Atlantis: The Lost Empire


Atlantis is waiting...

Jurassic Mark

SCORE: 3 Stars

While Disney's Pearl Harbor has critics running for cover, I think most of them will have good things to say about Atlantis. Atlantis is refreshing because its a family movie that avoids coming across as a morality tale. Foremost, Atlantis is an imaginative adventure story.

Our film begins with a quotation: " a single day and night of misfortune, the island of Atlantis disappeared into the depths of the sea." -- Plato, 360 B.C.

In my eighteen hours of college philosophy, I must have missed that one. Then again, I was a lousy student. Let's just say that my GPA doesn't appear anywhere on my resume'. But, I digress.

The movie quickly plunges us into action with a flashback of Atlantis' demise. A giant tidal wave crashes through the outer shield of the city. Mysteriously, the queen leaves her daughter and ascends into the sky. The king and the princess take shelter as the city is enveloped by the ocean. I liked the fact that we aren't spoon fed anything. The secrets of Atlantis' advanced technology and the civilizations decline is never answered until the film's conclusion.

Flash forward roughly 2,300 years to 1914 A.D. Nerdy linguist Milo (Michael J. Fox) believes he has uncovered the location of the lost city. A friend of Milo's late grandfather bankrolls the expedition (like Jurassic Park, sparing no expense). A formidable team is assembled headed by Commander Rourke (James Garner). Garner is 73-years-old, but his voice is as strong as ever. The rest of the crew includes an icy blond, a kind-hearted doctor, a French demolition man, a tough woman engineer, an odd-ball geologist, a lousy cook (the late Jim Varney in his last role) and a lazy secretary.

Despite the early influx of characters, the movie focuses on action. The party immediately encounters the outer defense of Atlantis: a terrific mechanical sea monster that has littered the ocean floor with hundreds of boats that lucklessly wandered too near the lost city.

The remainder of the movie is a wondrous travelogue that only animation can provide. When the expedition finally reaches their destiny, the movie provides us with eye-catching scenery and extraordinary aliens. I was impressed with the artistry and voice work of Atlantis' Princess Kida (Cree Summer). Perhaps the greatest performance comes from gravelly throated Leonard Nimoy as father King Nedakh.

Some will wonder about the coincidence that Atlantis features the voices of Fox (with Parkinson's Disease), septuagenarians Garner and Nimoy and a man dying of cancer (the late Varney). I don't believe that any of the casting arose from sentimentality, but from the Atlantis filmmaker's sincere desire to find the best actors for the job. If there was an ulterior motive, it hardly matters because everyone involved performs splendidly.

Criticisms? Hardly any really. The Hispanic engineer seems poorly drawn compared to the rest of the characters. Her lines are hard and she has strange, puffy lips. And, why would she be wearing bell-bottom jeans in 1914? She looks like she belongs in Speed Racer. Our villain is also disappointing. He's appropriately threatening, but he's too obvious.

I think older kids will enjoy Atlantis (and perhaps the wee ones). Big kids like me certainly will. Disney proves with Atlantis that the mouse is still the king of animation.