The question with Treasure Planet is why? Why old galleon ships
floating through space? Why solar sails (which for some reason still must
be hoisted manually)? It may have struck the movie's makers as cool imagery,
but in practice it comes across as merely distracting.
These may be the wrong questions to ask during an animated Walt Disney
movie, but I kept on wondering about how those ships have oxygen and why
it didn't just leak into outer space? Is there some kind of shield
protecting it from harmful gamma rays? Why bother building space ships
resembling 18th century sailing ships in the first place? Sure,
they may look cool but can't be very practical.
As I said, these are the wrong questions. The right question is: why a
science fiction retelling of this classic tale of treasure hunters and
pirates and not just plain old Treasure Island? It is so obvious
that the story has been artificially transplanted from a more traditional
pirate adventure to a sci-fi setting that the movie seems to be creaking
at the seams (just like those old sailing ships) to keep it all together!
Also: aren't pirates cool enough anymore? I know old fart-ism is only
an endearing prospect in Kurt Vonnegut novels, but I must say this: as a
small boy I loved pirate stories, movies, comics, whatever. I can't see
how today's kids can be any different no matter how media saturated and
cynical they might be. Besides, with the huge popularity of sci-fi I suspect
that anything from a different genre for a change would be something new
and fresh to kids.
"Why a SF retelling of this classic tale and not just plain old Treasure Island?"
Hollywood sci-fi has so permuted popular and mass culture that it has
become the equivalent of McDonald's burgers: bog standard and bland. This
may be a strange complaint for someone running this particular web site,
but I miss non-science fiction genre movies. When I was a kid (there I
go again), Star Wars was fresh and new because,
well, there were lot of other types of movies being made. We had pirate
movies, Westerns, Roman epics - you name it.
One of my fondest early memories is of a French TV show (titled the Tier
Brigade in Afrikaans) about a bunch of Paris policemen driving old
cars circa 1902. They were France's first motorised brigade or something
I suppose. In today's perpetual quest for modernity, the past is discarded
as staid and stodgy. However, there was something thrilling and sleek
about those old cars that probably couldn't travel faster than 15 kilometres
per hour that the sight of countless spaceships floating through space
couldn't match (opening scene of Spaceballs,
The reality is that whatever is being churned out in Hollywood as cutting
edge entertainment nowadays is staid, derivative and dull. There is nothing
in Treasure Planet we haven't seen in recent animated efforts
such as Titan AE and Disney's own Atlantis:
The Lost Empire. It could be that kids sensed this because like these
two movies, the hugely expensive Treasure Planet is also turning out to
be a financial disappointment for its studio. (Titan AE did so
badly at the box office that they closed the company that produced it.)
Or maybe the movie just has a narrow audience with little crossover
appeal: pirates are after all a boy thing. And it would seem that boys do
not have the same purchasing power at the box office as girls do (which
made Titanic the biggest hit movie of all time).
Ultimately Treasure Planet's biggest failing (even if you don't
hark back to old-fashioned pirate movies) is that it has no crossover
appeal really: parents will find it tolerable at best. There is little
of the adult humour and cleverness that made movies such as Shrek
and even Lilo & Stitch (oh, yes) such huge
hits. My friend's three-year old daughter was entranced by the on-screen
spectacle (and it is spectacular). She gave it three out of ten (kids. .
Your kids would probably enjoy Treasure Planet, but is doubtful whether
you will have such a good time as well.
(Apparently according to my sibling - who is more than a decade younger
than me - pirates have never been cool. Oh well, maybe today's generation
is that cynical. But I still pity today's kids for having to endure such a homogeneous and stifling mass culture filled with boredom. Or maybe
I sat through Attack of the Clones just one
time too many . . .)