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...
The Ace: Cale is able to fix things pretty quickly, and is usually smart enough to figure out things such as escaping the Drej prison cell, or powering the Titan back up.
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.
Adam and Eve Plot: When the hero and heroine find the eponymous ship, onboard are genetic samples for long-destroyed Earth's species. Also, in a way, they are a symbolic "Adam and Eve". However, they do not need to populate the new world, mankind has been scattered across the galaxy and thus, they only need to call humans to the new planet. But who says that they won't anyway?
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.
Batman Can Breathe in Space: Elegantly averted. Korso and Cale make a magnificently scientifically-accurate "jump" from their damaged and drifting shuttle to the airlock of another ship. They even remember to exhale first, and are treated afterwards for frozen skin and decompression. In the novelization, they even shut their eyes and spray their faces with foam from the fire extinguisher before they make the jump, to protect the delicate tissue there. Hot damn.
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.
Cannot Dream: Preed states that Akrennians do not dream. Of course, they are a totally different species...
Canon: Two short novels came out with the film to help explain the two main characters' pasts and motivations, as well as the world in which it is set.
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...
Colony Drop: Inverted. When the Drej blow up Earth, a piece of it shatters the Moon.
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.
Cale: Having your planet blown up can do that to a species.
Damsel out of Distress: Akima is kidnapped, but by the time the the rest of her crew shows up to rescue her, she's sitting on a pile of unconscious prison Mooks, not distressed in the least. She asks what took them so long.
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, except perhaps Gune.
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.
Earth-Shattering Kaboom: In the first five minutes of the movie, the Drej don't just blow up Earth, they make the planet spin so fast that centrifugal forces blow it up. The explosion itself is particularly impressive. One evacuation shuttle is disintegrated by the blast and at least one other is destroyed by debris from the planet. Huge chunks of Earth then slam into the Moon, breaking parts of it off as well.
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.
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.
Fan of the Past: One of the main characters and several minor ones either collect relics of the destroyed Earth, or continue Earth traditions, like football (soccer to Americans).
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.
Force-Field Door: Cale is thrown into one of these energy jails by the Dredj. Seemingly inescapable, his only hope is to touch the walls, using his fingers force himself out of the cell.
Gadgeteer Genius: Cale is a gifted mechanic; he can often figure out how they work and whats wrong with them after a simple glance. This applies to Drej tech too.
And of course, Cale's father who was the lead scientist in charge of the Titan project, which seems to have been his idea.
Generation Ships: After Earth is destroyed, most of the surviving humans turn their ships into this. Fortunately, this only lasts 15 years until Planet Bob (AKA New Earth) is created.
Genesis Effect: When they finally turn the Titan on, resulting in Planet Bob.
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.
High Voltage Death: A Heroic Sacrifice variant. Captain Korso repays Cale Tucker for saving his life by making a Heroic Sacrifice, by using himself as a shunt in a huge circuit breaker so that Cale can power up the Titan spacecraft. He is seen momentarily roaring in pain from the massive current flowing between the contact points.
Homeworld Evacuation: The alien Drej vaporize Earth in the opening sequence while refugee ships try to escape.
Humans Are Morons: After losing their homeworld, humans are viewed as sort of sentient, endangered vermin unleashed on the galaxy.
Humans Are Special: So special, that the Drej blow up the Earth because they feel threatened by humanity. And then, Cale uses the Titan to destroy the Drej and create a new planet.
Humans Are Survivors: Humanity. Aliens try to kill them off by blowing up Earth, years later those who were evacuated before said Earth-Shattering Kaboom are still hanging in there despite the loss of their planet, being on the bottom of the galactic totem pole and the fact that the nearest thing they have to a home is a bodged together space colony made out of old ships, not to mention that the aforementioned aliens are still out to get them.
Hypocritical Humour: The Alien Cook refers to humans as being highly unsanitary and considers their preferred food to be disgusting. He's an alien cockroach who apparently serves alien feces 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.
Insignificant Little Blue Planet: The aliens don't particularly care that Earth got destroyed. Those that do treat the surviving humanity as scum, teetering at the edge of extinction. The aliens didn't care, but the humans sure did. In fact, the entire movie is based around finding a device that can rebuild Earth. This proves to be a Despair Event Horizon for Korso, but he gets better.
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!
Keep Away: There's a scene where some bat-like aliens do this with the protagonist as the "ball" to keep him safe. They're running away from the villains, and they're passing Cale to each other as they're shot down by the bad guys.
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.
Magic Compass: The star chart embedded in Cale Tucker's hand reorients its pointer while Cale stands on the precise spot where his father once stood on the planet Sessharrim.
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...
A Minor Kidroduction: The movie begins with Cale being escorted to an evac ship by his father who later says goodbye for the last time before boarding the Titan as the entire population of Earth abandons the planet before the Drej obliterate it.
At the end, they name the new planet New Earth. Actually, they just name it "Earth", but people adopt the "new" label for it anyway. (Of course, Cale wanted to call it Planet Bob.) The movie itself presents the planet at the end as "New Earth - (Planet Bob)".
There is also New Bangkok, which is a drifter colony (space station) whose population is mostly Thai.
Neck Snap: Korso does this to Preed, proving that betraying someone and then letting them get behind you is a massively stupid idea.
To further complicate the matter, there are two novelizations, one trying to appeal to an "older" audience, which resulted in many of the characters being portrayed differently (and contradicting their personalities in the movie and the prequels). A possible explanation would be everyone being too busy making the film to check on consistency.
