Opinion: Disney’s Atlantis: the Lost Empire – Good or Trash?

Note: this blog contains spoilers. I implore you to watch the film first before reading.

All images © Disney

I thought Atlantis: the Lost Empire was a great movie.

You’re thinking either one of two things right now. 1. “You liked Atlantis? That crappy Disney flick? How could you even remotely like that? 2. “That isn’t an unpopular opinion! Everyone likes that movie!” Please, let me explain.

To answer the first question: Yeah, well, that’s just, like, my opinion, man. I believe that any opinion has validity as long as one can back it up well. To answer the second question: Not exactly. Critics were pretty divided on this one. Atlantis holds a 52% approval rating on Metacritic, and a 49% on Rottentomatoes. Moreover, audiences are pretty split on this film. Most individuals I personally know either love this movie or dislike it. In fact, the above two questions are actual responses I received.

Now, the obvious question is, why such a split opinion?

There are a few reasons for this, but first let’s look at the film’s history. At the time of this film’s release, Disney was just coming out of the Disney Renaissance. Not knowing where to go next, it seems that Disney wanted to forego their usual musical format and attempt to connect with older audiences.

However, since it was simultaneously an adult-oriented film and a Disney film, individuals were confused over who exactly this film was being marketed to. Disney’s plan obviously failed, and the film was a critical and commercial disappointment.

So, why do many individuals have a low opinion of this film?

Well, the plot is a little contrived. See if this sounds familiar: Group wishes to destroy a civilization for their own personal gain. In the film, Rourke wishes to steal the crystal, Atlantis’ life source, and make money off of it. This would kill the citizens of Atlantis as a result.  The main character, who is a part of this group, breaks his affiliation with the group to help save the civilization. In the film, Milo betrays the team that he discovered Atlantis with to help save the civilization. If you read this and thought, “Gee, this sounds like Dances with WolvesFernGully: the Last Rainforest, and/or Avatar!” you would be correct. The film’s story line isn’t exactly groundbreaking or original.

And for many individuals, a weak plot = a bad movie.

Moreover, some of the characters are one-dimensional, especially the main villain, Rourke. The only reason he wants the crystal, is to make some big bucks. Money, in all honesty, is a very unoriginal and boring motive for a villain.

Now, after reading this, you might be wondering how I could possibly think this film is great. For me, though plot is very important, it isn’t everything. Though this film lacks a strong, original plot, it makes up for it’s weak plot in other areas. Atlantis, in my opinion is creative, has great pacing, great visuals, good action, and fun characters.

Atlantis Milo and Kida

With regard to characters, most are extremely memorable, entertaining and likable. In fact, Vinny is one of my favorite Disney characters. Every time he is on the screen he’s fun to watch. And almost all of his lines are hilarious:

Moreover, the world that the film creates is fully realized, extremely engrossing and intriguing. The subterranean ruins, as well as Atlantis itself are fully fleshed-out and endearing. Also, the size and scope of these locations is massive.  Each of these elements makes me want to explore these locations myself.

Here are a few stills of these locations:

Atlantis Subterranean

atlantis subterranean 2

Atlantis panorama 2

The atmosphere is also great. The film has a mysterious mood throughout, especially in the subterranean exploration sequences.  I also really enjoy the animation, which is very fluid and unique. The characters are very stylized, possessing jagged features. At the same time, the characters feel like real people, due to their realistic facial expressions and gestures.  As a whole, the animation very reminiscent of anime, which, as you may know, I’m a big fan of.

Still on the fence about this film? Watch this scene and tell me it isn’t awesome.

Despite these flaws, I think the good in this film vastly outweighs the bad. This film isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but it’s fun, intriguing, and definitely worth a watch.


Three Animated Films that Treat Kids Like Adults

Note: this list is purely opinion. Contains minor spoilers.

Good children’s animated films should never patronize children. In many cases, especially when watching a movie, kids want to be treated like adults. Though children’s animated films should never reach the extent where the plot is too complex, the ideas and themes should not be dumbed-down. Said themes should be handled maturely, while simultaneously being accessible to kids. The following films, though completely accessible to kids, do not talk down to them.

3. The Iron Giant

Director Brad Bird is fantastic at creating stories that are simultaneously complex and simple. In the midst of the cold war, a fifty foot robot crash-lands on earth, eventually befriending a young boy, named Hogarth. The military, wanting to locate the Giant, sends an agent, who is determined to find and destroy it.

The best aspect of this film is it plays as a straight up live-action film. It never feels like a kid’s cartoon. It feels genuine and real, which kids can appreciate, even without realizing it.

Though this film has a very straightforward narrative, it never once patronizes children. It provides very deep themes, such as choosing who you are instead of letting others judge and define you. Overall, it’s a great film that treats kids as though they are intelligent adults.

2. Up

Pixar films are known for their ability to provide fun, endearing characters, while providing mature stories and themes that enable kids to feel smart and grown up. Out of all the Pixar films, I think Up is one of the best at exhibiting this.

The film centers around a bitter old man named Mr. Fredrickson, who obsessed over the loss of his wife. To avoid his home being taken, he ties thousands of balloons to his house and takes off for his dream home location in South America. He meets many fascinating, eccentric characters, such as a boy who accidentally boards his home, an excitable, talking dog named Doug, and a colorful bird.

Within the first fifteen minutes of the film, we see the development of the relationship between Mr. Fredrickson and his wife beginning from childhood into marriage, and beyond. We see hardships they face, such as a miscarriage and the death of Mr. Fredrickson’s wife.

Not many films provide such an intense, emotionally charged opening as this film does. Moreover, there is no dialogue. It’s completely done through visuals and the musical score.

The film accepts that these kids are mature enough to handle these issues, and can understand the narrative purely though images and music.

On the surface, the rest of the film looks very surreal and silly. Besides the floating house, there are dogs that talk though communicators and fly airplanes, along with a goofy, colorful bird. However, underneath the surface are some very strong, dramatic, and touching elements that treat kids in mature way.

Like the beginning of the film, one of the ways that the film treats kids like adults is through its relationships. For instance, the relationship between Mr. Fredrickson and the boy develops into a protective, caring surrogate father and a son.  The film’s perfect mix of ridiculousness and drama enables children to absorb the deeper elements, while never once patronizing kids.

1. The Secret of NIMH

Director Don Bluth is one of the best at creating children’s films that treat kids like adults. He never dumbs down the themes or ideas within his films in fear that children may not understand them. Bluth’s policy for children’s films is that as long as the film has a happy ending, a child can take virtually anything a film throws at him or her.

The film centers around a widowed rat named Mrs. Brisby, whose home is threatened and child is very ill. She searches for help, eventually finding N.I.M.H., a secret society of immensely intelligent, genetically-altered rats.

Upon becoming intelligent, the rats realize with great power comes great responsibility, including a good sense of morality. Moreover, the film centers around the conflict of nature, science, and magic.

These seem like very complex and deep ideas to be giving children. However, the film keeps these ideas simplistic enough to where they never go beyond the comprehension of a child. The film keeps these ideas complex enough to where they never feel dumbed-down.

Overall, these films provide intelligent yet accessible themes for children and are definitely worth a view.