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.