VIDEO: Treasure Planet (2002)

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Treasure Planet: A movie that dares to show us the future of swashbuckling. Turns out it’s a lot like the past, only with more robots. Also, it has air in space.

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  • Muthsarah

    Very well-done review. Treasure Planet is one-half high-seas pirate tale, one-half goofy slapstick for kids, one-half dark character drama, and one-half mindless sci-fi fluff. Parts of it are SO good, such as the animation and the lead characters. And parts of it are SOOOOO bad, like the comic relief and, sad to say, the premise. It’s a mixed bag, like Disney’s Hunchback; worth checking out if you’re at all curious, but almost a guaranteed disappointment if you go in with any expectations. Jim is one of the best-realized standard young man protagonists in any animated film. Silver is, as always, a classic anti-villain. And, even if they were realized in a strange way, I really liked both the Doctor and the Captain. And not as shipbait. The animation was overall gorgeous. The darker plot elements, as you pointed out, were really, really cool; you don’t see or expect stuff like that from Disney. And then they keep ruining it with terrible comedic moments. Sigh.

    It feels like Disney didn’t know what it wanted more: a weird movie stuffed to the gills with comic relief for little kids or a classic tale with engaging characters, complicated relationships and subtle animation for the older set. So, being a lumbering behemoth with more money than sense, they just took everything and crazy glued it together, and when that didn’t go over, they threw a fit and killed their entire 2D animation studio. A simpler premise, combined with this film’s surprising layers and excellent supporting cast, woulda been the smarter thing to do, and I just do not get why they didn’t do it.

    After Hunchback (really, after The Lion King), the big Disney summer flicks were steadily declining in revenue. So why invest in something THIS expensive? Why go for broke with a risky premise? Pirate movies didn’t sell. Sci-fi rarely sold. Let’s put them together! If you don’t have a guaranteed hit, dial it back and focus on the basic; rely on your artists and your brand name to turn a medium-budget movie into a big hit, rather than doubling-down every time you lose. It means you have to try to win over everyone at the same time, which just makes the job harder…and probably means more re-writes, more course corrections mid-way (think Brave), more confusion among the animators etc. and that just makes it all the more expensive, all the more difficult to sell (this movie bombed horribly as fickle audiences apparently wouldn’t see it unless they were OK with both pirates AND sci-fi), and all the more difficult to make the movie itself good enough for everyone. Which it certainly failed to do as well

    Just make a big, lavish, animated Treasure Island movie. On Earth. On water. With pirates. Everyone knows pirates. It’s gotta be both A) cheaper to make, and B) easier to sell than anthropomorphic animal cyborg sailing ships from beyond the stars. There is so much potential to the original story’s basic premise, and many, many chances to take it in a new direction if you don’t want to slavishly adapt it. Sure, “everyone” (except for you, I guess :p) has seen the classic Robert Newton Treasure Island, which Disney made 50 years prior, but that’s a decent enough time for a remake, dontchathink? I know pirate movies were considered box office poison at the time, but how many successful movies based on mermaids, Arab folktales, or set in medieval France were popular at the time? Not many, but Disney made ’em work all the same, because they made ’em well. A $80-100 million colorful animated tentpole summer Disney flick shoulda worked. But Disney tried to do too much, make it too out-there, too complicated, too expensive. When, really, there was no need for any of that.

    Two years later, PotC proved that audiences still liked pirate movies…if they looked interesting. Disney should easily have been able to make a successful animated pirate movie. This was ambitious, sure, and it coulda been amazing (parts of it are)…had it felt like just one, coherent movie, instead of two awkwardly sandwiched together.

  • As for the space travel in this show, it looks like they are using the 19th century ideas where Space Is An Ocean, complete with breathable aether combined with the ever-present Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale trope.

    • Muthsarah

      True. I doubt anyone was complaining about The Science during Melies’ “A Trip to the Moon”.

      Doesn’t mean we can’t, though.

      • Cos bitching about stuff is every internet dweller’s right(and sometimes income).

        • Garrett Snook

          Damn straight

    • Thomas Stockel

      Agreed. The movie reminded me of two things. The first was the Marvel comics Swords of The Swashbucklers trade paperback and comic series, which had sailing ships in space. The other is the Space 1889 role playing game which takes place on Earth, Venus and Mars and space is filled with “luminferous ether”, which like you said is based on a bunch of Victorian era theories.

  • Torgeaux

    I read the original Robert Lewis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’ and it was a ripping yarn to read sure enough. The first movie adaptation I saw was the one Disney filmed in the late 1940’s with Robert Newton as Long John Silver. There were things mucked about with the original written work, but I was completely bowled over by Robert Newton’s portrail of Long John Silver that all pirate potrail are judged by me by his standard. I did not fault the movie for setting 18th C.Vessels in outer space and running with it. Star Wars battles are basiclly WWII airial combat taken from gun cameras and a lot of cheezee movies on the subject. Ireally like this film too. You care about the characters and how it all ends up. I would have liked to have seen a more bitter sweet ending, but there you are. You have to suspend your disbelief and leave your NASA space cadet credentials way back in your reptilian stem brain to enjoy this movie.But if you just go with it’ it’sa very entertaining peice of work to spend time with.