Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Release Date: June 3rd, 2001 (released June 15th nationwide)
Inspiration: The legend of the lost city of Atlantis
Budget: $90-120 million
Domestic Gross: $84 million
Worldwide Gross: $186 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%
IMDB Score: 6.9/10
Storyline (per IMDB): 1914: Milo Thatch, grandson of the great Thaddeus Thatch works in the boiler room of a museum. He knows that Atlantis was real, and he can get there if he has the mysterious Shephards journal, which can guide him to Atlantis. But he needs someone to fund a voyage. His employer thinks he’s dotty, and refuses to fund any crazy idea. He returns home to his apartment and finds a woman there. She takes him to Preston B. Whitmore, an old friend of his Grandfathers. He gives him the shepherds journal, a submarine and a 5 star crew. They travel through the Atlantic ocean, face a large lobster called the Leviathan, and finally get to Atlantis. But does the Atlantis crew have a lust for discovery, or something else?
Pre-Watching Thoughts: We continue on through the 2000s with a film that I believe has slipped through the cracks and I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone actually remembers that this film exists. However, there are some that do believe that this is film is slightly underrated and that it doesn’t get the credit that it deserves, and I will be the judge of that as I have never seen it before and am hoping that it pleasantly surprises me.
Voice Cast: After the last film which had probably one of the biggest casts of any of the Disney films, we go back to having a moderately sized cast though it does consist mostly of newcomers. We did have a few returning actors as well as we have the return of David Ogden Stiers who voices Fenton Q. Harcourt in a minor role and Corey Burton who voices Gaetan “Mole” Moliere in a memorable role. We now move onto the newcomers as we have star Michael J. Fox who voices Milo Thatch as he was hitting the peak of his career by this point, and then we have James Garner who voices Commander Lyle Rourke as he was nearing the end of his career. We then have Cree Summer who voices Princess Kida as well as her mother though she is better remembered for voicing Kida, and I will of course all give a mention to Natalie Storm who voices Kida as a child. Next, we have Don Novello who voices Vinny Santorini and in a fun note, all of his dialogue was improvised which is pretty impressive, and then we have Phil Morris who voices Joshua Sweet as he was in the prime of his career at this point. We then have Claudia Christian who voices Helga Sinclair in one of her only animated film roles, and then we have Jacqueline Obradors who voices Audrey Ramirez though she was more known at this time for being on numerous TV shows. Next, we have Florence Stanley who voices Wilhelmina Packard in what would be one of her final roles, and then we have John Mahoney who voices Preston Whitmore as he was starting to wind down his career by this point. We then have, Jim Varney who voices Jebidiah Farnsworth in his final film role as he sadly passed away a year before the film released, and finally we have the legendary Leonard Nimoy who voices King Nedakh though he will forever be known to the world as Mr. Spock of “Star Trek”. It is always interesting seeing a mix of actors who mainly work in film with those that are better known for their TV careers, but they usually mix very well and help bring these characters to life.
Hero/Prince: We have a very unique hero to talk about here as he seems like a nobody that everyone thinks they can step on, but he is a lot more than what he appears to be and that is Milo James Thatcher. He is the grandson of a famous explorer and he firmly believes that Atlantis is real, but no one takes him seriously as he is left doing minimum work at the Smithsonian including linguistics and cartography. He is summoned by Preston Whitmore who reveals that Milo’s grandfather found the Shepherd’s Journal and is asked to join an expedition to find Atlantis, and the expedition would eventually make its way through a volcano and reaches Atlantis though Milo is still treated like dirt by Rourke and his mercenaries. Milo meets Princess Kida and she learns that he can speak Atlantean so she has him decipher old writings long forgotten, and they find their way to the Heart of Atlantis only for Rourke to turn on Milo and they capture Kida who has merged with the crystal. Milo is tasked by the King to save Kida and the crew turn on Rourke by siding with Milo, and with the help of the Atlanteans they defeat Rourke and his crew while recovering Kida and escape the volcano which awakens. Kida is separated from the crystal and Atlantis is saved as the crew return to the surface while Milo stays in Atlantis to be with Kida. Milo is a classic example of someone who is extremely passionate about his love and desire to fulfill his family’s legacy, but he is ridiculed by people who believe he is simply chasing a fairy tale and no one takes him seriously until they do find Atlantis. He has plenty of traits that make him endearing to people which leads to the crew joining his side to save Atlantis, and he elects to stay in Atlantis and help the people there so while he might not rank too high amongst the other princes and heroes, he is a fine hero for this film.
