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Titan A.E. (for "After Earth") is an animated science fiction film released in 2000 and directed by Don Bluth, his last film before semi-retiring from filmmaking.

In 3028, humans create the Titan, a huge spacecraft representing the very 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 far away in the aftermath, along with its primary creator Professor Sam Tucker (Ron Perlman). 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, Professor Tucker's son Cale (Matt Damon), a salvage yard worker, is recruited by Captain Joseph Korso (Bill Pullman), who reveals that the professor encoded a map to the Titan in the ring he gave to Cale years earlier, and that all depends on finding the Titan. When the Drej attack the salvage yard, Cale is forced to escape aboard the Valkyrie with Korso and his crew: pilot Akima (Drew Barrymore), first mate Preed (Nathan Lane), munitions officer Stith (Janeane Garofalo), and ditzy scientist and navigator Gune (John Leguizamo). Together, they set out to find the lost Titan and restore hope to humanity, all the while being hunted by the Drej.

Titan A.E. received mixed reviews from critics and was also a commercial disaster, leading to the closure of Fox Animation Studios, and proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Bluth's already floundering career, forcing him into retirement until 2015. In a case of Dueling Movies, the superficially similar Treasure Planet released a couple of years later also flopped badly, taking funding for traditional Western Animation along with it. A variety of explanations for the film's failure have been suggested:

  • invokedIts development was protracted, with Bluth being the second director to have worked on it. The race to release before Treasure Planet certainly didn't help.
  • Five writers were credited for the story, primarily Ben Edlund, Joss Whedon and John August, but also Hans Bauer and Randall McCormick. The movie was in production for several years before Bluth was invited to direct, and at this point only Joss Whedon did a substantial amount of writing. The movie did not really have a vision for most of its production, until the end.
  • invokedAbove all, the film suffers from deep uncertainty about its audience. Was it supposed to be a cartoon film for children, or was it aimed at an older science-fiction audience? Unsurprisingly its marketing was equally uncertain.

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.

20th Century Fox would not release another traditionally-animated film until The Simpsons Movie in 2007.

Titan A.E. provides examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: 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.
  • 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.
  • Ace Custom: During the Homeworld Evacuation of Earth, most of humanity escapes (to varying degrees of success) in identical delta-winged ships, while the ship carrying Cale is a unique tri-winged design.
  • 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.
  • Activation Sequence: Cale Tucker needs to power up the Titan to battle the Drej, made more difficult by the ship's batteries being nearly exhausted. Cale almost single-handedly has to jury-rig the mechanism to absorb and convert the Drej Death Ray as a substitute power source.
  • 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?
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Lampshaded:
    Korso: Follow ugly.
    Cale: Yeah, cause no one would ever think to look for us in the vents!
  • The Alcatraz: The energy-cell brig on the Drej mothership, from which Cale escapes by opening a hole in the wall with his fingers! Oops! Could be a Justified Weaksauce Weakness, since they probably aren't accustomed to taking prisoners, especially not human prisoners. The book even explains that he was smart enough to figure out the patterns in the wall were actually a sort of circuitry he could manipulate.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • The novelizations offer a great deal more exposition and world building, filling in some apparent plot-holes in the film, including how and why Cale can manipulate Drej technology so easily.
    • The novelization is also responsible for turning the Drej into actual characters rather than generic Evil Aliens, showing a bit of how their civilization works, what their motivations are, and why they are so obsessed with the Titan (the Titan has technology that works on similar principles to Drej Lost Technology; the Drej are hoping to capture the Titan to reverse-engineer it and hopefully repair their own failing tech). The Drej Queen's name (Susquehana) is also only known through the novels.
  • 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.
      Cale: You lied? Everything you said, everything you told me...?
      Korso: Not everything. Your father hid his ship, then the Drej killed him. All because he couldn't face the truth!
      Cale: Yeah? What is the truth?
      Korso: That the human race is outta gas. It's circling the drain. It's finished! The only thing that matters is grabbing whatcha can before somebody else beats ya to it.
      Cale: No! I don't believe that!
      Korso: Then you're even more like your father than I thought... a fool.
  • Anything That Moves: Aside from drooling all over Akima, Preed really gives off this vibe.
