Excuse me just a sec... (sound of leaden weight hitting the ground), ah, much better. You see it's been about a year since i've written a review and the rust was getting a little thick. So while I knock off the last bits, and see if I can remember how it all worked, I thought i'd review something no anime fan should care about too much. That title being Titan-AE, the movie that was going to be the American answer to anime.
There's no force on Earth that can stifle the human urge to dream of a better future. Apparently this really annoyed the drej, an alien race of poorly animated energy beings, who've decided to see if a force off Earth will have better luck. And since they're effectively infinite, and their first strike involves blowing the earth into little bits of space debris, it looks like they're going to be successfull. While at least some humans escape the doomed Earth the disaster greatly diminishes both the human spirit and the human population. In other words humanity lost and all that's left is the long slide into obscurity and extinction.
But there's is one last hope, the super-tech ship named Titan AE escaped the Earth's destruction. Apparently it also sort of caused the destruction by being the thing that most irritated the drej, so it must contain awesome power. Nobody knows what this power is though, because the Titan-AE has vanished into the depths of space. However 15 years later a rebellious young human, the son of the Titan's creator and pilot, is told that he holds the key to finding this lost super-weapon within his own DNA. Unfortunately for him the Drej know about him as well, and they're keen to clean up any left overs from their first attack, including both the ship and him.
You have to feel for this movie. It was the first release from a brand new animation studio set up by a major film company. The target was Disney and Dreamworks, The quest was to find out if there was an American market for teen targetted animation. Quite possibly a vast, untapped, advertising friendly market. Sadly the end result was either that such a market doesn't exist, or that this was not the sort of movie they're interested in, because this movie was a earth-shattering debacle. Shocking word of mouth, a lot of money lost and an animation studio closed. A sad story in itself and an event that will probably haunt the industry for some time.
The interesting question then is what went wrong. The answer is not immediately obvious, because it's not that bad. It's not that great either mind you, theres lots of little weaknesses that subtract from ones enjoyment of the film, which i'll go into later. However it's hard to identify any critical weakness, or fatal flaw, which causes the title to fail. It could be that there are simply too many weaknesses and too few strengths so that the overall reaction is not overly positive. Something that is not doubt magnified when you've paid cinema prices to see something you expect to be amazed by.
The main weaknesses, as always, have to do with the writing. The story simply has huge gaps in it. For example the "quest" element of the story involves finding the ship that has been lost for 15 years. That's cool, finding lost treasures is always a good basis. But why is it lost? Having dramatically escaped the destruction of earth just dumping it in a galactic backwater and forgetting about it seems a bit strange. Why is the only key to its location a ring, seemingly given at the last minute, that marks the start of a sequence of clues leading to the place his dad was planning on dumping it. Who would come up with such a silly and unreliable plan? And lets not even get into how you can overpower an alien space fortress just using two fingers.
The ship itself is also, ultimately, sort of pointless... which is perhaps why they dumped it. The ship, apart from 3 extremely useless defence turrets, has only one power. And this power is, ultimately, pointless in the face of the Drej threat. If it works as designed then the most that can be hoped for is that it will mildly annoy and slightly delay the Drej. There's a bit of last minute silly-science that lets the ship do something usefull, but it really had to be tacked on. For that matter why the heck didn't they use that capability rather earlier?
So currently it's an illogical quest for a pointless ship. So what could be worse? The fact that the central psychological pressure behind the story and all the characters fizzles would be one thing. We're supposed to believe that losing the earth has shattered the will of humanity, made us an oppressed and hopeless race, desperate for the salvation Titan-AE can offer and damaged by the scars taken from living without hope. It doesn't work though, most people would expect them to make the best of what they have. Colonize a new planet, Band together in space, Learn to co-exist with the other alien races against the drej, get a bunch of teenagers in skin-suits and build space-mecha, whatever. This is especially true because, having destroyed Earth, the Drej seem to have left humanity alone. The most Kael seems to suffer from is that he has to work and doesn't like the food. The writing and character aimed for "anti-hero" but only managed to hit "annoying" causing him to lose the support of the audience.
There are some signs they've wimped out at points though. The first movie preview on the DVD emphasis the psychological foundation behind the characters. The final one ignores the characters and focuses on things going boom. Likewise death and loss are minimized. For example an alien gunned down by the Drej makes a "joke" before he goes, the birdmen are more adventure ride than allies and a crew-member only needs a nap after sucking back a grenade. They either didn't have the courage, skill or permission to pull off the story they envisaged.
The animation is good but distinctly under-impressive for a motion picture. Compared to anime it is quite pedestrian and lacks much in the way of visual style or excitement. The computer animated stuff, especially the drej, was poorly modelled and spent too much time playing with visual filters. The science and scenery, part of the fun with science fiction, is very dodgy. Explosive hydrogen trees, Playing dodgems round a nebula and the ice-crystal maze were clearly and obviously adventure playgrounds for action sequences rather than part of any sensible design for a science fiction world. The matte backgrounds vary, but some (especially the drifter colony) were simply atrocious. The animation is reasonable but has a weird wobble and swagger to it. I think they tried to put too much movement both in facial expression and body motion and frankly it all looks very strange and draws the eye far more than it should. The voice work is pretty good, highly characterized and easy to listen to. The music is light teen pop but decent enough.
I haven't yet looked to see if this title is review at any of my cite sites. Heck, I'm not even sure they're still there. Of course since this title isn't really anime I don't expect to find many reviews of it.