Treasure Planet uses up its creative energy on life support for its inhabitants, leaving its plot and plausibility stranded in the doldrums.
PG for action and peril
Aladdin, also directed by John Clements and John Musker.
Hercules, also directed by John Clements and John Musker.
The Little Mermaid, also directed by John Clements and John Musker.
Treasure Planet uses Treasure Island as its template. Jim (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a young man disenchanted by his humdrum life with his mother. They run a hotel in a port city, and Jim dreams of running off on a ship in search of adventure.
Jim takes in an ailing seaman (er, spaceman), whose dying act is to give Jim a map to the fabled Treasure Planet that appears to be genuine.
Jim convinces his mother to let him set out in search of the treasure, with old Doppler (David Hyde Pierce), one of their boarders, financing the expedition. The crew is a strange lot. There are morphs and crustaceans and all manner of heretofore unseen peoples — including a human cyborg named Silver (Brian Murray) who does the ship’s cooking.
Silver takes Jim under his wing, but he’s really in cahoots with the mutinous crew, who are only interested in stealing the map and keeping the treasure for themselves. Jim learns of Silver’s planned treachery and escapes with his loyal captain and financier. Now there is a fight for the map and a race for the treasure.
Creatures from the Deep
Treasure Planet spends all its originality on the spacey look and fantastic creatures. Tall ships with masts and sails recall a centuries-old maritime tradition. But these new ships also have jet engines, artificial gravity, and energy weapons. The colorful, often shady characters of old, are now literally colorful and shady. One normal-looking creature is actually two symbiotic weirdos. Another creature, thankfully un-thought-of until now, speaks only in “flatula.”
But stripped of these flashes of creativity, the story feels a hundred years old (which it is). Rather than write a solid, exciting adaptation, Disney panders to the idea of a “for kids” movie; in other words, sloppy logic and stereotypical characters (you can tell how evil someone is by the depth of his voice) are okay because it’s “for kids.” Eye candy and fart jokes are thought to be enough. It’s best to accept a movie on its own terms, particularly an animated fantasy film. But bad movie physics is anathema to me, and Treasure Planet is the worst offender in recent memory. In one scene, the artificial gravity is turned off. But “no gravity” is portrayed as reverse gravity. And stuff thrown over the side of ships — ships that have to generate their own artificial gravity — falls “down.” There are other annoyances like these throughout the film, constantly reminding us how much better it could have been.
For Kids Only
There is an undeniable sense of adventure and fun in Treasure Planet, in spite of its lackluster assembly. For me, this was a minor saving grace in a flawed movie. Then again, maybe kids will see it in a different light, since it’s made for them.