  • Apocalypse How: Class X, thanks to the Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
  • The Ark: The eponymous Titan is a ship holding the DNA of all known Earth organisms and the capacity to recreate the planet from scratch.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: A guard points out all the ways the main cast are screwing up their serious attempt to pass him. His final critique is their costumes are made from bedspreads.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • That cockroach chef, who insults Cale and calls humans "unsanitary". When the Drej attack the cafeteria, he seems to care more for the safety of himself and his food than Cale and Korso. Also, his voice is annoying. Is it really that tragic when the Drej shoot and splatter him over the wall?
    • An early conversation between Cale and Tek hints that this could be why humans are The Scrappy of the galaxy. According to Tek, if Cale had bothered to read a history book like instructed, he would know that humans weren't exactly the nicest species before their planet blew up. Now that it has, most other aliens aren't inclined to pity or help them.
  • Asteroid Thicket: The ice-field. Combined with a Hall of Mirrors.
  • Award-Bait Song: Not Quite Paradise by Bliss 66 and Like Lovers (Holding On) by Texas.
  • 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.
  • Bat People: The Valkyrie visits a broken world called Sessharim, which is home to beaked and horned bat-like aliens. They swarm around the landing party, greatly unnerving them. However, these bat-people aren't hostile; in fact, they aid Cale Tucker in finding his father's legacy, and keep the landing party safe from an attack by a Drej fighter squadron.
  • Big Bad: The Drej, who seek to destroy humanity because humans have unlocked the secret which allowed construction of the Titan. The Drej Queen gives the orders to both destroy Earth and the Titan, as well as leading the Drej forces in obliterating the last hopes for humanity as a species.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Just as the Titan's defenses are destroyed and the ship is helpless against the villains, Gune, whom everyone thought was dead, comes roaring in to help defend the ship.
  • 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. At least one TV airing has somewhat sloppily edited Preed's death as well.
  • 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.
  • Book Ends: The film's prologue ends with the original Earth violently exploding out of existence and humankind's remnants fleeing from the fragmented debris. The film's epilogue begins with New Earth ("Planet Bob") imploding into formation and humankind's scattered remnants converging on their new home.
  • Born After the End: After Cale and Akima get stranded on a drifter colony, where most humans that escaped Earth before the Drej destroyed it have come to live, they meet some kids who were born afterwards and have no memory of it at all, only the stories of their elders. This convinces Cale to continue on and locate the Titan, and the chance to give humanity a new home.
  • Break the Cutie: Cale seems to have undergone some of this between the ages of 6 and 21. But, as he says-"having your planet blown up will do that to you." As will being considered a third-class race by most of the galaxy.
  • Call-Back: A subtle example, during Earth's evacuation, young Cale says he wants to drive their vehicle. Korso replies "maybe when you're older." When they reconnect years later, Korso lets Cale pilot his ship.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Korso tries to recruit Cale for a mission to locate the ''Titan''. Cale blows him off, but the agents of the Big Bad promptly kick down the door and try to kill him.
  • 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 (and the Drej themselves for that matter) to power the ship.
  • Chekhov's Skill: All those years working in a ship breaking yard allow Cale to direct the repair and restoration of the Phoenix, and give chase to Korso.
  • 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 One: Cale is the only one able to operate the ultimate Treasure Map to humanity's salvation.
  • 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.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: 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.
  • Cool Starship: The Valkyrie, the Drej mothership and fighters, the Titan, and perhaps the Phoenix as well.
  • Creating Life Is Awesome: Mankind triumphs by creating an entire planet for itself, complete with a fully populated biosphere.
  • Creation Story: It ends with the heroes using the Titan to create a new world, a home planet for mankind to replace the one they lost in the Downer Beginning.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: The destruction of Earth was this for most of the human race.
    Cale: Having your planet blown up can do that to a species.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Akima is kidnapped, but by the time 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.
  • Death Is the Only Option: Captain Korso 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.
  • Detonation Moon: The Earth is blown up with such force that even the Moon is destroyed.
  • Disney Death: Gune saves Stith from a bomb Preed placed on her wrist, only for it to detonate and leave him wounded and he mutters "I'll just take a little nap", before collapsing. Later, just when the Drej are about to destroy the Titan, Gune arrives to the rescue and hangs a lampshade on this trope and the Big Sleep.
