The animated action-adventure film “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” and its sequel “Atlantis: Milo’s Return” arrive on Blu-ray next Tuesday, June 11. Luckily, I got my hands on this Blu-ray combo for review. I enjoyed this film as a kid (which was actually aimed more at boys than girls) but had never seen the sequel, as with most of the direct-to-video sequels. I was excited to reminisce and re-watch “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” and curious to see what “Milo’s Return” was all about. I was pleased and disappointed all at the same time.
Just in case you aren’t too sure what these films are about, here’s a brief overview:
“The Lost Empire” tells the tale of Milo Thatch and his desire to locate the fabled lost civilization of Atlantis, which he believes is located off the coast of Iceland. He joins a crew that is also set on finding the ruins of this ancient, but advanced, city. The crew discovers the mythical Atlantis, but all is not what it seems. It’s Milo’s mission to help this dwindling civilization and protect it from destructive outside forces. In “Milo’s Return”, Thatch returns to the surface and is reunited with some old friends. Some strange things have been happening, all of which have an Atlantean tie, and they have asked for Milo’s help to discover the reasons.
“The Lost Empire” looks amazing on Blu-ray. The animation was already great, but its appearance on Blu-ray is visually stunning. It could not look any better. The film looks like it has even more dimension and some of the visual effects look like that of a fully CGI-animated film (it is only partial CGI). The story’s pace is just as I remember it — it peaks your curiosity, it doesn’t slow down too much, and it’s consistently exciting, even offering what I considered to be a double climax. It’s unfortunate that this film did not perform better during its original release. The fact that Thatch is voiced by Michael J. Fox and the film is produced by Don Hahn (“The Lion King”, “Beauty and the Beast”) is enough of a pull for me. It’s a sign that it’s worth my time. It should also be noted that Joss Whedon (writer and director of Marvel’s “The Avengers” and the new upcoming show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, debuting on ABC in the fall) took part in writing this film.
The same cannot be said for “Milo’s Return”. Fox did not return to voice Thatch, and there is an obvious loss of charm in James Arnold Taylor’s voicing of the character. The story is so slow and drags on. The animation is significantly lesser quality compared to the first film. It almost looked as if the animators were bummed when they learned they were a part of this sequel project. It wasn’t as fluid; the animation is choppy-looking. Atlantis no longer looks ethereal and crisp — instead it looks as dried up and dull as the southwest that is visited in this second movie. I had the hardest time finishing this movie. I found myself constantly nodding off and distracting myself with other things to do, like playing Candy Crush Saga on my phone. The running time of this film is only 80 minutes, but it felt significantly longer than the first film (96 minutes) because it was so lackluster and boring. I thought it was never going to end. No wonder why I never heard anyone mention this film (I didn’t even know it existed until recently). My pessimistic views toward direct-to-video sequels have been strengthened.
I thought maybe the bonus features wouldn’t be so bad. I was wrong. There is a segment where movie owners can learn how to speak “Atlantean”. I thought it would be kind of fun — WRONG. It was boring and actually kind of annoying. I had hoped the “Making of Atlantis” segment would be much better. It was slightly better, but I still found myself growing tired and bored. The commentary by film directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise was more interesting. The deleted scenes were also kind of a bummer but at the same time it made sense why they were deleted scenes. The only one I was surprised was omitted from the final film was the Viking prologue — I thought this scene would have been a fantastic opening to the film and would have provided some foreshadowing that would have made the story that much better. This prologue sequence was also exciting, which lures viewers into the film even earlier on than the opening that is currently in place. The most interesting bonus feature was the mini-discussion about the possible facts (and fiction) behind Atlantis, even though the narration was aimed at younger children.
Purchasing the Blu-ray combo pack is worth it for the first movie alone. I loved the original film and it was just as great as I remember it. There aren’t really any action-adventure animated films out there, and this one took a risk. The risk was well worth the work of the cast and crew. The second film can definitely be skipped. I wouldn’t even consider it as a good background noise film. Instead, it acts more like nails on a chalkboard. Find something else to watch.