Atlantis: The Lost Empire Review

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A wealthy philanthropist funds an expedition to Atlantis, on which enthusiast Milo, and a ragtag band of mercenaries, find out why the lost city remained undiscovered.


Blame Buzz Lightyear. If he hadnt burst onto the scene in Toy Story, all brand-spanking new and CG-shiny, then movies like Atlantis would still be perfectly acceptable animation fare.

Directors Trousdale and Wise were responsible for Beauty And The Beast, so they obviously know their way around the animation block. Yet in attempting ambitious action sequences, Atlantis smacks of a medium playing catch-up with its pixellated cousin. Also sadly lacking is the sense of wonder one would expect from a movie about the Atlantean legend, while the characters are dragged from the Big Book Of Disney Stereotypes, from the comedy double act to the determined, charming hero. Collect them all! Stir in a daffy New Age plot, and - bizarrely - elements of Stargate, and it's clear that Trousdale and Wise have considerably overcooked the broth.

It's not a total washout, though. The design ethic - if not quite as innovative as, say, Hercules - is strong throughout, the Jules Verne-inspired technology nicely juxtaposed with the Inca-esque visual splendour of Atlantis itself. There's a commendable lack of musical numbers, thus sparing us the warblings of Phil Collins (or worse); the voice cast is excellent, Fox in particular; and at times, proceedings are altogether darker than the usual Mouse House fare - one early set-piece wipes out half of the explorers in seconds. Sadly, it says much about the jack-of-all-trades tone that, soon after, we're back to comic buffoonery, lest any watching kiddiewinkles require counselling.

A lost opportunity, then. Disney might be reluctant to abandon traditional animation completely - they're damned if they do, damned if they don't ù but it's hard not to think that, with the emphasis now firmly on CG animation, Atlantis might be a harbinger of doom for the 2D format.

A solid addition to the Disney canon. But from the directors of Beauty And The Beast, solid ain't good enough. Classic Disney this is not.