Disney animators took a giant leap of faith in fashioning an action adventure animated feature that was not a musical especially when the superb animated adventure The Iron Giant had done poor business a few years earlier, but Atlantis: The Lost Empire nevertheless premiered in 2001 to virtually the same rather tepid public response. There is a lot of imagination on display here (not unfortunately with the plotting) and some fun characters on the periphery, but all told, the movie doesn’t quite possess that wow factor that the animation team was so hoping it would. The made-for-home video sequel continues the usual tradition of placing familiar characters in new adventures but with even less admirable results this time around.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, 1.66:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Rating: G, PG
Run Time: 1 Hr. 35 Min., I Hr. 20 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVDkeep case with slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/11/2013
Atlantis: The Lost Empire – 3.5/5
The Production Rating: 3/5
After a lifelong obsession with the lost continent of Atlantis, cartographer/linguist Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox) is given a book the Shepherd's Journal that’s the key to Atlantis’ discovery and a fully financed expedition by a friend of his grandfather’s, wealthy philanthropist Preston B. Whitmore (John Mahoney). Headed by the gung-ho Commander Rourke (James Garner) and with a crack team of workers who can solve just about any problem they encounter, the group does indeed find Atlantis ruled by a dying king (Leonard Nimoy) with his daughter Princess Kida (Cree Summer) on tap to take over ruling the advanced but troubled civilization. Milo and Kida form a strong bond as she shows him the many marvels of Atlantis, but little do they know that the scientific expedition headed by Rourke actually has another much more sinister purpose in mind for their journey than merely adding to the scientific knowledge about the legendary society.
The script by Tab Murphy (from story ideas contributed by directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise and sci-fi writer extraordinaire Joss Whedon among others) offers a prosaic basic plot of mercenary intentions disguised as scientific exploration decorated with terrific monsters (a lobster-like machine the Leviathon which guards the city, fireflies whose name literally describes their power), inventive flying fish pods charged by Atlantis’ power crystal (the object of desire of the greedy Rourke) which figure in the all-stops-out aerial dogfight sequence that climaxes the picture, and a host of delightful, ethnically diverse crew members, all with their own engagingly offbeat personalities: tough second-in-command Helga (Claudia Christian), Italian explosives expert Vinny Santorini (Don Novello in the movie’s most engaging voice performance), black medic Dr. Sweet (Phil Morris), Hispanic engineer Audrey Ramirez (Jacqueline Obradors), the appropriately-named French geologist Mole (Corey Burton), the older generation chain-smoking communications officer Mrs. Packard (Florence Stanley) and good ol’ boy cook Cookie (Jim Varney who died before the film’s completion). Michael J. Fox does just fine as the nerdy Milo (who predictably becomes an almost superhero fighting ace by film’s end), but the union of Milo and Kida doesn’t generate much heat. James Garner’s against-type villain is very entertaining.
Atlantis: Milo’s Return – 2/5
Milo’s (James Taylor) above-ground friends Vinny, Sweet, Audrey, Mole, Mrs. Packard, Whitmore, and Cookie return to Atlantis with an urgent need for his and Kida’s services. It seems a sea monster known as the Kraken has begun destroying vessels, and they suspect the magistrate of Krakenstad Edgar Volgud (Clancy Brown) is the villain pulling the strings. No sooner do they take care of that problem when they learn of a man called Ashton Carnaby (Tom Wilson) in the American southwest who is stealing valuable artifacts from many ancient civilizations leading to rampant attacks of sand coyotes against any who venture into the area. A third world crisis erupts when ruined businessman Erik Hellstrom (Morgan Sheppard) steals Odin’s staff with the intention of generating Armageddon and setting himself up as the ruler of a new world.
The three segments in this made-for-home video release were actually produced as episodes of a proposed television series based on the original film, and the subsequent production as we now have it looks TV-cheap in every way. The animation is substandard even compared to the compromised quality of Disney’s other made-for-home video sequels, and the stories all follow a familiar pattern pitting our heroes against megalomaniacal villains where things always look completely hopeless until the last possible second. Apart from Michael J. Fox and the late Jim Varney, all of the voice cast from the theatrical film returned to their roles and do the best they can with the limited material, and a lava dog pet for Milo and Kida makes notable appearances in each segment. But the scope of the original adventure is badly compromised in this thrown-together mash-up of three abandoned TV episodes and is one of those endeavors that’s instantly forgotten the moment it’s over.
The original film is presented in its 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec while the sequel measures in at 1.66:1. While colors are often muted in these films (with lush splashes of color at effective intervals), the transfer of each movie has no problems at all representing the intended look of the films’ production staffs. Contrast is beautifully realized in each, and sharpness is all one could hope for. Black levels are impressively deep, and there is no banding or aliasing to interfere with either transfer’s sterling picture quality. The white subtitles used when foreign tongues are being spoken in both films are very easy to read. The original film is divided into 19 chapters and the sequel into 10 chapters.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
Atlantis: The Lost Empire – 5/5
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is very impressive throughout the original film. There is some always welcome directionalized dialogue though most of the dialogue-heavy communication is contained firmly in the center channel and is always easy to understand. There is powerful deep base used on several occasions and a terrific use of the entire soundstage to represent the action-heavy moments that sometimes pan from front to back. James Newton Howard’s bombastic score gets the full surround treatment.
Atlantis: Milo’s Return – 4/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix really offers a stereo TV production-style track with only occasional echoes of the music into the rear channels. Voices are all recorded well and rooted to the center channel. Given its origins, the sound is certainly fine but in no way comparable to the achievements of the feature film.
Audio Commentary: Directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise and producer Don Hahn illuminate their years of effort to bring the movie to the screen, but the commentary seems almost beside the point in light of the extensive making-of documentary also included in the package.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
The Making of Atlantis: The Lost Empire (1:59:51, SD): an overwhelmingly comprehensive look at the making of this production spotlighting directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, producer Don Hahn, and screenwriter Tab Murphy and also hitting on every aspect of the film from conception through the premiere. Along the way crew members like art director David Goetz, layout specialist Ed Ghertner, background supervisor Lisa Keene, sound supervisor Gary Rydstrom, composer James Newton Howard, and many members of the cast (noted in the review above) are interviewed.
How to Speak Atlantean (2:12, SD): Marc Okrand offers a brief lesson on the Atlantis foreign language teaching a few words and phrases viewers might find helpful.
Disneypedia: Atlantis – Fact or Fiction? (6:38, SD): a number of engaging theories about the fabled continent and the gadgets and monsters that allegedly inhabit its mythology.
Three Theatrical Trailers (1:09, 1:16, 2:54, SD): there is no “Play All” feature.
Four Deleted Scenes (2:07 for the deleted Viking prologue presented in full animation; 14:50 for the other three deleted scenes in storyboard form, SD)
Promo Trailers (HD): The Little Mermaid, Monsters University, Planes.
Deleted Scene Ending (0:32, SD): in Milo’s Return, a surprise ending to a climactic sequence was snipped out of the film and is presented here.
DVD Copies of both films
Kudos to Disney for trying something different with their epic animated adventure Atlantis: The Lost Empire. The Blu-ray release sports outstanding audio and video transfers and ports over many of the bonuses from the previous release. The 2003 made-for-home video sequel while completely unworthy to the original film is also here for the completists among us.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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