Rates: * * * *
Why Did I Watch It? Recommended by one of my work colleagues.
In remote deep space, a young boy helps his mother run the local inn, while dreaming of adventure. One day: a stranger arrives and passes on a mysterious artefact, that kick starts an epic swashbuckling hunt for a planet sized treasure chest.
Even from a two sentence summary, straight away you can tell that something is up with this movie. It’s biggest, wildest swing is contained in the pitch: what if ‘Treasure Island’, replete with sailing ships and ‘avast ye matey’ pirates, in the future? It is rare that you get the words ‘swashbuckling’ and ‘space’ in the same synopsis.
And this, I think, has to explain the mixed reception this film has engendered over the years. When it was released in 2002, this was exactly the sort of old school story telling that people were turning away from; ‘Shrek’ had come out the previous year, and it’s smart alekky meta commentary on Disney tropes was seen as exciting and edgy.
Then Disney made this, and doubled down on a whole bunch of those exact same tropes, and spent a tonne of money doing it. And the movie bombed.
Nearly twenty years later, it has found it’s audience. Kids from that era love it, and animation fans are still knocked out by its look. And let’s be clear on this point: the animation in this film is incredible.
It also arrived at a time when CG animation was pushing out hand drawn stuff, and so this film has a mixture of both; some lovely hand made characters, moving through incredible CG backgrounds. The action scenes are thrillingly good as well, as directors Clements and Musker (‘Aladdin’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’) pioneered the ‘virtual camera’ techniques that have now become standard.
The characters have all retained their old fashioned character names, and it is fun to see Long John Silver as a cyborg, with an arm that functions like a Swiss Army Knife. The whole movie is like this, with details from two hundred years ago, bumping up against future tech that still does not exist. Your mileage will vary: but for me this was an exciting combo that made for a beautiful and distinctive film.