Originally pitched as a live action project, astute studio executives saw a chance to inject the thrills and sophistication of science fiction into an artform saturated in market-friendly fairy lands. A procession of God-awful songs about being-yourself and near-the-mark jokes for the folks, plus the sweep of space opera, presents the perfect chance for a hot combo of snazzy 3D CGI animation and the storytelling traditions of 2D pen and ink. But its an opportunity only partially grasped. Certainly its energetic, cool (check out the hip soundtrack) and visually inspiring, but the action remains tethered to a yawnsome tale of self-discovery and hoary old sci-fi clichés.
Events do get going with a bang. Earth is obliterated by the malicious Drej in a stunning, geologically informed (apparently) carnival of destruction. Titan A. E. (After Earth) exploits the marvels of CGI for all theyre worth without actually committing itself to the format. The quality space stuff is straight from the hard drive, while (not always comfortably) the characters and close-up action are done by hand. Cale, our reluctant, bolshy orphan hero, voiced tepidly by Matt Damon, is dragged onto his mission to save mankind by a batch of plucky oddballs: Corso the macho leader, Akema the cocky love interest, and indeterminate aliens such as Nathan Lanes wolfish Preed for comedy value.
Tonally about three or four years above a Disney, we get death, even bleeding and a less-than-cleancut teen stroppiness in Cales moany attitude (hey, theres even a butt shot). Irritatingly, we also still get simplistic messages about finding your true path and multi-cultural harmony. All credit, though, for attempting to drum up something fresh outside Disneys stranglehold. One lesson though, that the Mouse kingdom has got sussed, is that the words are just as important as the pictures.