This animated film from 2001 stars a wannabe explorer who has a dream of exploring Atlantis and finding out about its secrets. Keeping up with the characters’ names and the plot could be a bit confusing at times for me, so please accept my apology in advance if my descriptions are not entirely thorough.
The opening scene of the film shows us an explosion and a cautionary “warn Atlantis” message across the screen. We see a young man by the name of Milo James Thatch who appears to be teaching a class. A couple of minutes later, we see that it is a pretend class and he actually works in the boiler room of a museum. He continues to explain to the “class” of the mysterious place called Atlantis located in the Mid-Atlantic/Iceland region. We realize that he has put a proposal in to his manager to travel to Atlantis and explore, but of course, he is denied.
When he returns to his house, down in the dumps, an interesting woman by the name of Helga Sinclair is waiting for him in his living room. She brings him to a man named Preston B. Whitmore. We find out that he is the grandson of Thaddeus Thatch, a wonderful explorer. Whitmore gives the young Thatch a gift from his grandfather, a journal which would assist greatly in guiding him through Atlantis. He presents him with selected main crew members (with a bunch of backup to drive the submarines) and sets them off on the voyage. The crew includes the following: Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke, Helga Sinclair, Gaetan ‘The Mole’ Moliere, Audrey Ramirez (who reminded me of a character on The Magic School Bus TV show from the 90s), Vincenzo ‘Vinny’ Santorini (who is my favorite character in this – see my quote below) and Jebidiah Allardyce ‘Cookie’ Farnsworth. We also have Dr. Joshua Strongbear Sweet, the crew’s doctor and Wilhelmina Bertha Packard, who feels the need to keep repeating that they were all going to die (which added great and much needed humor to the film).
Soon into their journey, they meet their first creature and an attack ensues. Unfortunately, they end up losing many of their crew and land on a strange island. They take vehicles into this territory to set up tent for the night. Long story short, Milo unleashes a tribe of dangerous fireflies (of sorts) which turn into a widespread fire, so they must leave. They use Milo’s book to find their way. At this point, we learn that the crew is in it for the money…although we do not yet know to what extent.
After a few additional adventures ensue, they finally reach Atlantis. Milo ends up with a large bruise and he runs into a few of the Atlantis inhabitants, who all wear masks to protect their identity. One removes her mask and heals him with a crystal necklace she is wearing. Soon after, we see the inhabitants again. We learn that this mysterious girl’s name is Kida. She brings the crew to her father who basically tells her that they cannot stay alive since they know about this place now. After some persisting, he agrees to let them stay the night but that they must leave in the morning.
The crew volunteers Milo to speak to Kida. Kida takes Milo underwater because she needs guidance on translation of a huge mosaic on the ocean wall. They soon determine that the crystal (part of which she wears as a necklace) is the power source of Atlantis. Without it, they would not survive. The crew waits for them on land and hears their discussion. They capture Kida and threaten Milo with their weapons. The gang does not care about the culture or meaning of the Atlantian way of life. They simply want a get rich quick scheme which they learn they can achieve through stealing the power source of Atlantis. They force Milo and Kida to lead them to the treasure. As Kida approaches where the main location of the crystal is, it captivates her, placing her under a spell. She informs Milo in Atlantian that everything will be okay.
Kida turns into the main form of crystal itself and they kidnap her. After some persuasion by Milo, the majority of the gang decides to leave their master behind and stay with Milo. The only two remaining betrayers are Lyle and Helga. They leave and destroy the bridge which connects to Atlantis. Unfortunately, Kida’s father begins dying since their power source is quickly diminishing. He explains to Milo that the power of the crystal thrived on the collective emotions of all who came before their generation. It chose Kida’s mother to be their leader, and now it had chosen Kida. He instructs Milo that he must save Atlantis as he hands him the crystal.
The crew, now minus two, use the crystals to start up the flying machines. After a grand battle, the power source returns and the enemy is defeated which includes the death of both Lyle and Helga. And of course, Milo and Kida have a happy ever after.
Milo is voiced by the awesome Michael J Fox. We know Fox best as Marty McFly from Back to The Future. James Garner voices Commander Lyle; Garner is best known for portraying Jim Rockford in the popular 1970s television series The Rockford Files. The wonderful John Mahoney voiced Preston. Mahoney played the beloved Martin Crane in the TV series Frasier. Surprisingly, the incredible Leonard Nimoy voiced Kida’s father. Florence Stanley voiced Wilhelmina; Stanley has also played the waitress in A Goofy Movie among many other films and TV shows. Cree Summer plays Kida. Summer is a voice actress who has given life to a ton of animated characters in films and TV shows.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire was directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. Trousdale and Wise have also directed Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame among others.
1.) This is one of the few Disney films to take place in an actual year. This one takes place in 1914.
2.) This is one of the last Disney films to show a character smoking.
3.) Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Davenport and Kurt Russell were all considered to portray Commander Lyle (which is funny because I originally thought it was Jones voicing him).
4.) Since this was planned to be an action/adventure film, the crew was known to go to work wearing t-shirts that read “ATLANTIS – Fewer songs, more explosions.”
5.) This is the first Disney film since The Black Cauldron to earn a PG rating.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire is not your typical Disney film, at least not in my opinion. It definitely lacks the heartfelt magic which is usually felt in a Disney production. Maybe you will feel differently though. It is enjoyable and I can see myself watching this again in the future but I just feel as though it is mediocre at best. It is not in my top ten. This is probably not even in my top fifty list. However, it is well made and fun to watch on a rainy day.
My Rating: 3/5
Well, as far as me goes, I just like to blow things up.