Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

A young museum cartographer leads a band of explorers to uncover the legendary underwater city of Atlantis.

I can’t believe that I have never reviewed this film on the blog. It is such a gem in Disney’s repertoire, if quite unappreciated! I did review the awful sequel, and you can read that post here if you like.

This movie is much funnier than I remember. The wit is gentle but yet sparkles. Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox) is the perfect reluctant hero as he bumbles his way around with little but his ambitions to find Atlantis to sustain him. He is also the first Disney hero to wear glasses, so that’s a great barrier to break down, visually. This movie is great because it doesn’t set out to be a romance movie (more an action adventure movie!) and the ideological and gendered stance it takes is interesting too. Though, of course, I did not look out for such a standpoint when I first fell for this movie way back when I was seven years old. Ideologically too, it explores the same ‘greedy explorers discover new technologies and want it for themselves’ plot but yet seems to rise above it all the same with enough well-paced drama to sustain it to the end. It adds something new to this viewpoint without just becoming a predecessor of Avatar and like-minded films.

The voice talent is superb, too, but most of all the visuals are beautiful and haunting, as is the soundtrack. It seems like in this movie, Disney took a massive step over their usual principles. Not only did the story use guns and explosions, they also had women in superior, stronger positions (mechanics and lieutenants, for example) and not just as helpless Disney princesses!

I was so glad to have rediscovered this movie. Any Disney movie will always have a special place in my heart, but this one will somehow always trump them all. Of course, it still suffers from many of the traditional Disney cliches but the film doesn’t suffer for the characterisation or animation and both add to it. The comedy is genuinely funny and even has a few moments in it which made me want to tear up. That equilibrium is hard to achieve for the most part, but in this case the film succeeded.

MY RATING: ****.5 / *****


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