Titan A.E. (for "AfterEarth") is an animated science fiction film released in 2000 and directed by Don Bluth.In 3028, humans create the Titan, a spaceship representing the pinnacle of human achievement. Threatened by humanity's potential, the Drej, a race of energy beings, attack and destroy Earth. The Titan manages to launch and escape, but it disappears in the aftermath, along with its primary creator Sam Tucker. The humans who survive the destruction of their planet become the homeless of the galaxy, living as laborers for alien species or on cobbled-together drifter colonies. Fifteen years later, Sam Tucker's son Cale is recruited into a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who set out to find the lost Titan and restore hope to humanity, all the while hunted by the Drej.Titan A.E. was quite well received by critics, but unfortunately it was a commercial disaster, leading to the closure of Fox Animation Studios, and pretty much ending Bluth's career. In a case of Dueling Movies, the superficially similar Treasure Planet released around the same time also flopped badly, taking funding for traditional Western Animation along with it. A variety of explanations for the film's failure have been suggested:
The movie eventually managed to find an audience, and has become something of a Cult Classic. It is worth watching for its impressive visuals, cheerful willingness to embrace and lampshade sci-fi tropes, and the wittier parts of the script.
Gune: Does this look familiar? Do you know what it is? Neither do I. I made it last night in my sleep. Apparently I used Gindrogac—highly unstable. I put a button on it, yes. I wish to press it, but I'm not sure what will happen if I do...
Action Girl: Akima. She flies, she shoots, she scores! And Stith is a kickass screaming Amazon with not only a great big gun, but a freakin' weapons turret in a spaceship. Although "Amazon" might be an understatement for someone who is naturally around 10 feet tall.
Anti-Villain: Korso again. He's later revealed to have been working with the Drej, the guys responsible for blowing up Earth, the last hope for humanity. From what we can gather from the few hints dropped in the movie Korso might have just lost all hope of being able to beat the Drej and decided to take what he could get. Watching them destroy his planet and allow the human race to slowly die out within fifteen years might explain his actions along with some other possible reasons that happened off screen between the prologue and the start of the movie. He does make a Heel-Face Turn during the climax of the film. Whether its out of remorse, because he had nothing left to lose or both, he did ultimately help save humanity.
It's also worth noting that his actions during the Prologue suggest he sincerely believed in the Titan project and Cale's father, but when Cale's father died and the Titan vanished into the aether, he lost all hope.
Bowdlerise: For the home video release, Cale had the gun in his hand taken out and redrawn with his hand outstretched showing the map. This was due to the Columbine High School shooting incident at the time the film was being made in 1999.
Bloodless Carnage: Averted. This is possibly Bluth's bloodiest film, with characters getting shot, impaled, and one gets blown up into a pile of green goo on screen. The most unusual example being when a character bleeds copiously in zero-gravity and it just floats everywhere.
Chekhov's Gun: Korso's rant about how trying to defeat the Drej is futile because they're pure energy. At the end, when Kale is trying to start up the Titan (whose fuel cells have long since run dry) he recalls Korso's speech and figures out that he can use the Drej's own energy to power the ship.
Chickification: Refreshingly averted. Stith kicks energy-being ass all the way through, and Akima shows no signs, even after being shot by Preed.
The Chosen Zero: Cale, at least as far as Akima and Preed are concerned at the beginning:
Akima: This is just great. We cross half the galaxy and nearly get our butts shot off by the Drej just so we can rescue the window washer. Cale: Hey! I happen to be Humanity's last great hope! Preed:I weep for the species...
Conspicuous CG: There's a rather jarring contrast between the computer-generated and traditional hand animation. Though this may be intentional in order to drive home how alien the Drej are.
Dark Is Not Evil: The Gaoul are creepy part-bat part-pterosaur aliens... who happen to be quite helpful in finding the Titan and escaping the Drej.
Deadpan Snarker: All of the crew, especially Preed, have their moments, expect perhaps Gune.
Death Is the Only Option: Captain Korso at first made a deal with the Drej that would let them destroy the Titan in exchange for money and a "Do Not Kill" tag. After Cale Tucker saved his life, Korso returned the favor by using himself as a shunt in a huge circuit breaker to help Cale power up the Titan.
