Sci-Fi Nerd: Commentary, reflection and accolades from a fan’s point of view on all things sci-fi and fantasy.
The Robert Louis Stevenson classic heads to outer space, and not only survives the trip, but achieves an orbit of animated excellence.
Revisiting this Disney production turned out to be more fun than i expected, and despite them being unable to resist putting in a somewhat sappy song, this movie is a job well done
Treasure Planet, a combination of both analog and computer generated animation, has excellent visuals from stem to stern, (who would expect anything less from Disney Studios?) and was nominated for an academy award for best animated feature film of 2002, losing to Hayao Miyazaki’s Sprited Away.
The voice casting was also top-notch, featuring the talents of: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brian Murray, Emma Thompson, David Hyde Pierce, Martin Short, Michael Wincott, Laurie Metcalfe, and Roscoe Lee Browne.
The film stays mostly faithful to the original story with the exception of being transferred to a world where alien lifeforms are in plentiful abundance. The film uses the usual Disney style of cartoonish inhabitants to populate this world with many of the main characters reminiscent of Disney characters we have seen in the past. The Main protagonist in all of this, Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is human in appearance in a world occupied by humanoid talking cats, dogs, and even a turtle.
Jim is given a modern update as being a fan and expert practitioner of a rocket powered solar-sailed flying surf sailing board for modern young audiences to relate to. He is young and full of the enthusiasm and hormones of youth. He is shown being busted after a reckless ride on his contraption by a pair of robot policemen, which gets him in trouble with his mom Sarah (Metcalfe), who owns and runs a small isolated inn on the planet Montressor where they live.
The story continues to adhere to the original as things suddenly change with the arrival of a small flying ship that crashes near the inn. The passenger, who dies soon after entering the inn, is Billy Bones (Patrick McGoohan), and he gives them an article he keeps in a chest that is a globe, that turns out to be a map. Soon after the inn is attacked by a band of pirates and as Jim, his mom and friend Dr Delbert Doppler, a scientist (who looks like a dog) escape, this results in the adventure of a lifetime landing in Jim’s lap, which leads to a treasure hunt aboard a ship across the galaxy.
This is no ordinary ship but a space faring schooner named the Legacy with solar sails, and apparently capable of traveling stellar distances quite rapidly, this is an open deck ship and the subject of surviving a trip through hard vacuum without protection is never mentioned or approached. The characters in this film are all exaggerated in their depictions which labels this film as being for kids. Nice people are nicer than usual, and bad people are really bad.
The main characters are memorable and nicely done in this. The captain of the ship is a sharp-tongued humanoid cat-like creature named Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson), a role she manages to handle with aplomb.
Also aboard is the cook Long John Silver (Brian Murray) transferred from the novel pretty much intact, except in this case he is a cyborg with the ability of shifting his limbs like a swiss army knife. He is shown to have a real talent for pandering and being a real toady when called for, thinly disguising his menace and true intentions. He is the archetypal scoundrel who kisses your ass one moment and literally stabs you in the back the next. He takes Jim, who is shown to be in need of a father figure, under his wing and the two bond. Silver is shown to not be as evil through and through as he thinks.
The story nears its now famous ending with the addition of some high tech, science fiction details involving another robot, a planet rivaling the Star Wars death star, and a dimensional portal that allows the user to travel anywhere in the galaxy instantly, all culminating in an exciting and dramatic conclusion.
Silver finds redemption for all the evil he has done when he is faced with the choice between keeping the treasure he has sought for years, and saving Jim’s life, and he chooses to save the life of his young friend. This act escalates him beyond merely being an interesting character. He’s still a scoundrel but a lovable scoundrel, an immortal icon of literature that lives on forever in the genre of great adventure stories, and always will.