[MOVIE REVIEW]Swashbuckle in space is far from a treasureWalt Disney Studios, the company that gave birth to animation as both an art form and a popular entertainment, has gone through repeated boom-bust cycles.
There was a dry period following the great, groundbreaking works of the late 1930s and 1940s, like "Snow White and the Seven Drawfs," "Bambi" and "Pinocchio." The magic was most recently rediscovered with 1989's "The Little Mermaid." But after a powerful streak that included "Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King" and "Mulan," Disney has again settled into formulaic filmmaking.
Ron Clements and John Musker ("The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin") directed Disney's latest offering, "Treasure Planet." Their movie was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of adventure on the high seas. In this animated version, the boats are sailing the great void of space, which perhaps is fitting.
The tale revolves around Jim Hawkins (the voice of Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a fatherless boy, who discovers a holographic treasure map and sets off for the big blue (er, black). Along for the ride are Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson), the cook John Silver (Brian Murray) and Dr. Doppler (David Hyde Pierce). But when the treasure is at hand, mutiny strikes.
While the studio poured a lot of resources into this movie, the result is clumsy and trite.
"Treasure Planet" falls into the Disney trap. The main character is always an underdog, there's always a romance (albeit one-sided), there's always a sidekick and there's always singing and dancing.
Family is important. But to learn that, someone consistently runs away from home. The characters are even drawn with the same facial expressions.
Half the time I felt like I was watching a rotating cast of siblings coached by the same person.
Jim's father sailed into space when Jim was only a child. So Jim grows up a troublemaker who leaves home. The romance between Captain Amelia and Dr. Doppler ranges from distracting to annoying. There's even a grand old song and dance number at the ending, in line with the Disney formula.
The sidekick, Morph, a floating glob, is cute. The cast rivals those from the Star Wars canteena, which also means some of them are scary.
Space is visually amazing. But these galleons, with masts and sails, appear old fashioned and cumbersome instead of gracefully splendid.
It takes Olympian feats to operate the ships. I thought the point of futuristic gadgets was to expend less human energy. Instead of strapping on a seatbelt, the characters tie themselves to the ship with rope. There is also a swashbuckling sailor who wields a saber. But other creatures use laser beams.
In the end, "Treasure Planet" has its charming moments, but it falls very short of being sublime.
by Joe Yong-hee