In 1996, one day at a Mexican restaurant, producers at Disney Animation celebrated after completing The Hunchback Of Norte Dame. While pigging out and drinking margaritas, one of the producers brought up an idea about another animated entry, this time, it’s not a musical, but an action-adventure film similar to Indiana Jones. The producers packed their camping equipment to explore underground caverns for research. Learning about the mythology surrounding Atlantis based on Plato’s works. Architecture based on Mayan civilization.
After collecting all the data for their project. The producers recruit Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, The Avengers) to write the story. Joss and Disney watched films such as Stargate, the works of David Lean & Akira Kurosawa as primary influences to the screenplay. Animators also drew inspiration of Hellboy comics to bring every single page to resemble a comic book coming to life. Five Years Later, Atlantis: The Lost Empire officially became a part of Disney’s animated filmography.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire opened worldwide in The Summer Of 2001. (same year Shrek came out) At the time of its release, the film received mixed reviews from critics. As the years went by, it earned a cult following for its unique animated comic book style and interesting characters. Two Years Later a direct-to-video sequel called, Atlantis: Milo’s Return was suppose to kickstart Team Atlantis an animated television series focusing on Milo’s allies with each episode involving a specific crew member, kinda like Star Wars: The Clones with each supporting character headlining an episode.
Now that Natalie Portman’s upcoming Annihilation film is coming out this February, I’ve decided to share my real thoughts on Atlantis, because both Atlantis and Annihilation are inspired by Stargate, due to its similar premise.
This review doesn’t contain a bunch of SPOILERS. You’re free to read this article, just so you know if you haven’t seen the entire thing yet. Does Atlantis still holds up? Well let’s find out, shall we?
Intelligent & Unintelligent Qualities
Intelligent: Michael J. Fox, Cree Summer, James Garner, Leonard Nimoy & the late Jim Varney all did a fantastic job on their respective performances.
The Animation is depicted in traditional 2D format, stylized to resemble a comic book coming to life. Environmental set pieces look incredibly beautiful such as The City Of Atlantis, underground caverns and a submarine called, “The Ulysses.”
Action Sequences were unforgettable featuring aerial and underwater combat.
Character Development involving Milo’s allies as they learn to respect him as their own teammate.
Some of the crew members have interesting backstories and motivations on why each character wants to go to Atlantis to fulfill his/her lifelong goal.
Chemistry between Milo & Kida felt organic without shoving an early romance in your face. Thank god they didn’t go with an early relationship! If they did, I would’ve subtracted a point down for the trope I despise!
Atlantis has some funny moments that made me laugh such as Mole trying to woo Kida and Jim Varney’s role as Cookie.
Composer, James Newton Howard (The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Hunger Games Trilogy) orchestrated the soundtrack for the film.
Linguist, Marc Okrand (known for creating the Klingon language) created a unique language for Atlanteans. Speaking of Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy is in this film as Kida’s father.
The Opening Sequence sets up The Story with an action scene, indicating that this movie is gonna be one heck of a ride.
Milo is heavily based on James Spader’s character, Daniel Jackson from Stargate. Both protagonists have the ability to translate an ancient language and is supported by military personnel to overcome dangerous obstacles in his way.
Marketing for the film never revealed The Main Antagonist’s identity. I won’t tell you who it is, you’re gonna have to see for yourself and it’s pretty shocking.
Unintelligent: I couldn’t find any problems with this movie. I’m giving this an Extra Point for the animators for making a flawless picture as possible.
The Final Verdict: A, FOR APEX!
In my opinion, Atlantis: The Lost Empire is one Disney’s animated masterpieces. As a kid, I loved it, to this day I still do! Similar to Inside Out as a spiritual successor to Osmosis Jones, Atlantis isn’t a cheap knock-off of Stargate without stealing every single element. Every character is unique. Action Sequences kept me on the edge of my seat. Animation is incredible you gorgeous. This movie has personality. Its like Roland Emmerich directing an action packed Disney movie. If you’re a huge fan of science fiction action films like me, I strongly recommend this movie.
R.I.P. Jim Varney, thank you for the memories. You’re performances as Ernest P. Worrell, Cookie Farnsworth & of course, Slinky Dog, will never be forgotten.