Princess: On the surface, it first seemed like this film would not have a princess in it, but surprisingly enough it does and that is Princess Kidagakash Nedakh or Kida for short as we first meet her as a child when a tidal wave threatens Atlantis. Her mother is consumed by the Heart of Atlantis which creates a dome around the city to protect it from the water, but in the process it is sunk to the bottom of the ocean and becomes legend as well as just a myth. We meet her again when Milo and the crew arrive at Atlantis and she befriends Milo as they tell each other about their different cultures, but when Rourke betrays them she is forced to lead them to the Heart of Atlantis where she becomes merged with the crystal. They kidnap her and intend to sell it though they are stopped by Milo and the crew, and they return her to the city where she creates a shield to protect the city from the lava of the volcano. She is restored and becomes the new Queen of Atlantis as Milo stays with her as they rebuild the city. Kida reminds me a lot of Princess Eilonwy from “The Black Cauldron” though I believe she is more important than Eilonwy because we see her in her kingdom and she is a central figure of the story, and while she is fine in the film she will more than likely not rank too highly when compared to the other princesses in the canon.
Villain: You would think for a film like this that we would have a pretty unique villain to talk about and to really stand out amongst some of the other villains, but we instead have a fairly generic villain and that is Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke. He leads the first expedition to retrieve the Shepherd’s Journal and then he leads the expedition to Atlantis, and he looks down on Milo and makes it seem that he is generally interested in finding Atlantis. In reality, he reveals that he intends to capture the Heart of Atlantis and sell it to the highest bidder, and after Kida is consumed by the crystal he has her locked up and they head towards the volcano though the crew leave his side and join Milo. Milo, the crew, and the Atlanteans attack Rourke and the mercenaries as they attempt to escape the volcano, and Rourke easily overpowers Milo who then slashes him with a shard of the crystal which turns Rourke into a stone and he is destroyed by a propeller. As mentioned, Rourke is pretty much as basic a villain that you can get as he is solely motivated by money and will do anything to get what he wants, and at this point you need more to help you stand out amongst the other villains in the canon so he will most likely not rank very high.
Other Characters: So much like the last film, we do see a lot of characters throughout the course of this film but we only have a handful of them to talk about as most of them play a pivotal role in the film. First, we have the King of Atlantis Kashekim Nedakh who is ruling when Atlantis sinks to the bottom of the sea, and he is weary of Milo and the crew when they arrive though Kida warms up to Milo and his friends, but when Rourke betrays them he mortally wounds the King to find the Heart of Atlantis and the King entrusts Milo to save Kida and Atlantis before passing away. We then have millionaire Preston B. Whitmore who finances the expedition to Atlantis to repay a favor to Milo’s grandfather, and when the crew returns and lies about what really happened he is skeptical until he reads a note from Milo that convinces him that Milo is ok and that Atlantis is real. Next, we have Helga Sinclair who is Rourke’s lieutenant and second-in-command as she is just as greedy as Rourke is and stands by his side for the most part, but in the Rourke attempts to sacrifice her to escape the volcano though she survives long enough to bring his aircraft down before succumbing to her injuries. We then have the rest of the crew which includes demolitions expert Vinny Santorini, Dr. Joshua Sweet, mechanic Audrey Ramirez, radio operator Wilhelmina Packard, chef Jebidiah “Cookie” Fansworth, and geologist Gaetan “Mole” Moliere. They are initially cold to Milo though they end up befriending him as they tell him their personal goals, and they at first side with Rourke due to the money they might receive though they ultimately turn on Rourke and stand with Milo. They help him defeat Rourke and his mercenaries while also saving Kida as well as Atlantis, and they return to the surface with a large amount of treasure to fund their goals though they tell Whitmore that Milo, Rourke, and the others went missing. Finally, we have Fenton Q. Harcourt who works on the board of the Smithsonian Institute and he dismisses Milo’s claims that Atlantis is real though we don’t see him after denying Milo the funds needed to do an expedition. It’s never a problem when there aren’t a lot of characters as it puts more focus on the main ones and helps move the film along, and having big groups in the background helps fill out the scene.
