"You give up a few things, chasing a dream."
"Was it worth it?"
Whenever I hear the term "underrated", I immediately think of this movie. Why? Because everything about this movie is well-done, well thought-out and even relatable, and the vast majority of movie lovers and Disney fans have never heard of it. And those who have sometimes dismiss it as being a lame Treasure Island retelling, except in space with aliens. In reality, it's more than that.
After his father walks out on him and his mother, Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) grows up to be a rebellious teenager, always getting in trouble with the cops and being threatened to be sent off to Juvenile Hall. Life seems to be hard for both him and his mom, Sarah (who owns a restaurant), until a mysterious alien by the name of Billy Bones crashes near the Hawkins' home. The old alien then gives Jim an odd gold sphere right before he dies ("Beware the cyborg!"), which turns out to be a map that leads them to the famous Treasure Planet. Joined by family friend Dr. Dilbert Doppler (David Hyde Pierce), he boards the R.L.S. Legacy, run by the feisty Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson). Throughout the course of the journey, Jim befriends the ship's cook and cyborg, John Silver (Brian Murray), and forms a father/son bond with him. Eventually, action ensues, a certain twist strains the friendship and unexpected discoveries of the planet are revealed.
To start off, the animation is incredible. The backgrounds are visually beautiful and the action scenes are very suspenseful and attention-grabbing. One of the things that make this movie pop is the character animation. When you look at their faces, you can see real emotion and depth, and the way they move is very life-like. In addition, the 3D and 2D blend together really well.
Another element of the film that works are the characters themselves. Jim, though a generic rebellious hero, actually has a reason as to why he acts the way he does. On top of that, he acts like a real teenager! He's not perfect. He makes several mistakes, but he has enough good qualities to keep him on the likable side. Silver is by far one of the most developed characters in the film. He's torn between his lifelong dream of finding the treasure and his (fatherly) love for Jim. He's bloodthirsty, but he also has a soft spot, which keeps the viewer wondering whether or not he's good or if he's just pretending so he can get what he wants. Amelia is a fun character, too, being a fast-talker and witty, but also tough and determined. This makes her one of the strongest of female characters in Disney. Doppler is both funny and intelligent and Morph (a pink floating blob and Silver's loyal companion) is cute and good comedy relief along with Doppler. B.E.N. (a marooned memory-challenged robot, voiced by Martin Short) has gotten some very mixed responses from audiences. I never found him that annoying, but that's just my opinion. To be fair, he does sort of serve a point to the story. I mean, it's not like other comic-reliefs in films who served absolutely NOTHING to the plot.
Now, the music. Good God is the score amazing in this! James Newton Howard really showed his talent in this one. The song that played during the montage between Silver and Jim called "I'm Still Here" (sung by John Rzeznik) was perfect for that scene. Not only that, it also describes Jim's personality to a T. Even if you don't like the film itself, at least we can all agree that the overall music in this movie was good.
Now onto the negative aspects. Yeah, you all knew this was coming. For me, I didn't find a lot of things wrong with the film, but I will list a few. One is B.E.N., but I've already mentioned him so let's move on. Another is Scroop, a spider creature and an obvious villain. He's pretty bland and flat, but he does have a cool design and voice. That, and he does have an awesome scene between him and Jim halfway through the film (I won't say what it is! Find out yourself!). A final negative point is that the pacing at times can be a little fast. As a kid, it was fine, but now as a 17-year-old, its pacing seems sort of sped up.
Finally, we come to the sum-up of my review: the story. Now, I've never read Treasure Island, so I'm not sure how much of it the film follows, though I have heard it's pretty close. I'll just start by saying one of the best aspects of the story are the relationships formed between the characters, most notably Jim and Silver. There's also Amelia and Doppler, Jim and Doppler and even Sarah and Jim. They're all developed nicely. Another good aspect is the fact that Jim has no love interest. Imagine, a Disney film that isn't fueled on a romance. In fact, there actually is a romance, but it's between the side characters, not the main characters. A final aspect is the fact that the writers took risky moves in terms of the violence and action. Some characters actually die... and they don't come back! Wow, this is Disney?
In conclusion, Treasure Planet is an enjoyable film with a great story, enjoyable characters and stellar animation. In a time period where divorce is a common thing, I believe a lot of kids and teens can relate to Jim and even empathize with him during a scene where he breaks down in front of Silver (look up "Silver's speech" on Google or YouTube, it's there somewhere). How come not a lot of people know about it? Well, it was a huge flop at the box office when it came out (I blame poor marketing!) and the reception was (and is) lukewarm, so that's probably why. Nonetheless, it's a film that deserves to be recognized for the hidden gem that it is. Do yourself a favour and check it out!
Oh, and by the way, it's best you don't watch the trailers for this. They don't do the film any justice (well, one of them, at least). You can if you want, but don't be surprised if you roll your eyes.