    Gune: I finished my nap!
  • 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.
    • The entire plot is reminiscent of the story of the Jewish people in the 20th century, facing existential extermination but eventually receiving a new homeland.
  • Doomed Hometown: The main character's home planet is destroyed by the Drej for reasons that are, at the time, obscure. Turns out the Drej were scared of humanity and wanted to weaken them.
  • Downer Beginning: The movie begins with another race destroying planet Earth.
  • 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.
  • Dungeon Bypass: The Drej deal with the Asteroid Thicket by simply blasting a path to the center.
  • Dutch Angle
  • 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.
  • Earth That Was: Earth gets blown up, forcing humanity to eke out an existence in drifting, jumbled composites of spacecraft known as drifter colonies.
  • Endangered Species: Humans themselves after the hostile Drej destroyed the entire planet, leaving the survivors scattered among the cosmos.
  • Energy Absorption: Which conveniently deals with the big, bad Drej at the same time.
    • 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.
  • Evil Counterpart: It is eventually revealed in a plot twist that Korso is the evil counterpart to Cale.
  • 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 the 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.
    • We're even treated to a nice shot of Cale's bare ass when he's in the sick bay.
  • Fantastic Racism: Humans are regarded as the homeless of space, and despised accordingly.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: The Valkyrie's three alien crewmembers fit this pattern: the tough and belligerent Stith is the Fighter, the intelligent and inquisitive Gune is the Mage, and the slippery and conniving Preed is the Thief.
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: In the opening sequence, a squirrel and a mixed flock of birds panic and flee, disturbed by the ground tremors of evacuation ship launches. Sadly, in this case there's no safe place for them to run to.
  • Force-Field Door: Cale is thrown into one of these energy jails by the Drej. Seemingly inescapable, his only hope is to touch the walls, using his fingers to force himself out of the cell.
  • The Foreign Subtitle: As the initials for A.E. were difficult to properly translate, in some places the movie was just named Titan with the following subtitles:
    • After the Destruction of Earth (Portugal/Croatia) [a little wordy, but probably closer to the English title than the other two]
    • After Our Time (Hungary)
    • The New Earth (Poland)
  • Foul Cafeteria Food: One scene has Cale Tucker and Tek sit down for lunch break at Tau Station's mess hall. Lunch that day is an alien version of spaghetti and meatballs: the spaghetti is long green strands of seaweed, and the meatballs are tiny, pale critters with all their limbs sliced off. The meatballs hop around on the plates in a desperate effort to escape. Cale comments: "I just wish they'd kill my food before I eat it."
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Cale is a gifted mechanic; he can often figure out how they work and what's 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.
  • Gas-Cylinder Rocket: Korso uses a fire extinguisher to propel himself and Cale to the Valkyrie after their stolen ship's cabin windows crack.
  • 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.
  • Genocide Backfire: The Drej attack humanity and destroy Earth in fear of humanity's potential and technology threatening them. 15 years later their species is obliterated by humanity and, in a fitting fate, used to power humanity's means of creating a new Earth.
  • Gilligan Cut: A great one toward the end, with Cale naming the new planet Bob, Akira insisting there is no way they are calling their planet Bob... followed by the cut: "New Earth (a.k.a. Planet Bob)."
  • Going Commando: Akima and Cale both skip the underwear when putting clothes on.
  • The Great Repair: How Cale and Akima got off the derelict settlement.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Averted in a line written by Joss Whedon to foil the Trojan Prisoner ploy, left in uncut.
    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 at the guard and knocks him out with a powerful kick] An intelligent guard. Didn't see that one coming. [tasers the guard]
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: The Drej are Energy Beings who attempt to wipe out humanity when they started fearing that humans will supplant them as the dominant species in the cosmos if they're allowed to thrive. The Drej themselves are exterminated by the survivors of the destroyed Earth as their mothership is consumed by the Titan to create a new homeworld.
  • Hall of Mirrors: The ice-field surrounding the Titan.
  • Happily Ever After: The crew fights like hell but they eventually found New Earth (on Planet Bob).
  • Hard-Work Montage: Of Akima, Cale and the citizens of drifter colony New Bangkok making Phoenix spaceworthy.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Korso worked for humanity, then the Drej, then came back to the side of humanity, and was killed in a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Herald: Korso brings the Call to Adventure.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Korso. Maybe Cale's father too.