Plot: Going into this film, I’m sure that many were familiar with the story of Atlantis and there were some that believed that it was a real place that had been swallowed up by the sea, and while to this day it still hasn’t been proved if Atlantis existed or not it is interesting to see if still be considered a real place. Having said that, you knew that if anyone could make a story about Atlantis and the finding of it, it would be Disney and that’s what we get here as the film starts with the city being swallowed up by the sea thanks to a tidal wave. Thousands of years later, linguistic teacher Milo is ridiculed for his belief that Atlantis was real and a friend of his grandfather finances an expedition. Joined by Rourke and a full crew, they traverse the sea and an underground dormant volcano where they finally find the hidden city, and they are welcomed by the princess of the city Kida though her father the King is skeptical of them. Milo befriends Kida and she shows him the ways of the city until they are betrayed by Rourke who desires the Heart of Atlantis which he plans to sell and become rich, and Kida leads them to the Heart where she is encapsulated by the crystal. Rourke imprisons her and leaves for the surface though the crew sides with Milo who is tasked by the dying King to save Kida and Atlantis, and Milo is joined by the crew and the Atlanteans as they battle Rourke and his mercenaries. Rourke is turned into a stone after being slashed by the crystal and he is chopped to pieces as the rest of the mercenaries are defeated, and they bring Kida back to Atlantis as the volcano comes to life and erupts. Kida creates a barrier that protects the city from the lava and she is restored to her old self, and she is crowned Queen as Milo stays by her side and the rest of the crew return to the surface. It is fairly obvious that we have seen this storyline done many other times in other films and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a film like this set in Atlantis in a live-action setting, and while it would’ve been nice to do something different it never hurts to do something familiar as long as it’s done right.
Random Watching Thoughts: I do like how they incorporate the logo into whatever the background is; “…in a single day and night of misfortune, the island of Atlantis disappeared into the depths of the sea.” – Plato, 360 B.C.; Looks like something landed on Earth to cause that large of a tidal wave; It will forever be a mystery as to how Atlantis was able to be so technologically advanced in the time when it disappeared; In a fun fact, Disney brought in Marc Okrand to create the Atlantean language due to his creating of the Klingon language for “Star Trek”; If she had just let Kida go get her bear, she probably wouldn’t have been captured by the light; It was clear they were very ill-prepared for something like this as a lot of people wound up dying due to being left out; We never do learn when exactly in 1914 the film took place because of how casual everyone was being, it means that World War I must not have started yet; In another fun fact, Michael J. Fox was also offered a chance to be in the film “Titan A.E.” and he let his son choose which film he did and that’s why he’s in this film; The way Milo had things set up, you really thought he was talking to actual people and not just dummies; That is quite the mistranslation to get Ireland and Iceland mixed up; That was perfect how the chalk ended up on his vest without getting any smudges; He kept the hat all this time and went as far as to make a shrine out of it; They move his meeting up on such late notice and they act surprised that he didn’t show up on time; Did he really think he could hide behind that small plant and not be seen?; He either didn’t care that Milo was quitting or he just assumed he was bluffing; Helga laying the sex appeal on strong to draw Milo to her; She never bothers to put her shoulder strap back on her shoulder; Whitmore able to do all those yoga poses even at his age; So if his grandfather had the journal the whole time, why was it never revealed at any point?; Whitmore sounded like Milo’s grandfather was crazy though he genuinely cared about him and wants to see his reputation restored; Whitmore really went the extra mile to make sure Milo was taken care of; “Our lives are remembered by the gifts we leave our children”; He says he’s so excited he can barely hold it in, and then he literally can’t hold it in on the ship; We’ve all had that moment where we got sick and see something that we don’t remember eating; Motor Poo; The four food groups according to Cookie: Beans, Bacon, Whiskey, and Lard; Only a demolitionist would consider items like dynamite and gunpowder as office supplies; I get that Whitmore is a millionaire, but still how much money was he able to spend in 1914?; Mole literally brings patches of dirt from around the world with him on any expedition; Mole’s archenemy, a bar of soap; That picture of Milo on the beach could certainly scare away even the toughest Navy man; I can’t say that I even remember the Bible mentioning a creature called the Leviathan; Clearly, they aren’t the first ones to attempt to find Atlantis; They realize it is a giant lobster attacking them and Rourke wants him dead so he can eat him; They are under attack and all Packard wants to do is read a magazine; All that work to build that huge submarine and it gets destroyed before they even get to Atlantis; Clearly Milo has never driven a stick shift before; How many trucks were they able to fit on that tiny ship?; He was so confident they had to go left only for that monster to force them back; I would think if Milo drank nitroglycerin, he would’ve died immediately; I think it would be best to ask how all of this was able to survive under water and how close they were to the