Why Titan A.E. is an Underappreciated Masterpiece

Illustration for article titled Why Titan A.E. is an Underappreciated Masterpiece

Before the Battlestar Galactica reboot and Firefly, there was Titan A.E.. This post-apocalyptic animated feature about humanity's last hope was bookended by gorgeous space shots and a misfit crew of aliens. While the movie tanked at the box office, and didn't please everyone, we consider this cartoon a major classic.


Here's why Titan A.E. is an unsung classic of science fiction, that deserves a live-action remake.

Titan A.E. was released in 2000, directed by the legendary Don Bluth (The Secret of NIMH, The Land Before Time) and Gary Goldman. It's a bite-size version of the gritty space opera we all know and love, think BSG in a Firefly color palete wrapper.

Ben Edlund, John August and Joss Whedon all took a pass at the screenplay. And while Whedon may still poke fun at it now, we still think this flick is a classic that can help save space opera. But more on that later, first here's what we love about this movie.

The premise is simple: Earth is destroyed by the blue beings known as The Drej. An alien force that can't be beat because (as you'll hear over and over again) they're pure energy. The Drej blast the Earth right as Baby Cale and his Father escape from the planet on separate ships. Cale's father is manning the Titan, a giant globe-shaped space ship that is rumored to be humankind's backup plan. Cale's father is never seen again. Cut to 15 years later: Cale is a jaded teen, trying to avoid getting lumped in with the rest of the human refugees. Life's not so great for the Matt Damon—voiced kid, until his Dad's old buddy, Capt. Joseph Korso, appears looking for Cale and the Titan. The reluctant hero Cale joins up with Korso and his wacky alien crew, in search of the Titan. But will the Drej find it first?

It's got everything: the chosen one, life after the apocalypse, the rag-tag survivors, rescue missions, and space exploration tropes. All rolled into one movie. Yes, the twists in this flick are as easy to spot as Capt. Joseph Korso's bad guy beard, but the core of the movie's story is great. It's grand and scrappy at the same time. It's the ill-equipped crew vs. a giant power. It's classic scifi storytelling. You can't help but root for Cale, as annoying as his mood swings can be, because the fate of the world rests in his glowing, DNA-mapped hand.

The scope is huge on Titan A.E. and so is the backdrop. Sure Cale may look like a blonde Dimitri from Anastasia, but all that melts away when you watch spaceships careen across spacescapes such as these! The starry expanses are filled with wonder and adventure. The colors, planets and human drifter colony (cobbled together out of derelict spaceships) creates a vast and deep world. This is what space should feel like. Titan A.E. pulls off wonder without having to bathe a gape-jawed actor in blue light.


Plus it's funny. Whedon funny. The banter on this ship is one of the most endearing qualities of this film. The crew has an excellent rhythm of delivery. For every kiddie quip, there's an even better big kid gag, "An intelligent guard... didn't see that one coming." And we love any sort of character who uses his leverage of being humanity's last hope to try and score with the only other human on board.


And finally, Titan A.E. isn't afraid to shoot, kidnap or kill any of its characters. Have you ever seen a "kids movie" where one character snaps another characters neck? We think not.

Sure the music is insanely dated (if you're wondering what The Urge is up to, they're currently on tour aboard the 311 CRUISE SHIP, which we're assuming isn't really a cruise ship but a portal back to the 90s), The Drej are a bit one-dimensional, and some characters could use a lot more development. But we traded in side character depth for a love story, world-building and wonder. This alone elevates Titan A.E. far above most of the science fiction that's come out in the last ten years.


So, why lavish attention on a 13-year-old film? Because this movie is rife for a reboot. Or a TV show: Titan A.E. the series, think about it. Picture the inherent grimness in this premise made even darker. The characters given longer backstories and struggles. Just about each step in this animated space journey is worthy of a 45-minute episode. The Drifter Colony is worth at least an entire episode, as is finding the Gaoul. Add in a few more stops on the hand map, and you've got a full series. It's everything you already love mashed together — tell us that doesn't sound dynamite idea. Syfy, this is the space opera you desperately need!



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