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Atlantis: The Lost Empire

TROUBLED times for the Mouse-House lately - that's Walt Disney studios to you and I.

Atlantis - The Lost Empire

TROUBLED times for the Mouse-House lately - that's Walt Disney studios to you and I.

The company which once controlled the animated picture market has been facing tough competition from Dreamworks studios, and the tried and tested musical-comedies for which it is famous seem to be falling a little flat at the box office.

'Atlantis' is an experiment, it marks a departure from the well travelled path that Disney animated features have traditionally followed.

The directing team behind 'Beauty and the Beast' brings us a new edgier style: no singing characters, or overload of rather obvious pop songs, no 'clever' pop-culture references, no cute talking animals and not a comedy side-kick in sight.

So does the experiment pay off?

Yes, is does. Atlantis is a rousing, thoroughly enjoyable action adventure romp which owes more to Indiana Jones and Jules Verne than it does to the Brothers Grimm.

The story begins with the awesome destruction of Atlantis, as it and most of its people are consumed by tidal waves which wipe it off the face of the Earth.

We then jump a few thousand years to 1914.

Milo Thatch (voiced by Fox) is a naïve, bookish young museum cartographer and linguistics expert, who dreams of completing the quest that his famous explorer grandfather dedicated his life to - the search for the lost empire of Atlantis.

Milo's pipe dreams are suddenly made real when an eccentric billionaire Preston B. Whitmore (John Mahoney) gives him Shepherd's Journal - a book in Atlantian pointing the way to the lost civilisation - and an invitation to join an expedition to find it.

So the "expert in gibberish" joins a rag-tag group of adventurers on board a state-of-the-art submarine, led by humourless, muscle-bound Commander Rourke (Garner) and his vampish second-in-command Lieutenant Helga Sinclair (Claudia Christian) on a quest for the lost empire.

The rest of the team comprise of teenage mechanic Audrey (Jacqueline Obradors), the gigantic, genial Dr. Sweet (Phil Morris), chief of excavations - the creepy Peter Lorre-esque 'Mole' (Corey Burton), sardonic explosives expert Vinny (Don Novello), crusty cook, Cookie (Jim Varney) and caustic communications operator Mrs Packard (Forence Stanley).

After a disastrous start, involving a rather large Leviathan, the group find themselves face-to-face with the population of Atlantis, led by the wary King Nadakh (Leonard Nimoy) and his beautiful daughter Princess Kida (Summer).

A series of events is set in motion, and Milo realises that only he can save Atlantis, for the second time.

The inspiration behind the look of 'Atlantis' comes from popular 'Hellboy' comic book artist Mike Mignola.

Mignola himself collaborated on the project to create a shadowy, expressive, flat, graphic and layered style, which is emphasised by rich colour and the fact that the film is shot in wide CinemaScope.

Attention to detail is amazing as the explorers travel through incredibly famed lush backgrounds on their journey.

The use of 3D effects can be seen in kinetic action sequences involving sea monsters, explosions, aquatic volcanoes and tidal waves to name a few. 'Deep Canvas' technology is also evident giving a remarkable depth of field and 'camera movement' thorough out the film.

The story is a simple one, and the script isn't particularly extraordinary, but the film is well paced, the action is non-stop and the set pieces are often jaw-dropping.

In a refreshing change from being assaulted by contemporary pop music, composer James Newton Howard provides a score that is both sweeping and heroic by turns and underscores the action on screen perfectly.

'Atlantis' is somewhat lacking in the character development usually present in Disney animated features, but this could be due to the fact that there are so many other supporting characters here.

The trademark Disney moral to the tale can be still be seen. In this case the evils of Cultural Imperialism and monetary greed.

Although it may not be readily described as an 'instant classic', Atlantis is a well-told, solidly entertaining family film which proves that there is life in the old mouse yet.

Release date: 19th October 2001.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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