Atlantis: The Lost Empire

atlantis poster

Personal biases play a large role in determining the entertainment value of a movie. In the case of Disney animated films, these subjective experiences assume an even more influential role, as one’s state of mind, generation, and personal background all fuel the viewer’s ability to escape into the presented world. As such, my viewing of Atlantis: The Lost Empire was altered by my background studying Linguistics. So, subjectively, Atlantis came across as potentially more enjoyable than upon an objective viewing.



Nerdy linguist, Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox), is offered the chance of a lifetime when his late grandfather’s friend provides him the opportunity to finally find the lost city of Atlantis. He joins a diverse group of adventurers clamoring to use their limited expertise – the explosives guy, the dirt guy, the mechanic girl, the doctor, etc. ad nauseum – in order to make an unprecedented discovery.

Right off the bat, Milo’s interest in solving the puzzle that is the ancient text of Atlantis piqued my own interest. It’s a very minor aspect of the movie – in case I’m scaring you off from viewing – but an interesting one nonetheless. Where Treasure Planet faltered in focusing more on aesthetics, Atlantis saves face by providing a more stimulating story that keeps you engaged, for the most part. There is nothing shocking about the story or even unique really, but there is enough to keep an adult awake and interested.

atlantis 1

While Atlantis is mildly fun, it does signal the relative downfall of non-Pixar animated films under the Disney umbrella. Apart from The Emperor’s New Groove, the Disney animated films since 2000 have been lackluster at best. For your edification, these films include Dinosaur (2000), Atlantis (2001), Lilo & Stitch (2002), Treasure Planet (2002), Brother Bear (2003), Home on the Range (2004), and a number of other films that have only modestly been saved by recent additions The Princess and the Frog (2009) and Wreck-It Ralph (2012). I may be alone, but within that list, none of the films are remotely memorable.

One caveat to this distinction is exactly what I mentioned at the opening: subjectivity. At the turn of the millennium, I had reached the age when Disney’s movies were no longer as appealing. I had moved on to more age-appropriate animated features – hence why I enjoyed Emperor’s New Groove. However, this example seems to have been proven irrelevant by the modern younger generation’s fascination with the movies from my childhood and beyond (Mulan, Hercules, Tarzan, The Fox and the Hound, Sleeping Beauty) to be the real source of happiness. Parents still provide the option to view the newer films, but the older classics are still preferred.

atlantis 2

So, objectively, movies like Atlantis are simply not on par with what has been released in the past, or even against contemporaries from different studios – yes, I am considering Pixar as a separate entity. The Disney films from the early 2000’s remain a step below the rest, whether that’s resulting from a lack of imagination, critical acclaim, advertising, or what have you.

In the case of Atlantis, the biggest flaw came from the formulaic presentation that only a year later created TP: young adventurer travels with group of mercenaries with ulterior motives. Atlantis may have grabbed my attention for selfish reasons, but ultimately, and objectively, it’s as equally forgettable as Treasure Planet. 

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