Titan AE comes out this summer before X-Men-- Fox's attempt to corner the young movie-going market. Combining standard animation with computer-generated special effects, Titan AE aims at audiences too old for Disney and too young for American Pie, a market The Phantom Menace corralled last summer. The results are better than expected, though Titan AE will seem too juvenile for anyone out of their teens.
Titan AE begins with the destruction of Earth in the 31st century by an alien race called the Drej. Without a home, the human race is scattered across the galaxy in make-shift colonies, slowly dying out. The only hope for human survival is Titan, an enormous ship that escaped the Drej attack, and holds the secret for a new Earth. The story focuses on Cale (Matt Damon), the son of the Titan's creator, and the key to finding and activating the hidden ship. Fifteen years after Earth's destruction, Cale is found by Korso (Bill Pullman), an old friend of Cale's father, to search for Titan and save the human species.
The characterization is generally good in Titan AE, with the notable exception of Cale. Surrounded by non-humans and still angry at his father for abandoning him, Cale is essentially a jerk for the first half of the film. It would seem that leaving your child to secure the fate of the entire human race is justifiable, but apparently it isn't to Cale. The result is an audience initially left with a main character no one likes. Akima (Drew Barrymore) is Cale's love interest--a strong female character, and the film's best pilot. Of all the actors, John Leguizamo stands out as the character of Gune, a mole-like eccentric genius helping to find Titan. Unlike the infamous Jar-Jar Binks, Gune is actually funny and the viewer cares about his survival.
Thankfully, Titan AE gains some momentum in the last half. Cale finally loses the chip on his shoulder and, amid some sexual innuendo, he and Akima fall for each other. Following this, the audience is hit with a genuinely surprising plot twist, throwing the good vs. evil paradigm for a loop. Most films of this genre set the protagonists and antagonists from the beginning, so it is refreshing when Titan AE alters the formula.
One noticeable problem with Titan AE is the ridiculous soundtrack. It is as if the producers randomly gathered songs whose titles fit the movie's plot. A scene with Cale getting the chance to pilot a ship is made laughable by the repeating chorus of The Urge's "My Turn To Fly." The rest of the soundtrack proves to be a feeble attempt at connecting with audiences too old for Phil Collins/Elton John arrangements.
The visual results are mixed as well. The special effects are no doubt impressive, but they also serve to make the standard animation look that much more cartoon-y.
Titan AE must be looked at for what it is: a cartoon geared at audiences too old for Disney. The clichés are incessant, but combining a workable plot and enough action to hold the attention span of a 12 year-old boy is a daunting task. Titan AE succeeds, but it remains to be seen if audiences will take the bait.