  • The Hero's Journey: The marks of Joseph Campbell's cookie-cutter are all over this film.
  • High-Voltage Death: Captain Korso repays Cale Tucker for saving his life by using his weapon as a shunt in a huge circuit breaker so that Cale can power up the Titan spacecraft. Unfortunately, he has to hold the thing in place while the system is turned on.
  • Hit So Hard, the Calendar Felt It: The movie begins in the year 3028 A.D. and ends fifteen years later, in the year 15 A.E. (After Earth).
  • Homeworld Evacuation: The alien Drej vaporize Earth in the opening sequence while refugee ships try to escape.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Downplayed, but one early conversation indicates that humans weren't exactly the friendliest species before their planet blew up, leading most aliens to view their plight with less pity and more Who's Laughing Now?
  • 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 drifter 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.
  • Ice Crystals: The Titan world-ship is nested amid the ice rings of Tigrin. These are gigantic crystals of ice that function like an Asteroid Thicket. Cale and Akima in their small spacecraft are the mouse to Captain Korso in the Valkyrie as the cat in this ice maze. The ice also acts like funhouse mirrors, creating multiple images of the two spacecraft, making tracking difficult.
  • 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.
  • Immortality Through Memory: One of the companion books introduced the Hodrians, who believe that as long as a person's name is still out there, they endure. Because of this belief, they create "memory spheres", glass capsules with a person's name written on a piece of paper inside of it. Much of their activity consist of finding new places to stash these things, as their original planet has since been buried in them.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills:
    • 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.
  • Improvised Microgravity Maneuvering: While floating in space, Captain Korso used a fire extinguisher to maneuver.
  • 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.
  • Inexplicably Speaks Fluent Alien: The first time Cale Tucker encountered the Drej, he was a boy of four. He was sent off-world with Tek just before the Drej mothership destroyed the world with an Earth-Shattering Kaboom. Much later, when Cale is nineteen, he gets captured by the Drej, and made to reveal the location of the Titan spacecraft. Somehow, Cale can understand what the Drej queen is saying, including her desire to eradicate humanity entirely.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: It's remarkably easy to see Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore and Bill Pullman within Cale, Akima and Korso. However, the trope is less blatant on Preed, Stith and Gune, but you can still definitely see Nathan Lane, Janeane Garofalo and John Leguizamo within those alien characters.
  • Insectoid Aliens: The cockroach alien chef is pretty much a giant anthropomorphic bug.
  • 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.
  • Invisible Writing: Cale Tucker, The Hero, receives a ring from Captain Korso. The ring has been coded to Cale's genetics so that it reveals a star map on Cale's hand. As a further safeguard, the map's pointer shifts direction while Cale is standing on a platform on Sessarim.
  • 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.
  • Kid-Appeal Character: The use of this trope in feature animation is mocked with the cockroach chef Cale meets early in the film. He's deliberately written to be shrill and annoying, and he is unceremoniously (and gorily) killed off by the Drej not long after his introduction after he tries selling out Cale to them for his own safety.
  • Kick Chick: Stith, the ship's kangaroo-like alien weapons expert, uses her strong legs as a weapon. Akima gets a good kick on Preed when he betrays them, too.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: 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: Hi! They went down there! They came into my kitchen and— [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.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Cale.
  • MacGuffin Title: The Titan is a Lost Superweapon which can convert energy into new planets, which the heroes seek to reverse the destruction of the Earth at the hands of the villainous Drej.
  • 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.
  • Mars Needs Women: Some of the aliens make some predatory advances toward Akima when her pod is thrown into their prison cell. She manages to kick all of their butts though.
  • Meaningful Echo: Korso mentions that the Drej can't be beaten because they're made of pure energy. Cale takes his advice and helps use the Titan's energy to absorb the Drej altogether.
  • 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, and to the rebirth of lost Earth's ecosystems on Bob.
  • The Millennium Age of Animation: Notably one of only two works Bluth produced in this era, the other being a music video for Scissor Sisters.
  • Million to One Chance: Invoked almost to the letter by Cale when he takes the express route to lunch.
    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] 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.