core of the Earth; So Milo’s knowledge of boilers actually comes in handy; Milo should’ve suspected something was up when everyone pretty much admitted they were in it for the money; Audrey’s dad jinxed himself asking for sons only to get two daughters instead; Literal fireflies; Even though the volcano is dormant, it’s still probably not a good idea to fire off a flare in it; Classic example of foreshadowing with the volcano; Atlantis feels like a whole other world hidden deep in the Earth; If they smell fear just by looking at you, why would you be quiet?; I can only imagine how long it took the cast to have to learn a made up language; I don’t know what Mole said to Kida, but it sounds like he deserved to get punched in the face; It’s amazing that those trucks were able to get across that rickety bridge; It is a bit fitting that not only did they have the man who created the Klingon language involved in the film, but that they also got Mr. Spock himself to be in the film; Clearly Kida’s father is content where his people are and Kida wants to bring them back to their former glory; Mole so desperately wanted to get close to Kida and was upset when he wasn’t picked; So Milo is a scholar because of his lackluster physique and large forehead according to Kida; So it seems like the Atlanteans are very similar to the Greeks in that they had multiple Gods; Kida looks great for being 8,500 years old; Milo knows more Atlantean than Kida who is an actual Atlantean; Yeah, I think that can go really fast; Kidagakash is quite the mouthful, it’s a good thing most just know her as Kida; You know Milo is thinking that his grandfather should be here with him to see this; So Cookie was off because by 1914, there were 48 states and not 38; So they’ve been in Atlantis for a while and know the air is not toxic, yet they put on gas masks anyway; So they have an underwater cavern under the ocean; They swam quite a long way and Milo was able to hold his breath for a long time; Considering that Plato is a famous philosopher and wrote a lot about Atlantis, you would think people would take it more seriously and not consider it a legend; Considering Milo knew that there was a missing page and that Rourke led the expedition to find the journal, you’d think he would put two and two together that maybe he had a hand in the page missing; Adventure Capitalist; Of course Rourke wouldn’t count to 10 fully before pulling the trigger; Clearly, these people are so driven by money that they don’t care if they start a World War; Milo knew exactly what she was saying, but lied to Rourke by saying he wasn’t sure; The crystal knows it’s in trouble so it merges with Kida to protect itself though it ends up causing trouble; Milo basically causes everyone to feel guilty for putting money over their morals; Packard says that they are going to die yet she still leaves and sides with Milo; What was P.T. Barnum right about?; The King foolishly thought he could use the crystal as a weapon and paid the price for it; As the old saying goes, “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it”; If Rourke did end up selling the crystal to Germany, who knows how World War I would’ve turned out; So a tuna is sporty to Vinny; A little premature of Rourke to declare victory when he hasn’t gotten out of the volcano yet; How often do you see a dogfight in the base of a volcano; The saw can cut through a femur in 28 seconds, but we’re talking about chains here and not bones; Boy, Rourke wasted no time in throwing Helga away like she was nothing; She was able to survive that long fall just enough to shoot the balloon down; So he was turned to stone yet somehow came back to life only to be broken to bits by the propeller; Remember the foreshadowing from Mole earlier, well sure enough the volcano has become active once again; I don’t think Milo should be able to walk on a cracking ground that is about to erupt in just simple shoes without burning himself; So apparently she can summon giant beings to create a barrier to protect them from the lava; This reminds me of Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask where the four giant creatures are able to keep the moon from crashing down and destroying the world; So the barrier not only protected them, but cooled down the lava quick enough to make it break apart; Considering what she just went through, you’d think Kida would either be much weaker than she is; Where did all that treasure come from?; So all this time, they were able to get pictures yet not once did we see anyone with a camera; They all cleaned up well; Did Whitmore know they were lying before he opened the package and received the crystal, or was he in it all along and was just having them go over the alibi?; Milo quickly integrated himself into being an Atlantean really quickly; Even though there were no songs in the film, I will make mention of the single from the soundtrack we hear during credits “Where the Dream Takes You” performed by Mya.
Overall Thoughts: Overall, this was a perfectly fine film that wasn’t anything really special, but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world either as it was in essence just average. Having never seen any of the films in this stretch, I have heard that they are considered by many amongst the worst in the canon and I always like to be very optimistic before I watch them. But to be honest, these last few films have not done much to change the perception that I had going in which is upsetting given how much the films from the 1990s were extremely enjoyable. I can hope that it does get a bit better going forward and that something from this decade ends up being better than expected and perhaps that will start with the next film. As for this film, it is about as average as you can get and that is pretty much all I can say about it.
Final Grade: 5.5/10