Atlantis: The Lost Empire / Atlantis: Milo's Return: Two-Movie Collection
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG // $29.99 // June 11, 2013
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted June 18, 2013
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A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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Graphical Version
Atlantis: The Lost Empire Blu-ray Review


Click on an image to view the Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution

Atlantis: The Lost Empire is one of Disney's most ambitious and altogether different efforts in their animation department. The film was the 41st production of the studio and it stands apart with its use of science-fiction pulp storytelling, non-musical format, and storytelling aimed towards slightly older audiences. It is the result of another collaboration between animation directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise (who had previously collaborated and helmed the animated masterpiece Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame in Disney production studios). The 2001 effort led to mixed responses initially from critics, but has essentially become a fan-favorite production by Disney, and it has been heralded for its storytelling and it's visually different stylistic approach.

The film begins with a gigantic tidal wave which showcases the sinking of the mystical city Atlantis, and it establishes the importance of a powerful crystal with a blue light which can potentially help to save the city. This plot-element becomes important later on in the film. Several thousand years following this major event, the main story of the film takes place throughout 1914 and is focused on introducing us to an ambitious young scientist whose enthusiasm for Atlantis helps to lead him to an eccentric billionaire putting together an  exploration team searching for Atlantis.

Milo Thatch (Michael J.  Fox) is the whiz scientist who understands the language of the underwater city, and he uses a special book with history and information on Atlantis as information for the long and perilous journey ahead of himself and the entire crew. Milo understands the Atlantean language (he is the only one who can understand it) and he is determined to help uncover the lost city.

The rest of the massive crew created for the epic search for Atlantis includes Commander Lyle Tiberius (James Garner), "Mole" Moliere (Corey Burton), who has a special digging ability to aid in the search, Lieutenant Helga (Claudia Christian) who is the second in command, Doctor Sweet (Phil Morris), who is a gentle doctor for the crew, Vinny (Don Novello) a demolition expert who is always wise-cracking jokes, Audrey Rocio Ramirez (Jacqueline Obradors), a teenage girl hoping to help her family's business back home through her work on Atlantis's expedition, Wilhelmina Bertha Packard (Florence Stanley) as a sarcastic and cynical radio operator, and Cookie (Jim Varney) as a over-the-top chef who is overly enthusiastic about delivering Western-style eateries. This is the peculiar group put together to help uncover Atlantis.

The film is first-rate in animation. This was Disney's most ambitious undertaking in terms of computer graphics at the time of the production effort, one which utilized the most in CGI graphics, and it was a massive under-taking of creating complementary visuals both in the traditional methods and future animation methods which have become more prominent in following years. The artwork was inspired heavily by comic-book artist Mike Mignola. It certainly emphasized a specific kind of approach to the storytelling, with darker colors to emphasize the science-fiction story approach. Character designs are uniquely done and it impresses to see how creative these designs are.

The directing by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise is (of course) exceptional. The storytelling doesn't ever feel sacrificed for pure spectacle, but they also remember to deliver amazingly visualized sequences of action-packed adventure and suspense. The characters are lovingly brought to life and are part of the immense fun of the film. This is, of course, partially the resulting effect of hiring so many excellent actors for the parts, but also because direction utilized for Atlantis remembered to keep things entertaining, comedic, and well-paced as necessary despite a darker storyline and mystical aspect. The screenplay by Tab Murphy effectively fused with the direction and the end result is one of Disney's most excitingly orchestrated productions in the entire history of the studio. Atlantis: The Lost Empire is excellently made on every level.


Screenshot from Atlantis: Milo's Return

Atlantis: Milo's Return is as disappointing as any of the direct-to-DVD Disney efforts can become, with some of the worst animation to ever grace one of these cash-grab efforts. It actually is rather mundane and unoriginal. The lack of creativity is astonishing. And it is something that doesn't even seem to attempt to fully resemble the original effort with an interesting (and not in a positive way) array of differences in several character designs. Revisiting the characters with a proper follow-up to the first film would have been an entertaining and worthwhile effort, but alas, the 2003 follow-up doesn't align with the accompanying expectations.

One thing that is particularly peculiar about Milo's Return is how it managed to feel like a extended Scooby Doo episode but with the Atlantis group of characters instead. The story actually even inserted an Atlantis dino-type creature closely resembling a dog, which was utilized throughout the plot in a similar way to the Scooby Doo character. It felt like these filmmakers were more interested in telling a Scooby Doo story than an Atlantis one at all.

