Friday, July 8, 2011

DAF #36 - Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

Milo: "Who are you? How did you get here?"
Helga: "I came down the chimney. Ho, ho, ho."

Year: 2001
Rated: PG (for action violence)
Run Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Michael J. Fox as Milo James Thatch
James Garner as Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke
Claudia Christian as Helga Katrina Sinclair
Cree Summer as Princess "Kida" Kidagakesh
Corey Burton as Gaetan "The Mole" Moliere
Phil Morris as Dr. Joshua Strongbear Sweet
Don Novello as Vincenzo "Vinnie" Santorini
Jacqueline Obradors as Audrey Rocio Ramirez
Jim Varney as Jebidiah Allardyce "Cookie" Farnsworth
Florence Stanley as Wilhemina Bertha Packard
Leonard Nimoy as King Kashekim Nedakh
John Mahoney as Preston B. Whitmore
Plot: A young adventurer joins an intrepid group of explorers to find the mysterious lost continent of Atlantis.
Based on: Original story...and the myth of Atlantis.
Setting: 1914, Washington D.C./Atlantis.

First Viewing:
2006. First Disney Marathon.

2001. I was thirteen and about as far away from caring about Disney Animated Features as I ever was. Yes, I still loved my old favorites, but I, along with nearly everyone else, recognized that the Disney Renaissance was over. The sun had set on the golden empire and who knew if it would ever rise again? At that point, I think I had maybe seen Tarzan, probably on TV and probably because nothing better was on.

Coming off of the Disney Renaissance, I guess the company wanted something new and different. To hell with fairy tales, big Broadway songs, and and romance! We want action, action, ACTION! Explosions! Sci-fi! Fart jokes! And those oh-so-precious teenage boys who never liked their movies to begin with would certainly pay to see a movie with all that! Thus, in 2001, Atlantis: The Lost Empire was released.

In 1914, a nerdy young lad named Milo J. Thatch works in the boiler room at the Smithsonian. His true passion is to find the lost city of Atlantis through his linguistics and cartography skills. After the Smithsonian board members refuse his theories, Milo is contacted by his grandfather's millionaire best friend who has found the mysterious Shepherd's Journal, an ancient tome with directions to Atlantis. The millionaire (settling up on a bet) offers to fund the entire journey and supply a dream team of experts.

On the expedition, Milo is eventually accepted by his comrades including the overly supportive Commander Rourke. After several hardships, the surviving (and most interesting) members of the crew make their way through tunnels and into air pocket revealing Atlantis. The group is met by Princess Kidagakash (a.k.a. "Kida") and some fellow Atlanteans who willingly accept the new visitors. In fact, the king is the only one who objects.

In the mean time, Milo and Kida bond over Atlantean culture while she explains the history of their dying way of life. Milo realizes that the blue crystals all the Atlanteans wear are powered by well, the Force essentially. When the pair return to the main city, Rourke and the crew are in the middle of capturing the Heart of Atlantis, meaning to sell it to the highest bidder.

Rourke, Milo, Kida, and the king travel to the Heart of Atlantis's location where Kida is chosen as its carrier. Rourke encapsulates her and transports her to the surface. Eventually the rest of the crew abandons their mercenary ways and side with Milo. Action, action, action...Rourke explodes. Milo saves Kida. The crew returns to the surfaces with riches and the lie that Atlantis was never found. Milo stays with Kida and helps the Atlanteans restore their culture to its former glory.

Sorry to have to do this, but I'm going to cheat. After a re-watching of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, it has come to my attention that I don't like it as much as I remember. I know, I know, it's sad, but these things happen.

But, let's start with what I do like: Milo James Thatch. Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Once upon a time, he was my most boneable of the Disney heroes. (His title has since been usurped...but you'll just have to wait to see by who...) I think it's probably obvious by now that I have a thing for nerds and Milo is certainly the nerdiest in the canon. Nearly all the other Disney male protagonists are strapping, virile, pinnacles of manhood. It's such a change up to have a hero who is more brains than brawn.

That's not to say that Milo can't hold his own in a fight. He does, after all, defeat Rourke who is twice his size. In my opinion, it's not the video games or the unopened action figures or the Star Wars bedsheets that turn women off to's the assumed fragility. Nerds have a notorious (and unfair) reputation for being weak, perhaps cowardly and unable to protect said women if there was danger. Lorraine Baines from Back to the Future puts it best "I think a man should be strong so he can stand up for himself and protect the woman he loves." My point is...Milo Thatch is an underrated hero because not only is he super intelligent (in linguistics) but can also kick some ass when the situation calls for it.

Plus he's voiced by Michael J. Fox. Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Notoriously, Atlantis is one the DAF's with an actual princess that is not part of the Disney Princess Franchise. As of now, it's Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Tiana. (Rapunzel is due to be added later this year). To get completely technical...Cinderella, Belle, and Tiana only become princesses through marriage. Pocahontas is a chief's daughter which (if you're trying to cover all your races and ethnicities the way those marketers are) is akin to a princess in 17th century America. And Mulan is the daughter of a soldier who marries a general. The closest she gets to royalty is hugging that emperor.

This is really a bullshit grievance. No one really likes this movie and those who do don't like it because of Kida. Seriously, the only thing interesting about her is her design. There's nothing negative about her per se. She is trying to help her people. No other Disney princess can claim that, certainly. But frankly, she's just so boring! However, boring or not, if she were Latina, you know her ass would be on those bedsheets right beside Belle and Aurora.

I think my problem with Atlantis is a common complaint among Disney-philes and the average boob: it's a story that's been done to death and a story that's been done better. (No, I don't know a damn thing about Stargate).There really isn't anything special about the movie, save for finally having a nerdy hero. But I'll bet I'm one of the few that thinks this is a good point. I just don't really enjoy it.

Still, I respect it for daring to be different. And I pity it. (You know how I am about movies that nobody likes).I would never wish it out of the canon, despite its box office disappointment. But I would never just pick it off my shelf to watch.

"Where the Dream Takes You" - Mya
"Atlantis 2002" - No Angels feat. Donovan (from the German release)

Favorite Song: "Atlantis 2002"
Favorite Moment: The initial meeting of the crew.
Favorite Character: Milo Thatch

You wanna know why his pants are so puffy?
Because he's PACKIN'!
Next DAF: The Black Cauldron (1985)

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