- Reviewed by: Le Apprenti
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Current Rating 6.55/10 | 58 Votes
The story of Treasure Planet (not Island) is as follows. Hawkins is raised by a single mother after his father walked out of his life. His relationship with his mother is almost a cliché of late 80’s early 90’s screen relationships between parents and their out-of-control prone teenagers. His idea of reckless behavior is skyboarding over a restricted area before being picked up by police robots (comparably tame to the kinds of things kids his age were doing a decade ago). He discovers a sophisticated sphere that turns out to be a map indicating a location in the galaxy that he automatically pronounces as Treasure Planet, based on instincts cultivated from his childhood fantasies of adventure and treasure hunting. Together with astrophysicist Dr. Dobbler, they charter a ship to take them to Treasure Planet.
The crew hardly resembles Stevenson’s band of jolly rogers. The Captain is a young female Amelia. Her right-hand man is Mr. Arrow. John Silver – minus ‘Long’ – is a cyborg with the machine side on his right half. His right arm is engineered into numerous kitchen tools and bladed weapons. In place of his “pieces of eight” parrot is a jello-like morph named Morph who can change shape in a blink of an eye. Silver’s gang is a hilarious motley crew of alien oddities from a fat slug that communicates in farting sounds, an arachnid-looking cutthroat, to a symbiote duo of a bodyless head and a headless body. However, the insanity has yet to begin. Bringing that to the story is Treasure Planet’s robot hermit B.E.N. with a cybernetic lobotomy – without the memory card that serves as his brain – causing him to chatter incessantly.
In a way, Disney has stayed true to the spirit of Stevenson’s story because several elements of its essence are intact: teenager Jim Hawkins, his relationship with John Silver (for some reason, ‘Long’ is dropped from the film version), the ship, and the treasure hunt. Everything else has been drastically changed. As usual, the standard brand of Disney magic compensates for all of the movie’s literary shortcomings: colorfully designed characters, comic relief annoyances, clearly defined relationships between characters that even a 5-year-old can comprehend. Disney certainly went back at least a decade in terms of their characterization and mannerisms. The characters are all of different alien species to begin with, and that already makes them interesting to watch. The heart of the story is the mentor-protégé relationship between Silver and Hawkins. It is very well developed, and their subsequent turn against each other is bittersweet. As always, Disney animation has never been better. Plenty of computer animation is employed in Silver’s character designs as well as many of the scenic backgrounds.
However, the magic in Treasure Planet is hardly worth its weight in gold. Despite the characters’ impressive animation design, they are one-dimensional beneath the skin. Except for Silver and Hawkins, there is little reason to feel for them. From Captain Amelia and the ship’s crew to Dr. Dobbler and Hawkins’ mother, they hardly sparkle. Although the arachnid-like cutthroat is pretty menacing, and B.E.N.’s antics are mildly entertaining. Hawkins’ troubled background is a good setup for his relationship with Silver. He needs a father figure for direction and boundaries. Silver is the richest character of all. He has a balance of the greedy mercenary and the soft spot of a doting mentor. Brian Murray’s deep yet mellifluous voice conveys Silver’s sensitivity when mentoring Hawkins, and his sinister when opposing him on Treasure Planet. The rest of the cast, including Martin Short’s take as semi-annoying B.E.N., blend in nicely but none particularly outstanding.
This is Disney’s second attempt at pure action adventure in an animated feature (the first being Atlantis: The Lost Empire). While it is still in the infancy stage – it takes its cue from the best of sci-fi action adventure flicks – the results show promise. The action sequences are excellently directed. Two of them especially stand out: Hawkins’ escape from R.L.S. Legacy, and the exploding Treasure Planet (with an unreal sequence of Hawkins skyboarding out of the explosion in the nick of time after sustaining what appears to be engine failure). The special effects are fantastic, and the pace of direction matches up brilliantly with the speed of the action. If Disney continues with this new venture into animated action flicks, it can compete on the same level with Japanese hentai action anime in no time.
Treasure Planet is no sparkling gem next to the finest Disney masterpieces. It is a ‘different’ type of animated feature that, despite its PG-level content, will be entertaining to kids (when accompanied by an adult). But it is only a skin-deep copy of Stevenson’s classic story, and as such will not see a glimpse of immortality that the novel has enjoyed. Much like the treasure itself, it will sink into oblivion.
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