While in a mood to watch an animated Disney flick, I found myself suddenly intrigued to re-watch one of the films released during my childhood, Treasure Planet. This is an extremely creative re-telling of the classic Treasure Island, written by Robert Louis Stevenson.
As you can tell from the movie’s title, this re-imagining of the tale is set in space, rather than our dear planet. In fact, our lead character, Jim (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and his mother don’t even live on Earth, nor in this galaxy. Much like the Star Wars franchise, this whole film takes place in a galaxy far, far away, where humans live on other planets along-side other aliens. The plot follows Jim, a sixteen year old misfit who lets his intellect squander by constantly getting in trouble, much to his mother’s grief. After a spaceship suddenly crash lands outside their family establishment, Jim is entrusted with a map to the legendary “Treasure Planet” – the very same that Jim read books about when he was a child (as we’re shown in the opening).Wanting to prove to his mother that he can do something worth-while, he and a long-time family friend set off to find the rumoured treasure.
Something that’s interesting about this film is that we’re shown from the beginning who our antagonist is (being the ship’s chef, a pirate by the name of Long John Silver, and his crew mates), and are then left to decide if we trust him after all the bonding and kind words he gives Jim. Arguably, the antagonist could also be seen as one of Long John Silver’s crew members, Scroop, a large crab/spider hybrid who’s constantly shown picking fights with Jim and lurking around. In my eyes, the main antagonist is Scroop, with Long John simply being the initial threat that we’re told not to trust. This isn’t the first time a film has done this, but it’s not often that you’ll see this kind of questionable trustworthy-ness in a film that’s directed mostly towards kids, as we can all agree that it’s usually made pretty clear in a kids’ movie (especially Disney films) who the villain is and why we should hate them; however, this film decides to take its audience on a little detour and leave them unsure as to whether John Silver can change his ways after bonding with Jim, or if he’s simply using him. I’ll admit, most older audiences of this will be able to figure out the answer to that pretty quickly, but it’s entertaining enough in other ways that you don’t mind so much about the simplicities that comes with it.
There were two main things that bothered me about this film:
- The forced romance between the ship’s captain, Captain Amelia, and Jim’s friend, Doctor Doppler;
This was made during a time when Disney’s female characters still needed to end up with romantic feelings towards one of the main male characters by the end of it. As the captain (and one who takes her job extremely seriously, with much grace and care), Amelia isn’t looking for romance to begin with – especially while she’s on the job. But by the end, she finds a warm spot in her heart for the clumsy Doppler, which leads to them getting together at the end and having children. Aw, how sweet. Blah blah blah. In all honesty, this was made during the point in Disney’s history where it’s leading female characters still needed to find love by the duration’s end, but they were shown as ‘strong’ and ’empowering’ enough that they weren’t looking for it in the first place – it simply came to them. This is shown in films like Mulan (1998), Pocahontas (1995), and Beauty and the Beast (1991) – just to name a few. In Treasure Plant, though, we’re shown no sign of chemistry throughout the whole thing, but suddenly when Captain Amelia becomes injured and Doctor Doppler takes care of her she is suddenly giving him gooey-eyes that make him flustered. It’s just far too forced here, in comparison to other features that give us needless heterosexual romances to feed to our children.
- We’re shown no way for them to be breathing in space when voyaging. We’re also presuming that all other aliens also breathe oxygen. It’s also extremely lucky that “Treasure Planet” itself has oxygen, or else our character would have been royally screwed;
You can call it nit-picking if you want, but I think it’s important for films that are generally aimed at children to be accurate enough that it’s believable. Sure, we can all agree that little kids aren’t going to think as in-depth as adults do about details in films, but that doesn’t mean we should just let unexplained things that have no logic such as this to just be accepted. A film that generally marketed towards children should still be critiqued in the same light as a film marketed at any older audiences; and even if you don’t want to view kids films the same as any other film, then you should at least think of it from a child’s perspective: imagine a kid who’s really interested in space and/or other sciences, and they watch this film and start wondering how the characters can breathe on a ship that shows no signs of artificial oxygen. Are we to believe that the ‘artificial gravity’ switch that they use to keep themselves from floating off the ship also comes with artificial oxygen?
Those things aside, though, I did enjoy this film. It’s fun, it’s creative, and it keeps you entertained at any age.