Treasure Planet (2002 USA)

Disney’s attempt at “action/adventure”, and Treasure Planet was another of these more adult films for the impatient. So far Disney hasn’t done too bad in this genre, since we are now free of sitting through annoying songs and have more time to see the actual film. Treasure Planet was loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. However, this one takes place in a futuristic setting; the robots are replaced with small hover-craft, the large clippers and ships with unusual opened spaceships (which makes one wonder how the characters breathe in space), parrots with morphing creatures, and one-legged pirates with cyborgs.

Treasure Planet is an attempt to update source material that might have a more universal appeal. It’s one of the most cohesive and engrossing Disney animated features around, filled with awe-inspiring set pieces (altering `Treasure Island’ to take place in space is a marvelous concept) and with many of the psychological insights that have made Disney films gentle but astute tutors on childhood. This time, though, the theme is more mature (the search for the father who has abandoned you and being able to let him go once you’ve found him), aimed at a crowd perhaps old enough to understand it explicitly. To that end, they make Jim Hawkins, the main character (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), something of a delinquent (though one a danger only to himself) whose self-esteem is directly tied to his need for a father-figure.

Fortunately, to keep things entertaining and lighthearted, there’s plenty of (mostly) low brow humour provided by directors, Ron Clements and John Musker, whose introduction of slapstick into `Aladdin’ via Robin Williams was perhaps the animation unit’s masterstroke. This time around, comic relief is in the form of Martin Short as a wacked-out robot and Mona Marshall as Morph, the best sidekick since Iago in `Aladdin’. The other voice cast members, all appealing, include Emma Thompson as Captain Amelia and David Hyde Pierce as Dr. Doppler. But it’s the gifted Brian Murray as John Silver that makes the most impact, bringing sensitivity as well as menace to a role that is exactly what the underlying text calls for…Treasure Planet is a film where absolutely everyone – production designer, director, cinematographer, animators, writers – brought their “A” game. And it really shows.

The visuals are vibrant and beautiful. The characters are interesting and generally well developed. The action is smooth and, in some cases, rivals the direction of live-action films (one sequence, a chase through the interior of a ship, stands out as an example of animation skillfully imitating a live action sequence, including the simulation of a moving, hand-held camera). I think the strong point of this story is the relationship between Jim and Silver. Although both characters represent the classic Good/Evil dynamic, Jim ultimately sees Silver as a father figure and inspiration by the film’s conclusion, resulting in one of the most tear- jerking “parting of the ways” scenes that I have seen when Silver leaves. Although Silver gets away with his crimes in the novel, he is still the villain at the end, but in this adaptation, you are genuinely sad to see him go despite the bad things he has done. Its grand entertainment.

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Comments

  1. Excellent review! I have not yet seen this film but have heard that this is one of Disney’s underrated classics, I’ll certainly be checking this one out soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you! 🙂

    Like

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