Here's the animated space adventure I've been hoping for--a film that uses the freedom of animation to visualize the strangeness of the universe in ways live action cannot duplicate, and then joins its vision to a rousing story. Don Bluth's "Titan AE" creates the kinds of feelings I had as a teenager, paging eagerly through Asimov and Heinlein. There are moments when it even stirs a little awe. The movie is pure slam-bam space opera. Its stills could be transferred intact to the covers of old issues of Amazing Stories. Yet it has the largeness of spirit that good sf can generate: It isn't just action and warfare, but also a play of ideas. Some of its galactic visuals are beautiful in the same way photos by the Hubble Space Telescope are beautiful: They show a careless hand casting colors and energy across unimaginable expanses of space, using stars and planets as its paintbox.
The movie works as adventure, as the Star Wars" pictures do (and as live-action sf films like "Starship Troopers" do not). It tells a story cleverly designed to explain more or less reasonably why Cale, in the words of the ancient sf cliche, "has the future of Earth in his hands!" There is a sense of wonder here. I argue for animation because I believe it provides an additional dimension for film art; it frees filmmakers from the anchor of realism that's built into every live-action film, and allows them to visualize their imaginations. Animation need not be limited to family films and cheerful fantasies. The Japanese have known that for years, and "Titan AE" owes as large a debt to Japanese anime as to "Star Wars." This may be the instrument by which anime breaks loose at last from its imprisonment in the video stories, and finds a home on the big screen.
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