work from, is left a poor and dying race and Cale is drifting from job to job and focuses on just scraping by.

Then he meets Captain Joe Korso, someone who claims that he knew Cale’s father and shows Cale that his father left him a clue to find the Titan. And in no time we’re off to find the Titan and see if it can still help humanity in some way – after all, the Drej still seem to want it.

In little, tiny pieces or possibly thrown into the heart of a sun.

There’s a lot of chasing, a lot of searching and a lot of cool spaceships in flight from that point onward. Sure, the story’s not exactly fresh, it basically boils down to a race for the MacGuffin. Sure, Cale’s not a terribly original character and you’ll either love or hate the supporting cast, much like the music, but the whole thing is done with so much heart and cheer that it’s almost impossible not to have fun when you’re watching it.

Titan A.E. isn’t an instant classic but it is a good piece of film trying to do something that animation hasn’t always shot at: Telling honest stories looking at human nature in an straight forward way suitable for all ages. It’s worth seeing on that account alone.

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