“Once in a great while mankind unlocks a secret so profound that our future is altered forever. Fire, electricity, splitting the atom…
At the dawn of the 31st century, we unlocked another. It had the potential to change humanity’s role in the universe. We called it the “Titan Project,” and it was a testament to the limitless power of the human imagination.
Perhaps that is what the Drej feared most, for it brought them down upon us without warning and without mercy.
Cale, that day, the day that the Drej descended from the sky, the only thing that mattered was keeping you safe.”
It is with these words that Titan AE opens. An idyllic scene of a boy playing by a stream soon turns into a nightmare as we witness the evacuation and eventual destruction of planet Earth by the Drej, a race of purely energy-based aliens.
Skip ahead 15 years and we meet Cale again, working on a junk salvage station. Humans are all but extinct and are marginalised as inferior and treated as such. This persecution has run Cale down and left him cynical and bitter. He gets approached by a mysterious hotshot space captain named Korso who offers him a chance to find the Titan, the ship Cale watched his father disappear in 15 years earlier. Cale is reluctant at first but soon finds himself in a race against time to find the Titan before the Drej and their agents find and destroy it.
Many factors are cited as possible reasons for the commercial failure of Titan AE, ranging from competing for release with Treasure Planet to having had five writers (including Joss Whedon) on the script over the course of the production. Whatever the reason may be for the box office failure, Titan AE was well received and has however developed a cult following of devoted fans.
Titan AE made use of a mix of Cel shading and CGI but unlike most other films that try to combine the two, Titan AE makes no attempt to disguise their use of CGI with all the ships, planetary views, the galactic landscapes and the Drej being very clearly and plainly rendered in CGI. The integration is well done from the start which makes it work and not feel jarring when you become aware of the CGI.
Titan AE was also graced with a fantastic voice cast, each well suited to their role which made the characters feel less two dimensional than many sci-fi films characters do. The voice for our unlikely hero Cale is supplied by Matt Damon (Bourne Identity, Good Will Hunting), the tough and smart pilot and love interest Akima is voiced by Drew Barrymore (Charlies Angels, 50 First Dates) and Korso the is voiced by Bill Pulman (Independence Day, Spaceballs). Nathan Lane (Lion King, The Producers) also lends his talents to the character of Preed and John Leguizamo (Ice Age, The Pest) and Janeane Garofalo (Dogma, Ratatouille) voicing Gune and Stith respectively.
Some character stereotypes are also avoided in this film. Examples being that at no point in the movie does Akima become the hapless damsel in distress. In a scene where the crew try to rescue Akima they finally find her sitting in her cell between the unconscious bodies of her attackers and simply asking “What took you so long?” upon seeing the crew. During a space battle when Stith and Akima are manning gun turrets they come across more like teenagers in an arcade than two girls.
While the plot is not the most original, drawing on many sci-fi plot devices and formulas, it is well-executed and doesn’t feel entirely like a cut and paste film. The dialogue is well written, the humour well-timed and action well executed. A visually stunning film with a great soundtrack.
Well worth a watch if you haven’t yet and well worth a rewatch if you already have.