  • Mirroring Factions: 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.
  • Missing Mom: Cale's mom is never mentioned. Not once.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: And they get pretty bizarre with this too. Stith, for example, is a four-kneed critter that looks to be part kangaroo, part Utahraptor, part More Teeth than the Osmond Family, and all Impossible To Stage Scenes Around.
  • The Mole: Korso (who gets better) and Preed (who gets worse).
  • Modesty Towel: Both Cale and Akima have their scenes.
  • The Mothership: The Drej's.
  • Naming Your Colony World: There's both a "New Bangkok" and "Earth" (which people insist on calling "New Earth", despite the fact that the original has been destroyed, so there's not much chance of confusion).
  • Narrow Annihilation Escape: An energy-based race known as the Drej has attacked Earth due to knowledge about a ship known as "The Titan Project", They show up with a giant ship weapon, and fire a Beam-O-War at North America, resulting in a literal Earth-Shattering Kaboom. A handful of humans flee in spaceships, but the majority of the human race is massacred in the destruction. Those that survive find themselves reduced to becoming spacefaring hoboes: either doing menial work in the ghettos of civilized worlds, or scrounging subsistence in drifter colonies.
  • Neck Snap: Korso does this to Preed, proving that betraying someone and then letting them get behind you is a massively stupid idea.
  • New Eden: New Earth, a.k.a. Planet Bob.
  • Noodle Incident: Gune built a device out of a highly unstable material while he was asleep. He knows he gave it a button, but he doesn't want to push it because he has no idea what it actually does.
  • Novelization: There is a book of the film, which attempts to patch some of the film's plot holes. There are also two prequel novels, covering the early years of Akima and Cale, titled ''Akima's Story'' and ''Cale's Story'' respectively. Little attention seems to have been given to continuity between the novelization and the prequels.
    • 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.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Play for laughs with Gune's device. Played straight with the Titan to drive the plot.
    • Justified with the Titan. There might have been plans to make a backup Titan, but then the Earth kinda got blown up. After that, where exactly were they going to get dolphin DNA?
    • 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.
  • Octopoid Aliens: Cale Tucker gets a serving of alien spaghetti and meatballs in the scrapyard's commissary: the spaghetti resembles boiled kelp, and the meatballs are small creatures that once had tentacles, but these were obviously chopped off. Despite this handicap, they hop around madly on Cale's plate, perhaps sensing their impending doom.
  • Offing the Annoyance: When Cale and Korso are getting away from the Drej, the talkative insect alien chef tells a Drej soldier where they went. The chef continues talking and talking before the Drej soldier simply shoots him into a pile of goo.
  • 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?"
  • Ominous Crack:
    • 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.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: At one point, Akima is shot through the shoulder — we see the laser blast going through her body, there's a spray of blood, and she's knocked to the ground and has to be carried for a bit. A few seconds later, it's determined that all she needs to recover from the hole through her shoulder is "some rest" and she'll be fine.
  • Opening Narration: Sam Tucker tells Cale about how the Titan project was formed and the repercussions that occurred:
    Sam: Once in a great while, mankind unlocks a secret so profound that our future is altered forever: fire, electricity, splitting the atom... At the dawn of the 31st century, we unlocked another. It had the potential to change humanity's role in the universe. We called it the Titan project and it was a testament to the limitless power of the human imagination. Perhaps that's what the Drej feared most, for... it brought them down upon us without warning, and without mercy. Cale, that day, the day the Drej descended from the sky, the only thing that mattered was keeping you safe.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: Throughout the film, orange is associated with humans—such as the lighting in the opening Earth scenes, the color of Cale's map, and the Titan's interior—and conveys courage and safety, while blue represents the Drej—both their cold, ruthless nature and the despair and fear they cause. When it's revealed Korso is working for the Drej and Cale looks at him through his ship's doors, Cale has orange behind him while Korso has blue. The exhaust flames of their spaceships are orange and blue respectively as well, showing whose goals are human- or Drej-aligned. Finally, when at the climax Cale successfully uses the Drej's energy to power the Titan, the Drej beam and queen turn orange.
  • Parental Abandonment: Par for the course, being a Don Bluth film. The surviving Earthlings have even lost their mother planet.