No OSHA Compliance: The salvage yard and most Drifter Colonies apparently, being made up of derelict ships welded together.
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.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: There's a scene with resident Wrench Wench Akima waking up in a Drej escape pod, in the middle of a cell full of soon-to-be-auctioned slaves - most of whom are much larger than her and all of whom are looking down at her with obviously predatory intent. One short scene later, the rest of the crew arrives to rescue her, and finds her sitting on top of a pile of unconscious prisoners, grinning and greeting them with "What took you?"
Occurs after Cale and Korso narrowly escape the Drej on a space station by ramming their ship through the dock wall into space.
Korso: And you were worried. Cale: (pointing to Ominous Crack on the windshield) What do you mean "were"?
The Novelization plays with the trope, as Cale mentally recites old spacer's wisdom regarding cracks in glass surfaces. He notes that a single crack is definitely cause for concern, but it does not necessarily mean the surface will shatter; it may still hold. A web of cracks on the other hand (like what is rapidly forming on the canopy), means decompression is very quickly going to follow.
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.
Pre Explosion Buildup: The Drej Planet Killer first turns on a targeting/focusing beam, then hits the planet with an energy burst, causing shockwaves to ripple around the planet surface while the seas boil and the continents burn, and finally the entire planet erupts like a volcano, shattering it to tectonic-plate-sized pieces.
The Promise: During the evacuation of Earth, Cale's father puts him into the care of an alien friend, and promises his son that he'll see him again. He doesn't, but leaves a message for Cale begging his forgiveness for breaking his promise.
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, and distances between stars and moons are covered in a matter of days or hours with sub-light speed propulsion systems.
Akima is jettisoned from the Drej ship in the middle of a nebula but is found and picked up by slavers in a matter of hours.
Scotty Time: While the eponymous ship is under attack, Kale tells his gunners he needs time to adjust its reactors. He asks for them to buy him a few hours. Stith replies with "What can you do with a few minutes?" Eventually rendered moot: rather than fix it his way, they wind up taking a third option.
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, which leads the Drej to destroy Earth first. 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.
Shown Their Work: When Korso is about to escape a ship to reach his ship with Cale in the first half, he tells the latter to exhale and uses a fire extinguisher to propel them to his ship. The filmmakers in a documentary said they were originally going to have them inhale, as if diving into water, but were told that in space, the lack of an atmosphere and with no pressurized suit would actually make the air inside their lungs expand, probably killing them in the process. And Cale does suffer some side effects from the decompression immediately after they're rescued. Korso seems okay, although he's probably done this a few times before.
Sight Gag: When they first enter the Phoenix, the warning sign over the door appropriately depicts "No Drej".
Sliding Scale of Unavoidable vs. Unforgivable: The movie gets a happy cheerful ending, with the wonderful happy-for-everyone GENOCIDE and recycling of the antagonist civilization. The dissonance felt by parts of the audience may or may not be intentional, but is there in either case. However, the antagonist civilization was genocidal itself and blew up the Earth in the first place. In the novelization, it's revealed that the Drej annihilated Earth simply because humanity was reaching a level of technology where they could potentially challenge the Drej's supremacy. Emphasis on reaching and potentially, which, of course, makes the destruction of the Drej more of a Karmic Death.
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.
Cale: You're never gonna have a better shot, Korso. Korso: No. I won't.
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. Unless he developed a case of Aesop Amnesia, the story behind the tattoo was probably invented after the fact for the novel, since the experience that earned Cale that mark should have made him far less cynical.
Terraform: The Titan, which could completely and quickly remake a planet, just like the Genesis Device. Unlike the Genesis Device, though, the planet didn't collapse back on itself after a year note ...as far as we know; It would be a good idea for the humans to wait a while before settling. The Titan didn't so much remake a planet, as make a whole new planet using a local nebula for raw materials. They just happened to call it "New Earth". Besides, we all know it's really called Planet Bob.
Time for Plan B: "Out of curiosity, was there a Plan B?" It turns out to be "Beat the ever-loving crap out of the guard" plan.
Token Human: Cale, Akima and Korso, which seems like a bit much to count if it weren't for the fact that humans are almost extinct thanks to Earth getting literally blown up.
Too Dumb to Live: Poor, poor Korso. What made you think that the Drej would hold up their end of the bargain of making you rich for helping them wipe out all humans?
Treacherous Advisor: Captain Korso, who is being paid by the Drej to find the Titan, so they can blow it up. He is betrayed in turn by HIS right hand man, Preed.
Treasure Map: The ring keyed to Cale's father's DNA projects a visible map onto Cale's hand, showing the location of the Titan.
Weird Moon: The protagonists visit a planet whose moon is split in half. Almost completely in half. And it has neither crumbled nor been pulled back together by gravity. Oh, and it's a plot point. It is cool, though.
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 at button on it. Yes. I wish to press it, but I'm not sure what will happen if I do. (We never do find out what it does.)
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.
Even then, the one who got his neck snapped was a treacherous bastard; and the alien that is blown apart counts as a Kick the Dog moment for the Drej.
A World Half Full: While Joss Whedon likes to use True Art Is Angsty, one can say one can view the world as either half empty or half full in his works. Earth is gone and we have only begun to rebuild our lives after spending so many years in an inhospitable system mocked and slowly dwindling. Earth was eventually recreated and a new life begins. It will be a while before humanity becomes a superpower, but it is a start.
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.