Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a 2001 American animated science fantasy action adventure film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation, the 41st film in the Disney animated canon and first transition into science fiction. It was directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise and released on June 15, 2001. This was the last feature film role for actor Jim Varney, who passed away from lung cancer a full year before the film was released; it is dedicated to his memory.
Many centuries ago, a tsunami threatens to drown the island of Atlantis. In the midst of an evacuation from the capital city, the Queen of Atlantis is caught by a strange, hypnotic blue light and lifted up into the "Heart of Atlantis", a powerful crystal protecting the city. The crystal consumes her and creates a dome barrier that protects the city's innermost district. She leaves behind her young daughter, Princess Kida, as the island sinks beneath the ocean.
In 1914, Milo Thatch, a cartographer and linguist at the Smithsonian Institution who is marginalized for his research on Atlantis, believes that he has found The Shepherd's Journal, an ancient manuscript that contains directions to the lost island. Though the museum board declines his proposal to search for the journal, a mysterious woman, Helga Sinclair, introduces Milo to Preston B. Whitmore, an eccentric millionaire. Whitmore has already funded a successful effort to retrieve the journal as repayment of a debt to Milo's grandfather, recruiting Milo to lead an expedition to Atlantis, as soon as he receives it.
The expedition departs with a team of specialists led by Commander Lyle Rourke, who also led the journal recovery expedition. They set out in the Ulysses, a massive submarine. During the journey, they are attacked by the monstrous Leviathan, a robotic lobster-like creature that guards Atlantis' entrance. The Ulysses is subsequently destroyed, but Milo, Rourke, and part of the crew escape to an underground cavern, described in the journal as the entrance to Atlantis.
After traveling through a network of caves and a dormant volcano, the team reaches the borders of Atlantis, where they are greeted by Kida. Kida enlists Milo in deciphering the Atlantean written language, long forgotten by the natives. By diving deep within the city's submerged ruins and translating underwater murals, Milo helps Kida uncover the nature of the Heart of Atlantis: it supplies the Atlanteans with power and longevity through the crystals worn around their necks. He is surprised this is not mentioned in the journal but recalls that a page is missing.
Returning to the surface with Kida, Milo discovers Rourke has the missing page. Rourke and the crew betray Milo, intending to bring the crystal to the surface and sell it. Rourke mortally wounds the King of Atlantis while trying to extract information about the crystal's location, but finds it himself hidden beneath the King's throne room. The crystal detects a threat and merges with Kida, whom Rourke and the mercenaries lock in a crate and prepare to leave the city. Knowing that when the crystal is gone the Atlanteans will die, Milo berates the crew for betraying their consciences, and ultimately convinces them to leave Rourke and remain in Atlantis. The King explains to Milo that the crystal has developed a consciousness; it thrives on the collective emotions of the Atlanteans and will find a royal host when Atlantis is in danger. He then reveals that the sinking of Atlantis was caused when he attempted to use it as a weapon of war. As he dies, he gives his crystal to Milo, telling him to save Atlantis and Kida. Milo rallies the crew and Atlanteans to stop Rourke.
In the ensuing battle inside the volcano, Rourke, Helga, and his accomplices are all killed. Milo and the others successfully fly the crystal back to the city, as the volcano erupts. With lava flowing towards the city, Kida (in her crystal form) rises into the air and creates a protective shield. The lava breaks away harmlessly, showing a restored Atlantis, and the crystal returns Kida to Milo. The surviving crew members return to the surface and promise to keep the discovery of Atlantis a secret. Having fallen in love with Kida, Milo stays behind to help her rebuild the lost empire.
Why It's Great Edit
- Its attempt to branch out into the sci-fi genre and appeal to an older audience is a pretty interesting take for an animated Disney film
- The animation style is pretty unique, giving the appearance of a comic book or graphic novel
- Milo and a lot of the side characters have charm to them, which shows in several scenes, with characters such as Vinnie, Cookie, Mrs. Packard, and Sweet giving some pretty good one-liners
- Kida is pretty cool, proving to be fully capable of taking on several men by herself (she actually knees one in the groin, grabs another by the head and tosses him away and pulls a knife on a third)
- The Atlantean language is actually pretty original, and is stated to be the source of all other languages throughout the world
- There is actually lots of creativity done with the world of Atlantis, such as having technology centuries before every other country in the world and having crystals that can heal and keep people alive for centuries. What's especially cool is how they have vehicles based on various sea creatures
- The action scenes are cool to watch
- Each of the side characters gets a chance to show how useful they are, and gives the audience a chance to know them and how they got into their respective careers which led them into joining the expedition
- There is the rare moment where the romantic couple, Milo and Kida, only give a hug rather than kiss and/or get married. To have an animated film do something like this with romantic leads is extremely rare