  • Percussive Maintenance: This is how the Cook "repairs" the gravity generator in the mess hall.
    Cook: [as the generator sparks back to life] Ah! Just needed some love!

  • Poor Communication Kills: the encounter with the Gaoul nearly comes to this. The Gaoul menacingly surround our heroes, who draw their weapons. Even though they can see guns pointed at them, the Gaoul make no attempt to back off or calm down the jittery humans. It's only when Akima fortuitously realizes "I think they are the Gaoul!" that violence is averted.
  • 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!).
  • Pun: The Cook trivializing the effects of the gravity generator failing.
    The Cook: Just think of it as floating time!
  • Puny Earthlings: Earthlings are not seen as particularly special or significant.
  • Pure Energy: The Drej, according to Korso, but the truth is a little more complex. See Energy Beings above.
  • Racial Remnant: Humans are this after the Scary Dogmatic Alien Energy Beings decide to blow up Earth in order to prevent humanity becoming a threat to them.
  • Rapid DNA Test: Cale's ring was DNA-coded to his father, who passed on the marker genes to him.
  • Real Is Brown: Earth before the Drej blow it up is shades of brown.
  • Recovery Sequence: There's a repair sequence of an old spaceship previously used as a house. Shots of welding, rewiring, and reprogramming all set to Over My Head by Lit.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Korso.
  • Red Herring: Gune's mysterious device, which serves no useful purpose except for distracting him from the approaching Drej fighters.
  • Redundant Rescue: By the time the crew comes to rescue Akima from the slave market, she's already beaten up everyone there.
    Akima: Well, if it isn't the Captain. What kept you?
  • Refusal of the Call: Initally Cale blows Korso off, but then the Drej turn up and try to kill him.
  • Reused Character Design: The blonde boy playing football on the New Bangkok Drifter Colony looks a lot like Cale as a young boy.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Drej ruthlessly hunt anyone who threatens them. Humans are the prime target.
  • Scavenger World: The human colonies are bands of humans cutting ships apart for scrap.
  • Scenery Porn: The highlight of the film. Pick a scene, any scene...
    • Scenery Gorn: So lovingly rendered you can watch the lights of the cities of Earth die and count tectonic plates as the planet is ripped apart.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Many examples.
    • 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, Cale 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. Nice Job Fixing It, Villain.
  • Shirtless Scene: Cale gives us two nice ones.
  • Shout-Out: The unnamed spaceliner that Cale and Tek escape on bears a striking similarity to the Martian Queen in Spacecraft: 2000 to 2100 AD.
    • Similarly, the Phoenix has a design clearly taken from the French SNECMA Coleoptere, a prototype VTOL tested in the late 1950s.
  • 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.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Most people don't have room for optimism in space.
    Akima: Preed, you can't trust the Drej.
    Preed: Oh, stop! There's nothing more tiresome than last-minute heroics!
  • Sight Gag: When they first enter the Phoenix, the warning sign over the door appropriately depicts "No Drej".
  • Slave Market: Akima was jettisoned from the Drej mothership, and wound up in a Wretched Hive's slave pens. Her shipmates attempt to rescue her by posing as Akrennian traders, but the guard isn't fooled. Fortunately, Akima really didn't need rescuing, as she sits Atop a Mountain of Corpses (knocked out, not dead) awaiting a ride off-world.
  • Sliding Scale of Unavoidable vs. Unforgivable: The movie gets a cheerful ending, with the wonderful happy-for-everyone genocide and recycling of the antagonist civilization... It's unclear whether the dissonance felt by parts of the audience is meant to be intentional, though the film goes to great lengths to frame the destruction of the Drej as brought upon themselves (had they not destroyed Earth, there would be no need for a Titan or a new Earth; had they not pursued Cale so relentlessly, he would have remained a junker; even as they fire on the Titan, their weapon's path of destruction is literally depicted becoming the means by which they're absorbed and destroyed over multiple shots.) In the novelization, 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 Cossacks: After a species of Energy Beings destroys the Earth and a huge chunk of its population takes off in the Titan spacecraft, humanity is forced to scatter around the galaxy doing odd jobs and living in barely small bands. Further justified in that any group that gets too large would become a target of the Drej.
  • 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.
