Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Treasure Planet (2002)

Disney animation hit some hard times in the early 2000s. Pixar was eclipsing them. Dreamworks released a mega-hit with Shrek. Disney’s star of the 1990s was falling fast, and they were trying to shake things up a bit to get back the crown as the kings of family entertainment. So they decided to attempt a couple of straight up action adventure animations. The first was Atlantis: The Lost Empire. The second was this film based on the Robert Louis Stevenson classic Treasure Island.

Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a rough and rowdy teenager living in a spaceport town with his mother. He keeps getting into trouble, and yearning for adventure. You know the type. One evening a mysterious alien named Billy Bones (Patrick McGoohan) stumbles into their inn babbling about being pursued by a dangerous cyborg. He hands Jim a strange sphere and dies, before space pirates arrive and destroy everything in sight looking for the sphere. Jim and his mother make their escape.

Jim determines that the sphere is really a map to the fabled treasure planet. He joins forces with the fussy Doctor Doppler (David Hyde Pierce) and charters a space ship to seek out the planet. With them are Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson) and John Silver (Brian Murray). It becomes apparent that Silver is up to something, and while he befriends Jim, he may be using him to find Treasure Planet. Martin Short, Michael Wincott and Laurie Metcalf round out the cast.

Good Points:
  • Some amazing design, character animation and visuals
  • A fun adaptation of the source material
  • James Newton Howard provides a swashbuckling but modern score

Bad Points:
  • Some of the adaptation concepts are a little clunky
  • The comic relief characters are painful… very painful
  • Never finds the right tone, or pacing, or execution

A simple case of Disney trying WAY too hard. The visual aspects are the best part of the film, creating an interesting world to frame the classic tale. But time and again, the movie is scuttled by bad decisions. I lost track of the number of fart jokes. Martin Short’s character was aggressively annoying. Some of the obvious nods to the book were a little too obvious. Other times, they go in an interesting direction only to not follow all the way through. It was a movie I found myself wanting to like, but in the end found it to be a major misfire.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 4
Acting: 3
Script: 2
Music: 4
Direction: 3
Entertainment: 2
Total:  3

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.   


  1. It's as though some folks were brainstorming around the producer's table in order to come up with the next project, and one said, "How about Treasure Island meets Star Wars?" "OK. Greenlight that!"

    Maybe they should have just done Treasure Island. I know Disney did it -- quite well -- once before as live action in 1950, but the company doesn't seem to mind redoing Sleeping Beauty as live action (Maleficent), so why not redo this one as animation?

    1. Completely agree. If they had stuck with a simple animated retelling of the story, it could have been really good. Heck, this concept could have worked too, but I get the feeling there were too many cooks in the kitchen. Trying to do too much and not committing to any concept. It is a shame too.