Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. This is a pertinent detail because it shaped my choice of which movie I intended to review today. When I woke up this morning and remembered what day it was, I realized that I couldn’t just let the day pass without doing something on the site to remember it. That’s why I’m reviewing another forgotten animated gem: Treasure Planet.
Just in case the title may have seemed somehow misleading, Treasure Planet is an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson‘s classic novel, Treasure Island. It’s about a boy who finds a treasure map and goes on an adventure to acquire said treasure. On his way, he encounters a would-be father figure, pirates, and a conspiracy. There have been scores of adaptations of this story throughout the years. My personal favorite is, of course, Muppet Treasure Island. Treasure Planet, however, is pretty fantastic.
The story follows the traditional trajectory with Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gorden-Levitt) working at his mother’s (Laurie Metcalf) inn and dreaming of leaving home. One day, a chance encounter with a crashed alien vessel brings him into contact with a mysterious sphere. Next thing he knows, his mother’s inn is raided by a band of cutthroats and Jim barely escapes with his mother and their friend, Dr. Delbert Doppler (David Hyde Pierce) in tow.
They soon discover that the mysterious sphere is, in fact, a map to the fabled Treasure Planet. They soon acquire a ship captained by Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson) and crewed by an interesting assortment of individuals. One such individual is John Silver (Brian Murray), a cyborg who befriends our plucky hero. You can guess where it all goes from there. As I said, it goes along with the story as written.
I like the way the writers put their own spin on the material. While it’s still a simplified retelling of an old story, there is a lot of stuff that one can do to make it one’s own. To the surprise of no one, the story works well in a science fiction settling. While I feel like there should have been some more interpersonal interplay between some of the characters to more firmly establish their relationships and make us really care about them, I have to say that I love the sharply written dialog. Captain Amelia is one of my personal favorite characters. Watch the movie and you’ll see why she’s awesome.
In this adaptation, Disney decided to do something unprecedented: they decided to attempt a mixture of 3D and 2D animation. While they’d yet to really hit the digital animation renaissance, the film does a pretty great job of melding the two styles. Sure, it’s looks a little clunky at times, but it works out well overall. Furthermore just love the style of the movie. It’s got this sort of futuristic steampunk aesthetic that’s so gorgeous.
One of the really awesome things about this movie is the assortment of different alien character designs. Seriously, there’s one alien that speaks “flatula.” Yes, that’s just what it sounds like. I think this movie definitely doesn’t get as much love as it should. It was a little ahead of its time and is frequently forgotten among the greater Disney pantheon. It’s on Netflix now, though, and you owe it to yourself to give it a chance. It had the makings of greatness in it. It just needed a little push.
As I’m watching this for the first time in a little while, I have to admit that this Jim Hawkins bears a striking resemblance to another Sci-fi Jim: Jim Kirk (Chris Pine). I’m talking about the reboot version. They’re both fatherless scamps who run afoul of the law and inevitably get put on the paths that make the most sense for them thanks to the interference of grumpy mentors. They’re also smarter than people give them credit for and have serious abandonment issues. Hawkins’ back story is told in flashback over a Johnny Rzeznik song, Kirk is descended from Thor (Chris Hemsworth). I just wanted to share this revelation.
Other thoughts include being grateful that they decided not to make the movie a total sausage fest by including the amazing Captain Amelia. While I’d like to have seen some more ladies, she almost more than makes up for the lack. That, and Mrs. Hawkins’ relationship with Jim is pretty awesome. She’s a great mom and it’s nice to see a living mother in a DIsney movie. We don’t get that often enough.