Reviews: Atlantis The Lost Empire

Needed more polish

Like a lot of people, I had heard of Disney's Atlantis, but never actually seen it, and welcomed the chance to actually do so. In hindsight, I'm not entirely sure what all the fuss was about. While Atlantis is a decent movie, it's hardly an overlooked classic, and is overall fairly forgettable.

There are a number of small problems with the film, but I think they all stem from needing more refinement; this could have been a great movie if there was more time to polish the script and refine the story. The pacing is particularly rushed, zipping from one set piece to the next like a restless student hurrying through a classroom report. As a result, the trip to Atlantis feels less challenging than a long bus ride, and moments that should have been unforgettably awe-inspiring end up feeling deflated.

Another thing that is lacking is characterization — just about everyone comes off as a one-note caricature, with no time spent building any emotional ties between them and each other or the audience. Because of this, the team's betrayal of Milo becomes predictable, and the later Heel-Face Turn against Rourke feels perfunctory, driven by the script rather than any character-driven loyalty and motive. The relatively large cast doesn't help; several characters could have been combined or omitted with no effect on the plot, and nearly all of the secondary characters fade out of focus in the climax anyway. The flat voice acting by James Garner and Leonard Nimoy don't help any — apparently, no one involved felt motivated to get any sort of performance out of them, and the phrase "phoned it in" was never more apt.

I don't want to seem like I am completely negative on Atlantis. The setting and atmosphere is delightfully Victorian, especially in the beginning, there are a few genuinely entertaining moments (such as the "Who's on First?" exchange), and the character designs by Mike Mignola are a welcome break from the typical Disney style. But that isn't enough to carry the movie, and in the end I feel that the premise could have yielded something better than what finally hit the screen.


Overall, a decent movie!

I really enjoyed Atlantis: The Lost Empire as a kid. I had a chance to watch it again recently as an adult. While Atlantis may be one of the black sheep of the Disney cannon, it's still quite enjoyable.

First and foremost, what I enjoyed about this movie is the visual aspect. It's not just that Mike Mignola contributed to the character design, and the animation reflects his blocky, elongated style. The film producers busted hump to make Atlantis look unique. They have their own artistic styles, fashions, hairstyles and alphabet and language, which are not based on any past or existing culture. In short, Atlantis is believable as a living and breathing—but not thriving!—culture.

Atlantis is from the very start an action movie. After the introduction, the pacing of the movie is tight. The backstory with Atlantis and Milo's grandfather's adventures is woven in without tedious exposition scenes. And, thank God, there are no songs.

The only flaws I could find in this movie were the Fridge Logic about why the Atlantians couldn't read their own writing and that the Face Heel Turn was pretty easy to spot coming. Neither of these issues were damning, though, because the good guys were well characterized and the viewer could sympathize with them even though these plot developments might have seemed a bit predictable or fridgey.

Atlantis is much different than the usual Disney animated feature, but it's still a pretty good movie. I would give it four stars out of five.