Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: November 27, 2002
Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker
Genre: Animation / Adventure / Fantasy / Family / Sci-Fi
“Treasure Planet” is a space-based reimagining of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic “Treasure Island.” Young Jim Hawkins (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a rebel without a cause or a clue with plenty of bad attitude to spare. He spends the bulk of each day doing dangerous tricks with his solar surfe, but one day, Jim comes into possession of a map which shows the location of the treasure of the notorious pirate Flint.
The map that Jim finds shows the location of the loot located on the titular Treasure Planet, which excites family friend Dr. Doppler (David Hyde Pierce). He decides to dip into his own pockets and fund an expedition to the fabled planet, hiring Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson) to pirate a ship. The motley crew includes John Silver (Brian Murray), the galley master, and a number of other alien sailors. With a few bumps along the way, they sail through space while Silver plots a mutiny to steal the treasure once they arrive on Treasure Planet.
Although he is planning on betraying the Captain upon arrival, during the trip he begins to bond with Jim. The two are alike in many ways, and Silver feels protective of Jim, who had an unsteady childhood that caused him to have a chip on his shoulder. As the ship gets closer to its destination, Silver has to decide whether he wants to follow his heart and help the boy to claim the treasure or steal it out from under him. While he wrestles with his morals, Skroop (Michael Wincott) becomes the primary villain with ice water in his veins. He would stop at nothing to claim the treasure, no matter what Silver chooses to do. It’s Skroop’s lack of morals that causes the big conflict towards the end of the film, where alliances and friendships are tested and not everyone gets what they desire.
Animated films have come a long way since the stop-motion techniques of yesteryear, sometimes producing more visual pleasure than live action films. “Treasure Planet” has an all-star voice cast, including Academy Award winner Emma Thompson. However, the real star of the film is the animation, which looks like a colorful painting that has jumped off the canvas and onto the screen. It is reminiscent of postcards of tropical destinations at sunset with layered, vibrant colors that seem almost too good to be true. The film was released in 2002, when animation technology was finally getting the recognition and respect it deserved, and this film is a prime example of why this is so. This film is eye candy for all ages that almost doesn’t require a good plot to make it interesting.
Thankfully, screenwriters Ron Clements, John Musker and Rob Edwards did not rest on their laurels just because the film could have floated on its visual spectacle alone. They still wrote an admirable screenplay that deftly mixes modern-day sensibilities with the classic Stevenson novel. The biggest thing they changed was the amount of levity between the novel and their adaptation as “Treasure Planet” offers up plenty of humor. Martin Short in particular brings the guffaws to the proceedings with a manic performance that channels Robin Williams’ classic turn as Genie in “Aladdin.” Hyde Pierce of “Frasier” fame and theater vet Brian Murray also get in a few funny one-liners to balance out the more dramatic aspects of the film. Thompson lands a few jabs and sounds like she is having a great time as Captain Amelia, a role which lets her chew a little scenery as she does not have to carry a film like she usually does. There may be only a few major characters who get the bulk of the screen time, but this is an ensemble piece with a fine and funny cast.
The fact that the film is based on “Treasure Island” is what really makes it fun for both children and parents alike. Parents find it easy to connect with the film’s literary origins because they have likely read the book in school or sometime in their youth. Even if they aren’t old enough to have read the classic tome, kids are sure to enjoy the modern space setting, fun story and animation. Studio executives are always touting how their latest animated movie is fun for all ages, including parents. With “Treasure Planet,” Disney finally made the film that delivers on that lofty promise. To top it all off, the film is not a part of a larger franchise and doesn’t feature any existing Disney characters, making its success all the more impressive.
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