by Michael Christian
"Titan A.E.", the new animated SF action adventure yarn, clunks from one Star Wars rip-off to another until a "Genesis Effect" grand finale stolen directly from Star Trek III.
Fifteen years after the destruction of the Earth by the hazy, electric blue Dregs, Young Cale (voice by Matt Damon) is approached by Korso (voice by Bill Pullman), a mysterious stranger who claims to have known Cale's long lost father. Korso tells Cale that he&emdash;Cale&emdash;is the last hope for humanity. Cale's ring reveals a map showing the location of a fabulous ship: The Titan, which somehow promises to end mankind's scattered galactic exile.
However, Cale is too resentful of his father for abandoning him long ago to get excited about anything having to do with anyone other than himself. But luckily for the rest of the human race the Dregs show up with death rays blazing and chase Cale out of his self-pitying inertia.
"Titan A.E." has nice animation and a few good chase scenes, especially when Korso uses a fire extinguisher to propel Cale and himself through the weightless vacuum of space. The movie's trailer may remind some viewers of "Heavy Metal," but those who actually see "Titan A.E." will suffer recurrent "Star Wars" dejá vu. Scenes and small bits in this movie are brazenly lifted directly out of "Star Wars," such as the scene where Han in the Millennium Falcon saves Luke over the Death Star just as Darth Vadar is about to kill Luke and destroy his X-wing fighter.
Both Cale and Korso are basically Han Solo&emdash;cynics with hearts of gold&emdash;split into two distinct people, one young like Luke Skywalker, the other a little older, like the original Han.
Oddly, all the human characters in this movie move their mouths when talking as if they are also chewing large wads of caramel, which forces them to open their mouths 50% more than normal people. Compounding that distraction, both the main male characters have strangely exaggerated facial expressions.
For movie that is basically a race in which all sides know the finish line&emdash;the location of the ship Titan&emdash;this movie gives Cale an inordinate number of time-devouring excursions, such as when he repairs a long abandoned starship which he finds on refugee colony. Worse still, this movie never answers the obvious question: What will stop the Dregs&emdash;who destroyed a highly defended Earth in the beginning of the movie&emdash;from destroying the defenseless newly restored Earth ten minutes after "Titan A.E." ends?
An even more fatal handcap which dogs this new animated SF film is that it has none of the relentless playful fun, goofy humor, great music, or sexiness of the cult classic "Heavy Metal." I'm only left to wonder why crap like "Titan A.E." is being made when there a number of great SF adventure novels&emdash;Dune, Ringworld, Titan, and The Lovers all spring immediately to mind&emdash;cry out to be translated into animated full-length motion pictures. What are people in Hollywood thinking, and who bathes and dresses them in the morning?
The Cast: Cole (Matt Damon), Korso (Bill Pullman), Akima (Drew Barrymore), Preed (Nathan Lane) and Stith (Janeane Garofalo). Crew member Gune (John Leguizamo) is not present in this picture.
images © 2000 Twentieth Century Fox, all rights reserved