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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/19/00

Titan A.E.
Special Edition - 2000 (2000) - 20th Century Fox

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital SurroundTHX-certified

Titan A.E.: Special Edition Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A/B

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A-/A-

Specs and Features

Specs and Features
94 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 44:04, in chapter 12), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with director/producers Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, The Quest for Titan Fox TV special, 2 deleted scenes and 2 extended/alternate scenes, 2 theatrical trailers, 2 TV spots, gallery of production artwork, Over My Head music video by Lit, THX Optimode test signals, DVD-ROM extras (including weblinks and game link), film-themed menus with sound effects and music, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English (DD and DTS 5.1), English and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

The year is 3028, and humanity is about to be exterminated by a race of vile energy beings known as the Drej. But just before the Earth is destroyed, a mass exodus occurs, with millions of human refuges fleeing out into deep space. Among them is young Cale (voiced by Matt Damon), the son of an accomplished scientist. Cale's father, it seems, has developed a revolutionary spacecraft, the Titan, which possesses the power to save humanity, and he's hidden it somewhere in the galaxy. Many years later, we learn that Cale's father has been killed by the Drej, and only Cale holds the clues to finding the Titan... making him a target for the Drej and a much wanted man among the rest of humanity as well. Before long, Cale's destiny will be revealed and he'll set out in search of the Titan with the help of a crew of renegade humans, among them a beautiful space pilot named Akima (Drew Barrymore) and a Han Solo-type, who used to work for Cale's father, named Korso (Bill Pullman).

Titan A.E. was the swan song for 20th Century Fox Animation Studios, which was disbanded in the wake of the departure of Fox CEO Bill Mechanic. As you learn in the commentary, the film was developed under multiple directors before it finally landed in the hands of Don Bluth and company. Borrowing from Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and even Heavy Metal, it's an uneven but generally entertaining ride... if you don't take it seriously in any way and overlook plot holes big enough to fly a space cruiser through. The animation is generally good, but I was occasionally distracted by the mismatch of styles. You've got amazing anime-style environments and CGI backgrounds... matched with very Don Bluth-style cartoon animation. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. In any case, it's a pretty light piece of entertainment and it's only 94 minutes long - chew it like candy and enjoy.

The DVD delivers very impressive anamorphic widescreen video. Occasionally it looks a little soft or edgy - but only occasionally. The colors are lush and as accurate as one expects of animation, and the contrast is excellent. There's plenty of detail in the blacks and you'll see very little in the way of digital artifacting. All in all, home theater buffs should be pretty happy with the way this disc looks. The audio is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 formats, and I was surprised to find that I didn't really have a preference between them. The Dolby track is very natural sounding, with good directional audio and panning and very nice creation of atmosphere - listen to the battle in the ice field (chapter 16) to see what I mean. Dialogue is nicely clear and there's good low frequency in the mix. The DTS track sounds a little more natural, with slightly greater clarity and a more unified soundfield from channel to channel... but I found bass to be somewhat lacking. That's not to say that the tracks are bad, because they're not - in fact, both are very good. But there was no clear winner in my mind when comparing the two. FYI - 2.0 surround audio is also available in English and French, with English and Spanish subtitles.

The extras on the disc are quite good, all things considered. To start with, there's a commentary track with directors/producers Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. It's an interesting listen, but these two definitely don't sound terribly... well, invested in the project. As I mentioned earlier, they were not the first to shepherd the project for Fox, and they do point this out. They also mention the fact that the animation might have looked better with more money, as well as their hesitation in taking on a science fiction project, calling it "a difficult genre" to work in. They talk a lot about the animation process, which is interesting, but their whole approach to the commentary - their tone - goes a long way towards explaining the resulting movie in my mind. You also get an interesting (if light) 21-minute special on the making of the film, which originally was shown on Fox TV, called The Quest for Titan. It includes interviews with some of the voice cast and animators, so it's worth a look. The deleted scene section contains 2 cut scenes, as well as 2 alternate versions of the major set-piece action scenes in the film - the ice field "hide-and-seek" sequence and the final battle. Some of the animation was never finished, so you get a mix of rough and final animation. The differences in the alternate cuts are slight and the deleted scenes do little to enhance the story. Other extras include a music video by the band Lit, trailers and TV spots and DVD-ROM links (including a game link and other Fox weblinks, which don't amount to much). The coolest thing to me is the gallery of production artwork. It includes dozens of images, which feature characters and environments that never made the final film - there's some very cool stuff here.

All in all, if you're a Sci-fi fan, Titan A.E. is worth a watch. It's not gonna rock your world, but it's not too bad either, and the DVD delivers quality and extras enough to please. If you've got enough money left in your DVD budget after buying every other must-have title this fall, add Titan A.E. to your shopping list. It makes for an easy afternoon's entertainment.

Bill Hunt

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