Lost in space
|In Treasure Planet, young Jim Hawkins (the voice of Joseph Gordon-Levitt) leaves home to work as a cabin boy on a space galleon. The movie is a sci-fi twist on Robert Louis Stevensons novel Treasure Island.
By STEVE PERSALL, Times Film Critic
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 28, 2002
Disney's animators know which keys to click on a computer, but their hearts don't seem to be in their jobs anymore. Treasure Planet is the most emotionally sterile -- and therefore forgettable -- animated film from the Mouse House since the slump days of Oliver and Co.
Disney's Treasure Planet is more ho-hum than humdinger.
Three weeks after a Treasure Planet screening, I can barely recall seeing it. Not a single scene, and barely a character or set design, stuck with me. And this comes from someone who enjoyed Atlantis: The Lost Empire, a movie with similar adventurous tones now politely treated as a guest in the Disney family since it didn't make a fortune.
Treasure Planet will get its big opening weekend because Disney pays through its ears for that. After that, it's going to sail into the black hole of home video, trumpeted as another animation classic simply because of its lineage. I'd rather watch Pocahontas again.
Technically speaking, putting a sci-fi spin on Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island is promising. Setting the author's pirate adventure in outer space presents plenty of design opportunities for scurvy alien sailors and extraterrestrial dogfights among buccaneer ships. Nothing is wrong with the visual qualities of Treasure Planet, yet all that zippy motion and excessive doodling doesn't add up to much.
Stevenson's plot outline remains: Young Jim Hawkins (voice of Joseph Gordon-Levitt) leaves home to work as a cabin boy on a space galleon. The ship's cook, John Silver (Brian Murray) takes Jim under his wing, although he's really a pirate planning mutiny. Everyone is searching for Treasure Planet, a legendary place where pirates stash their fortunes.
Yo-ho-ho and a lot of ho-hum.
Perhaps Stevenson's idea of adventure is outdated, or maybe updated to such a frantic degree that the power of its simplicity is lost. The opening scenes are interesting, with Jim involved in a space battle that turns out to be the product of a hyper-realistic pop-up book -- actually a pretty good description of the movie. Once you've seen that sequence, you've seen the rest of the space-sailing crises, although later backdrops of black holes and space storms add visual variety.
One hopes that Disney learns a lesson this year from comparing the warm response for a modestly composed, emotion-driven animated film such as Lilo & Stitch and the indifference I eventually expect for Treasure Planet. Computer artists can take moviegoers to the stars but the best animated fantasies, the ones that last, make us wish upon them.
- Grade: C-plus
- Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker
- Cast: Voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brian Murray, David Hyde Pierce, Martin Short, Emma Thompson, Roscoe Lee Browne
- Screenplay: Rob Edwards, based on the novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Rating: PG; mild violence
- Running time: 95 min.
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