Despair Event Horizon: It's implied that crossing this before the start of the movie is the reason Korso tries to hand Cale over to the Drej.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: During the battle in the climax, when Stith and Akima are fighting off the Drej with the laser turrets, they seem to act more like overly enthusiastic teenagers at an arcade than freedom fighters holding the last line of defense.
Dying Race: Humanity. In addition to those lost during the destruction of Earth, many have been lost to the hostile galaxy they've been forced to take refuge in, while others have simply given up. Korso believes that in a few generations they'll be reading about them in history books and displaying their bones in alien museums.
The sad part is neither film won, despite both of them being very good; in fact both ended up tanking their respective studios. Bluth has yet to produce a new movie in 11 years, and Disney almost decided to completely abandon traditional animation.
The novel explains that the reason the Drej destroyed Earth was that the energy-to-matter technology of the Titan was the same as that which created their species. The Drej queen actually considers using the tech to repair their energy source before deciding it's too dangerous.
Energy Beings: The Drej, sort of. What the Drej really are is far more complex: The novel seems to indicate that the Drej have mastered the transfer of matter to energy and can easily reverse the process.
At the end of the movie, the heroes actually use the Drej mothership to power the Titan.
Executive Meddling: Fox Animation Studios is blamed by the directors in the DVD commentary for starving the movie of both time and money, forcing them to produce a product they were not happy with; as a result the film is unfinished at best.
Explosive Decompression: Averted for once. The original script for the scene in question had Korso and Cale inhaling. They found out later that this would actually increase the likelihood of death and rewrote that scene to have Korso tell Cale to exhale (to a bit of vocal protest from Cale). If you look closely, you can see that he animation was made before the change with Cale inhaling.
However, the above also makes sense if one assumes that Cale didn't listen to Korso and inhaled anyway, which would explain why in the next scene Cale was unconscious in the medical bay, while Korso was already up and about.
Expy: Both Cale's character design and deadpan snarker attitude (along with his animation as well, for that matter) are virtually dead-ringers for Dimitri from Anastasia, a previous Don Bluth/Gary Goldman movie.
Family-Unfriendly Death: In scenes that are very dark, even for Don Bluth, Preed has his neck broken by Korso, who in turn is electrocuted. Also Gune's body thumping against the wall after shielding an explosion.
And early on, there's the insectoid cook that gets splattered by the Drej.
Fanservice: Both Cale and Akima get scenes of brief nudity in the film.
Fantastic Racism: Humans are regarded as the homeless of space, and despised accordingly.
Guard: You're lying! He's not a slave and you're not traders. He doesn't carry himself like a slave! Look at the way he stands... probably ex-military. Akrennian traders always threaten before they ask a favor, it's tradition. [to Stith] And your robes are made out of bedspreads. Preed: Just out of curiosity, did we have a plan "B"? [Stith charges the guard and lays him out with a brutal Boot to the Head] Preed: An intelligent guard. Didn't see that one coming.
And then, Cale uses the Titan to destroy the Drej and create a new planet.
Hypocritical Humour: The Alien Cook refers to humans as being highly unsanitary and considers their preferred food to be disgusting. He's a alien cockroach who apparently serves alien faeces and living creatures in the food he serves.
I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Stith's annoyance that Korso has her doing repair work on the Valkyrie. Despite being intelligent and skilled enough to perform them, she's rants how she's definitely not a mechanic, but a soldier.
Akima "If you can fix it, I can fly it!". Could be justified: in her own novel, Akima's Story, she trains as an Ace Pilot in ships designed for Bizarre Alien Biology. It was probably a relief to fly one purpose-built for her anatomy for a change. The basics would have been the same in the Phoenix (roll, pitch, yaw), with computer systems and controls in a language she could understand. Furthermore, the film makes it clear that the rebuilding of the Phoenix took some time (despite their rush), which could have given her enough time to get familiar with it's controls.
Cale too, when he steals an energy-construct Drej fighter to escape from the mothership. There is a shakier justification in Cale's Story. He is depicted as having an almost magical touch with any technology. Also note, while he's flying it, the ship is bobbing around sloppily, and he hits the walls several times just getting out of the Drej ship. He's managing to fly it, sure, but just barely.
Indy Hat Roll: Cale quickly props the Valkyrie's airlock door open with a floor grate during his and Akima's escape from the ship.
