Atlantis: The Lost Empire – This 2001 Disney release seems to be largely forgotten, perhaps due partially to the lack of songs (it’s actually the third of these animated films in a row not to be a musical) and cute marketable characters. It does have a princess, however, so I’m not sure why she doesn’t get to be part of the Disney Princess line. She’d certainly add diversity to the mix, as she’s not part of any existing culture.
Speaking of diversity, the cast includes a medic who’s part black and part Native American and a teenage Puerto Rican girl. Also, it’s worth noting that Joss Whedon has a writing credit, his contribution apparently being the original treatment. The film was inspired by adventure stories, particularly the work of Jules Verne. It incorporates several accounts of the sunken land of Atlantis, from the earliest account by Plato to New Age works from the late nineteenth century that suggested the place was essentially the root of all civilization. It’s been suggested that, just as The Lion King is sometimes considered to be a rip-off of the anime series Kimba the White Lion, this movie could be a rip-off of another anime series, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. I can’t speak to the similarities, not having seen the series, but I do think there was definitely an anime feel to some of the movie. I’m sure it was mostly because of all the mechanical fish ships, not to mention the one scene with giant humanoid robots. The Biblical Leviathan, not traditionally associated with Atlantis but associated with the sea, features in the movie as a mechanical lobster.
Milo mentions the passage from Job referring to this creature, but not the ones in Psalms. When Vinny Santorini jokes that he’d have it with white wine, however, it could have been a sly reference to Psalm 74:14: “Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.” Or am I thinking too hard about this? The Atlantean language, described as a root of many other known languages, was developed by Marc Okrand, the same guy who devised some of the alien languages on Star Trek.
I enjoyed the movie overall, although it was nothing spectacular. Beth said it didn’t do much for her, and I guess it kind of was more of a boys’ movie, not that I really buy into all that gender stereotyping. It had an interesting and eclectic cast of characters, but most of them were never really developed beyond a few basic traits. I don’t recall Commander Rourke even doing anything notable before coming out as the villain towards the end. Really, the character wanting to exploit a foreign civilization for material gain, even if it means destroying it, is rather clichéd. Still, it worked all right if predictably, and I have to have some appreciation for a film where the geeky, awkward guy is the hero and gets the girl.
Michael J. Fox was very recognizable but also quite appropriate for the role of Milo Thatch. Jim Varney and Leonard Nimoy also provide voices, and Cree Summer demonstrated that not all of her voice work sounds like Elmyra from Tiny Toon Adventures. I think the film is definitely worth watching if you haven’t yet. Perhaps it fits that a movie about Atlantis would be somewhat of a lost Disney feature.
I enjoyed this movie, but I do feel it’s inferior to Nadia and yes there are a lot of similarities between the two: both have a nerdy protagonist who falls in love with a dark skinned princess who has a necklace that is used to control the power source of Atlantis but she doesn’t know what it’s for, for one thing.
Here’s a website detailing both the plot: http://www.thesecretofbluewater.com/atlantis-i.htm, and visual: http://www.thesecretofbluewater.com/atlantis2-i.htm similarities between the Nadia TV show and Atlantis (As a note when he says the pendant is inspired by Laputa that is simplifying things a bit… Miyazaki originally wrote the treatment for Nadia, it was shelved and then he made Laputa, then Anno was brought on board to complete the shelved Nadia so Laputa used ideas developed for Nadia but before they came into use.)
They do sound pretty similar. The idea of Atlantis being powered by a magic crystal can be traced to psychic Edgar Cayce, so I suppose Disney could fall back on that for that particular element. Same deal for the pendant in Laputa, in which the island was basically a flying Atlantis anyway. (It certainly had very little to do with its namesake in Gulliver’s Travels.) I also feel obligated to mention Marle’s pendant in Chrono Trigger, which is also linked to a floating Atlantis-like civilization in the distant past.
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