Titan A.E.

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“Titan A.E.” looks fantastic. The computer-animated backgrounds and spaceship dog-fights are wonderful, and the more traditional-looking character animation is lively and fluid.

Unfortunately, this movie, like most movies since the 1930s, is a talkie. And when these characters open their mouths, you hear dialogue so trite and generic, you’d swear you were watching every movie ever made all at once. (Typical example: The weapons specialist is warned their their ship is about to be destroyed by the bad guys. “Not if I can help it!” she says, with Han Solo self-assuredness — and that’s not the only time you’ll think of “Star Wars,” or “Star Trek,” or lots of other sci-fi movies, while watching this one.)

In the year 3044, 15 years after the Dredge alien race has destroyed Earth pretty much just for the fun of it, a young Earthling named Cale (voice of Matt Damon) discovers that only he has the power to find the Titan spacecraft. Seems Cale’s dad, among others, built this ship just before Earth got whacked, and the ship has the power to create a new planet and all the life forms that belong on it. Good science-fiction would at least take a stab at explaining how this is possible, but “Titan A.E.” is not good science-fiction.

Cale has a ring that projects a hologram space map of where the Titan is hidden, making him a precious commodity. With the help of fellow homo sapiens Korso (Bill Pullman) and Akima (Drew Barrymore), they run from the Dredge — who, still inexplicably, are bent on destroying all humans — while simultaneously searching for the Titan.

Some characters turn out not to be what they first claimed, and everyone’s surprised, and I think someone dies. Then everyone lives happily ever after.

“Titan A.E.” was written by three men who should have done something incredible: Ben Edlund (TV’s “The Tick”), John August (1999 indie hit “Go”) and Joss Whedon (TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”; “Toy Story”). Instead, they’ve done something mediocre. The plot contains not one original idea, and even the dialogue, as mentioned, is derivative and stilted.

Director Don Bluth, an animator who worked on many Disney classics and has since done “The Secret of NIMH” and “An American Tail,” among others, certainly knows how to do a good feature-length cartoon. But here he seems to think that a lot of flashy visual effects, coupled with the sheer novelty of making the first real sci-fi space cartoon, will be enough to entertain us. Alas, it is not.

“Titan A.E.” is like a really pretty girl you think you’re gonna love … until she opens her mouth and proves herself vacuous and uninteresting.

C (; PG, partial male cartoon nudity, animated sci-fi violence.)

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