After a couple of misses with summer animation films (most notably last year's Dinosaur), Disney is back on track with Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Sort of.
The first well-filmed sequence shows the death of Atlantis caused by a tremendous cataclysm resulting from an abuse of its power source by its ruling king. We then fast-forward to 1914 where Milo Thatch (voiced by Michael J. Fox) works in the boiler room of a museum fascinated by the lost empire of Atlantis. Milo believes Atlantis exists buried somewhere deep within the ocean off the coast of Iceland. He teams up with Preston Whitmore (voice of John Mahoney), a friend of his father's, who finances an expedition to bring back the magical power source that fueled Atlantian life until it was destroyed.
As the expedition descends to the ocean depths, it is attached by leviathans, robot lobsters designed to guard the Empire. The members barely manage to survive with their lives and Milo's position in the group suddenly becomes important to their survival. Doggedly, they continue towards their goal until they are finally confronted by the Atlanteans.
Milo is convinced by his team-mates to find the power source by befriending Kida (Cree Summer), the daughter of the Atlantean Ruler Kashekim Nedakh (Leonard Nimoy). When Milo and Kida discover it, as is obvious from the first minute they are introduced, the crew, who are really a bunch of mercenaries, turn against Milo and the Atlanteans and steal the power source. A betrayed Milo has to find his resolve and bring it back, to save Kida and the future of Atlantis.
The movie is fast-paced, and the animation technique is particularly excellent when it comes to the spectacular visuals of the underground empire. However, one of the annoying things I find about Disney animation has to do with the way their characters smile, where they show way too much teeth (a trend I believe that started with Aladdin). The other problem with the animation, similar to what I saw in Titan A.E., is that the male human figures are a bit rough.
This film to me is reminiscent of the adventures of Uncle Scrooge, which I am a fan of (just imagine Whitmore leading the expedition instead of Milo) and done very much in a comic-book style. One of the more interesting aspects is how Milo undergoes a transformation from a pencil-necked geek to a confident continent-saving jack-of-all-trades.
Disney has forgone its song-and-dance routines for straight dialogue, and this combined with the pacing of the action sequences makes for a highly enjoyable film. I highly recommend checking Atlantis: The Lost Empire out on the big screen.