I know that Aaron Wallace felt it was underrated, and since I respect his opinion, I decided to go back and watch Treasure Planet again to re-evaluate its merits. I originally had it at #47, but after watching it again I bumped it up to #36
Treasure Planet (2002)
The Hero: Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt); a fatherless boy with an adventurous spirit who looks like he would be more comfortable as a the sixth member of N’Sync than as a treasure hunting space adventurer.
The Villain: Long John Silver (Brian Murray); a cyborg who for some reason was given an amazing arm that can help him do anything, but his mechanical leg is nearly useless. Why would the technology exist to have such a highly functional arm, but he’s still stuck with a peg leg?
Sidekicks: Morph, a floating glob who can change into anything he wants. He’s originally Silver’s “parrot,” but eventually ends up tagging along with Jim. There’s also an incredibly obnoxious robot name B.E.N. (Martin Short) who grinds the movie to a halt for 10 minutes with his over the top schtick.
Music: “I’m Still Here (Jim’s Theme)” A completely out of place rock ballad written and performed by John Rzeznik…Yes, THE John Rzeznik!! It is used over one of my least favorite film devices, the dreaded “montage” sequence.
Do We Hear or See the Phrase "Happily Ever After?" – No.
Does Someone Die Or Seem To Die Before Coming Back To Life? - No.
It made $38 million at the box office….that’s about $100 million less than its budget.
The first feature film ever simultaneously released to both regular and IMAX theatres.
My Final Thoughts:
Sometime in the mid to late 1990’s, Disney got it in their heads that they didn’t want to keep making Musical Fairy Tales. In other words “Movies People Like and that Make A Lot of Money.” So they started branching off into adventure films like “Atlantis” and cutesy comedies like “Lilo and Stitch.” trying to get away from “being repetitive” and trying to be “more relevant” I suppose.
Another product of that move was Treasure Planet. Ron Clements and John Musker had an idea, a “dream project” to make “Treasure Island” in space. One of the major drawbacks to the film is that they chose to cross 19th century nautical life and styles with futuristic space life, styles, and gadgetry. So the film, at least early on, is a mess of jarring “gimmicks” that tend to bog the movie down; There are old leather bound that have no printed words, but project 3D images and tell the story out loud with pictures, sound effects, and narration; instead of different humans there are strange alien creatures with strange names that speak strange languages (“Flatula” for one; a “farting” sounding language. Har de har har!)
We’ve also got sailing ships that fly in outer space using sails powered by solar winds…Space pirates who dress like sea pirates…laser guns that look like flintlock pistols and blunderbusses…Space “whales” that fly alongside spaceships….planets that stand in for islands….Black holes and space storms that endanger the ships with their energy “waves”….Robots and bizarre aliens who stand in for what were human characters…Strange morphing creatures that stand in for parrots. These things often become a distraction to what is going on in the story and with the characters. It would have been better to be focused less on the gimmicky “mash up” of the two eras. It would have been better to pick one time frame and stick with it. Are we in the 19th century or are we in the future? And then let us get to know our characters a little.
It takes a while to wade out from under the weight of the film’s initial flaws, but once the viewer settles in the original source material breaks through. The middle section of the movie is more effective and entertaining. Particularly engaging is the convincing portrayal of the complicated relationship between Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins.
Eventually the cast reaches their destination of Treasure Planet. Then we are introduced to B.E.N., the stranded robot who is unbearably over-the-top and obnoxious. His presence grinds the film to a halt. Finally the film reaches a contrived sci-fi finale where our heroes must escape the impending and obligatory “Giant Space Explosion!!!” that we have all seen a several dozen times before.
Animation wise I think it is a mixed bag. Everything looks pretty good, but often the mixture of digital imagery and traditional animation does not blend well.
Ultimately, I was left feeling that Treasure Planet was a missed opportunity. Treasure Island is a great story that would make a great animated feature. I think the filmmakers’ outsmarted themselves a little and let their imaginations get the best of them. If they had focused more on the story and less on the “gimmicks” I think they might have made a much better movie.