Karmic Death: After the Drej destroy Earth, how does humanity end up building a new homeworld? Why, harvesting the energy Drej are made of in an inversion of Human Resources to power the device to make a new, viable replacement world!
Kick the Dog: Shown when the alien cook at the salvage yard is reduced to goo despite offering to help the Drej, showing that the Drej don't exclusively kill Humans, but pretty much anyone they find even mildly annoying.
Cook:No no! Down there! He went down there! Down— [BAM!] Ohh... Bulls-eye...
Laser Cutter: Cale uses something like a laser chainsaw on the job in the beginning, to cut up space junk for salvage. How does the blade stop? It doesn't, that thing was huge.
Magic Bullets: Averted when the Drej come for Cale; despite Korso's efforts, an overturned cafeteria table doesn't offer much protection at all from Drej weapons.
Meaningful Name: The Phoenix, the ship Cale and Akima chase down Korso with, was just a derelict attached to the New Bangkok drifter colony until they refurbished it. Also refers to the new life they give to the human race, who have definitely been living in the ashes for years.
Human Salvage Worker: Go through the docks and you'll get yourself killed! Cale: Coward! You know the odds of a ship docking are a thousand to one! (Cue the Valkyrie) Cale: And that would be the one...
Not So Different: The novelization reveals this of the Drej compared to post-Earth humanity; much like the surviving humans fighting to survive without a home, the Drej are on the brink due to their technology breaking down in ways they don't know how to fix.
Not to mention that both species attempted genocide in hopes of getting rid of a virulent enemy. Only difference was that the humans succeeded in their attempt and it was done out of self-defense and not malice.
Parental Abandonment: Par for the course, being a Don Bluth film. The surviving Earthlings have even lost their mother planet, so some critics have dubbed it "The Ultimate Don Bluth Film".
Petting Zoo People: Most of the alien designs are like this, so they rather come off as typical children's cartoon talking animals, until they start shooting people, getting their necks broken, and so on. It's all part of the film's split personality.
Proud Warrior Race: Stith's species, the Mantrin, are rather Klingon-like in their habits (and diet!).
In general stellar objects are insanely miniaturized. Nebulas appear to be a few ship lengths tall, distanced between stars and moons are covered in a matter of days or hours with sub-light speed propulsion systems.
Akima, when jettisoned from the Drej ship in the middle of a nebula but is picked up by slavers in matter of hours.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: From the novelization; the Drej believe that if humans are allowed to replicate their technology, they'll eventually destroy the Drej with it, thus leading to the destruction of Earth. This fear is so deep-seated that when the Drej have the chance to later salvage the Titan and use it to repair their nearly dead mothership, they decide to destroy it anyway and hope they can solve their problems without it. The Drej firing on the Titan to destroy it is exactly what lets Cale steal their energy to power it.
Space Is Cold: A very rare aversion. According to the commentary, a line that got deleted from the final cut mentioned Cale's blood being frozen due to exposure. If that one simple line hadn't been cut, this trope wouldn't have been averted.
In the movie, the cook is killed very early on by the Drej. In the novelization, he merely disappears and his fate is unknown.
Another, albeit-more-subtle example, in the film, Cale's father is clearly mentioned as having died and the characters never question this. In the novel, they merely say that the character is "probably" dead.
Stealth Pun: After Cale gets back, Korso tells him that Gune needs a hand. Literally, Gune needs Cale's hand.
Storyboard Body: There is a story behind the tattoo on Cale's right arm, but the only place it is explained is in theCale's Storynovel. Paradoxically, the story behind the tattoo was probably invented after the fact for the novel, since the experience that earned him that mark should have made him far less cynical.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Used weirdly throughout. In the world of the film, the phrase would more accurately be "What Measure is a Human?", because Earthlings are the Butt Monkey minorities after the destruction of Earth. That said, the human characters get away more or less unscathed when the action gets hot — but it's okay to have the alien characters get fried, get their necks snapped, and get turned into chunky salsa.
Of course, nearly the entire human race was eradicated... and we do see one human get pretty graphically electrocuted.
Stith thoroughly averts this in that she is not the typical human (or alien) cutie and she hates doing repairs, though she is rather handy with weapons, as befitting her intelligent and aggressive but not at all mechanical character.