Atlantis: The Lost Empire, by Cameron J. Czaja

The other week while I was looking for something to watch, I saw two Disney films from my childhood on Disney + that were, in my opinion, completely underrated. The two films that I’m referring to are Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet. Indecisive on which one to watch, I decided to do a double feature and watch both of them, though in this review I will be covering Atlantis and follow it up with Treasure Planet afterwards.

Atlantis, to me, is something I can relate to in a weird way. For those who are confused, I’ll elaborate. When this film came out I was eleven years old and started to mature a little bit more in my life and Atlantis was somewhat of a grown up step in Disney’s direction at the time. Animated Disney films that came out prior to this were either very theatric or musical (or both), but Atlantis was a serious (with some jokes here and there) film that I deeply appreciated. Did I have the same amount of appreciation for this as a now thirty-year old? I answer that question after my synopsis.

Set in 1914, Atlantis follows Milo (voiced by Michael J. Fox), a linguist and cartographer at a museum in Washington D.C. who is obsessed with finding the lost city of Atlantis, an obsession he shared with his grandfather. One day Milo is contacted to meet up with Preston B. Whitmore (voiced by John Mahoney), a millionaire who happens to be an old college friend of Milo’s grandfather. After a brief introduction, Whitmore presents Milo a gift from his late grandfather. This gift is a book called the shepherd’s journal, which is the key to finding the lost city of Atlantis. Excited by this turns of events, Milo decides to drop everything and start an expedition to find the lost city, which was already funded by Whitmore himself prior to their meeting. During this expedition, Milo journeys with the same crew who found the journal. This crew includes Dr. Sweet (voiced by Phil Morris), Vinny (voiced by Don Novello) a demolitions expert, Audrey (voiced by Jacqueline Obradors) a mechanic, and many others led Rourke (voiced by James Garner) and his second lieutenant (voiced by Claudia Christian). Throughout their journey they brave many obstacles and unfortunately lose some people along the way, but eventually they finally reach the city of Atlantis. From there they are welcomed by Kida (voiced by Cree Summer), an Atlantian who also happens to be the king’s daughter. While Milo is ecstatic by this discovery, he’s completely unaware of the dangers that lie ahead not just for him, but for the citizens of Atlantis as well.

As you can tell by that synopsis, Atlantis is a plot driven film with a lot of mythology thrown into it.  When I first saw this I thought it was one of the most complex and story driven films that I have seen. Despite being almost twenty-years older and being exposed to a lot more complex films, it fortunately still holds up to this day. Also not only does the film still hold up, but there are some themes and elements that I didn’t acknowledge then, but now that I’m older I not only notice them, but I have gained appreciation for them as well.

What makes Atlantis a remarkable film that stood out from other animated films back in the early 2000s is how it focuses a lot on character development. During my synopsis I mentioned some characters that were in the film and those characters stood out to me because of how the film developed them. This contrasts with other films that I’ve reviewed in the past where they took little to no time giving their characters something to do. Here not only did they develope them, but we get to find out a little bit about them and their purpose for being on this journey. This allowed me to feel for them during those perilous moments, and there were quite a lot in this film.

Another thing I didn’t at first but now acknowledge was the importance of culture. There’s a moment in Atlantis where Kida explains to her father (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) that their culture is dying and if they don’t do something soon they could lose it, which is something they can’t afford. This was something I could relate to as a Catholic because in a way our faith is our culture. If we don’t go to weekly mass and/or don’t practice our faith as we should, we could lose the one thing that connects us to God. This is something I didn’t notice when I was younger, but now that I’m older and more connected with my faith I’m glad I was able to notice it.

I could talk about the other great elements in Atlantis that I failed to mention, such as the unique character designs and the stunning visuals, but I feel like those need to be seen for your selves. If you can tell already, I love this film for all the reasons I’ve stated and its criminal how underrated this film is. A recent trend with Disney is remaking their animated films into live action, and it’s something I’m not particular fond of. That said, however, if they ever were to make this film into a live action film I would totally be on board with that as not only will it draw people in but hopefully it’ll attract them to this film. Until that time comes, I’ll just enjoy this one and hope more people will discover it while they’re looking for something to watch on Disney+.

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