  • Space Is Noisy: Zoom! Wizz! Crunch! Ka-boom! Zap! Crunch! Many explosion and spaceship sounds are still audible in the vast vacuum of space.
  • Space Marine: Korso is a former Earth Space Marine.
  • Space Whale: The Wake Angels. They look like stingrays, but still sound like whales. Also, Korso's description of their behavior and the legends about them make them sound more like space dolphins.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • 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.
  • Spell My Name with an S:
    • Some people out-of universe spell Cale's name as Kale.
    • Preed's species is spelled "Akranian" in his profile during the credits, but "Akrennian" just about everywhere else.
  • 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 the Cale's Story novel. 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.
  • Sundial Waypoint: Used around 1/3 through the film.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: The Drej mothership. Cale is able to escape his cell by pressing two fingers to a point on the wall and slip out. None of the Drej seem to notice, and then he is even able to commandeer one of their stingers using the same trick to get in.
  • Take My Hand!: During their fight on the Titan, Cale knocks Korso down onto a railing. When Cale grabs Korso's hand as he is falling, the latter tells him to let go. Despite Cale's efforts, Korso's hand slips and falls. Fortunately for Korso, he grabs a cable and holds on to it, ensuring that he survives.
  • Tempting Fate: Cale taking the "express route" to the chow hall; see Million to One Chance.
  • 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 . 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. Subverted in that beating the crap out of the guard was Plan A, which Preed interrupted by declaring that they needed "cunning and deception".
  • Toilet Humor: The poop-eating scene, covered under I Ate WHAT?!? Definitely contributed to the film's Uncertain Audience problem, due to being so out of place in a serious sci-fi movie.
  • 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?
    • Preed has the exact same problem. He betrays Korso and holds him, Cale and Akima at gunpoint, stating that if he kills the three, the Drej will spare his own life. Akima tries to reason with him, stating that the Drej are highly unlikely to hold up their end of the bargain, but Preed has already gone into too much of a murderous frenzy to listen.
  • 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.
  • Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil: There's the Plot Twist that The Hero's mentor, Captain Korso, sold him out to the Drej, convinced that humanity is "circling the drain." While Cale tries to appeal to any last shred of decency in Korso's heart, The Dragon informs them both that the Drej are rewarding him to eliminate both Cale and Korso, leaving zero surviving humans capable of activating the Titan. The Starscream gets his head unscrewed for his effort.
  • 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.
  • Trojan Prisoner: Doesn't exactly work. See above.
  • Used Future: The human refugees have to make do with what they have.
  • Video Wills: In the second half of the film, Akima and Cale discover a message played by Sam regarding the Titan's power to create a new planet after the Titan is activated.
  • War Was Beginning: It didn't last long.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The Drej mothership has a Planet Killer version, which they use on Earth right at the start of the movie and on the Titan at the end.
  • 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 looks really cool, though.
  • Weird World, Weird Food:
    • Since the Earth blew up in the prologue, humans have to settle for alien food, which is pretty unappetizing.
      Cale: I'd just like them to kill my food before they serve it to me. Y'know I do an honest day's work; I want already dead food. Is that too much for a fella to ask?
    • During lunch break, Cale and Tec sit down to a company meal of spaghetti and meatballs. Except, being in an outer space scrapyard, the spaghetti is closer to green seaweed, and the meatballs are like small urchins with their tentacles cut off. They're not even cooked to death, as all the ones on Cale's plate hop around in a desperate bid for survival. Not helping is the chief cook, who's a man-sized temperamental cockroach.
  • Wham Line: When Korso and Preed have our heroes cornered:
    Korso: Face it, Cale. You've lost.
    Preed: Actually... you all have! Captain, if you would be so kind as to dispose of your firearm?
    Korso: You...backstabbin'...
    Preed: Well, I learned from the best. But it wasn't just the money the Drej were offering. It was the health plan that came with it. They'd let me live, provided I kill all of you before they get here. They should be here shortly!
  • What Does This Button Do?: Played with, in a way that suggests that the crew's Genius Ditz navigator/scientist is more savvy than he might at first appear. We never do find out what it does.
    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.
  • 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.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: From a cliff overlooking Planet Bob. Gosh, is it pretty. There's even a rainbow!
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: After killing Preed, Korso tells Cale this at gun point. The latter still gives a warning shot.