Movie Review: Treasure Planet (2002)

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Seen: On our projector set-up, streamed from netflix instant.

I caught a chunk of this on tv years ago and always meant to revisit it, mostly because I remembered the lady captain being cool. As its name implies, Treasure Planet is a futuristic re-telling of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island, following young upstart Jim Hawkins as he unexpectedly receives a map to the fabled title planet, where space pirates long ago stashed all of their loot. His astronomer friend Doctor Doppler commissions a ship for them to travel there, but most of the crew turn out to be vengeful pirates who plan to mutiny and take the treasure they believe is owed to them from past treacheries. Now Jim, Dr Doppler, and the formidable Captain Amelia must fight for their lives on an unfamiliar, booby-trapped planet.

With beautiful, inventive animation and a few cool futuristic twists, Treasure Planet has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, its story is by now too familiar to me, and the writers do little to spice up the narrative. It’s also very clearly aimed at kids, resulting in more cheese than I needed, and it’s a bit mired in its early-2000s time. It’s got montages set to original Johnny Rzeznik songs, for god’s sake. I enjoyed the side characters of Dr Doppler (voiced aptly by David Hyde Pierce, meaning I could pretend he was some alternate-future version of his astronomer character from Wet Hot American Summer), and of course, Captain Amelia, who is a badass British ship captain voiced by Emma Thompson. Their parts are often funny and a bit more adult in tone, but most of the film is more juvenile and without the charm one usually expects from a Disney animated movie. I was very into the look and design of everything, especially the gorgeous watercolor backgrounds on Treasure Planet itself, and the fun mash-up designs of all the 19th-century-inspired technology. But pretty visuals and some great side characters don’t quite carry the whole movie.

3/5

Pair This Movie With: There are several similar movies out there, but I’d say this reminded me the most of Titan, AE, a movie I unabashedly love. And of course the Treasure Island-ness of it all put me in the mood for my most-watched adaptation of that classic, Muppet Treasure Island.

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