The plot is cookie-cutter and actually seems episodic, like a TV series, which makes sense when you realize that this is something that was originally intended as three episode of a Atlantis spin off television series that was planned but ultimately discarded as an idea before being put into a feature length direct-to-dvd film form, as seen here. It's just not well made or all that compelling. Atlantis: Milo's Return utilized six writers and three director's to make one disappointing follow up to a fan-favorite Disney films.

While Milo's Return disappoints, the main selling point of this Blu-ray release is having a good edition of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, which is one of the most enjoyable action-adventure and science fiction films to be produced through Disney studios. It is an excellent Disney film that should still be enjoyed and shared with others today and one can hope it won't become a "lost" treasure like Atlantis and will remain atop the water and in our collective appreciation of this Disney classic.

The Blu-ray:


Video:

The 1080p High Definition 2.39:1 transfer of Atlantis: The Lost Empire is in some regards one of the most beautiful ones I have seen for any Disney transfer. In part, because it looks so filmic and naturally cinematic. Some might prefer it less because it isn't as polished as some of the other Disney restorations are but it does a good job of maintaining the look of the film. The major issues with the transfer reside in aliasing and in artificial sharpening (which is easily noticeable, if not a huge detraction). The contrast, colors, and overall depth to the image is impressive throughout and is maintains an enjoyable high quality atmosphere all the way. Longtime fans of the film will feel pleased.  

As for the transfer to the DTV sequel, Atlantis: Milo's Return, the transfer simply isn't that impressive. Colors don't appear to be rich or well saturated, the film has a soft appearance similar to that of a up-converted DVD, and it only looks to be a smidgen better than what probably could be expected to find quality-wise on the actual DVD edition. It's not really impressive at all in its High Definition debut. It ultimately received a small 1080p boost.

Audio:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation for Atlantis: The Lost Empire is in a word: amazing. The depth, clarity, and inventiveness of the sound design is immersive and so stunningly put together that the experience of the film is dramatically enhanced. Strong dimensionality with the surrounds makes this an exciting surround track with bass that significantly makes a difference, and clear improvements are found with the clarity of uncompressed lossless audio. It's a magnificent audio presentation from start to finish.

Atlantis: Milo's Return,  on the other hand, is not exactly impressive. The film received an uncompressed lossless mix too, even in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Yet the audio isn't so impressive and it remains a front-heavy mix with little use of the surrounds. The bass isn't involving either. Dialogue clarity is the main strength of the lossless audio presentation on Atlantis's direct-to-DVD follow-up.


Additional Screenshots for Atlantis: The Lost Empire:

Click on an image to view the Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution






Additional Screenshots for Atlantis: Milo's Return:

Click on an image to view the Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution





Extras:

First of all, even though the packaging proclaims the set to be a "double-feature" release with both Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Atlantis: Milo's Return, I'd rather consider this DTV film something worth mentioning within the supplemental section. It doesn't work as a feature in virtually any regard and it should be considered more of a supplement than as a main selling point to the release, quality-wise.

In terms of other supplements on the disc, there's quite an abundance of supplements. The original material included on the Atlantis: Collector's Edition DVD release is included. It certainly is a release with a strong collection of supplemental materials, as detailed below:

The first major supplement is audio commentary with Atlantis: The Lost Empire filmmakers Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise along with producer Don Hahn.

The Making of Atlantis (63 min.) is an extensive multi-part making-of documentary which collects several shorter featurettes about the production of the film into an hour-long bonus feature covering the entire making of the Disney theatrical film Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

Deleted Scenes (17 min.) are included for Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and there is just one additional deleted scene that has been included for Atlantis: Milo's Return.

While most of these supplemental materials will be of the most interest to older fans of the film, there are still some supplements intended for the kids in the audience: two short featurettes are included entitled How to Speak Atlantean (2 min.) and Atlantis: Fact or Fiction? (7 min.)

Lastly, the disc has been rounded out with a couple of the Theatrical Trailers for Atlantis: The Lost Empire.


Final Thoughts:

Atlantis: The Lost Empire has finally made its debut on the Blu-ray format and the results are generally quite impressive to behold and should satisfy longtime fans of the film. Hopefully many new audience members will come to enjoy the film for the first time as well with this stunning release in High Definition.

While the PQ/AQ on this release excels and the included supplements make for a nice package, it's a bit disappointing Disney's promoting this as a double-feature release with Atlantis: Milo's Return, which is one of the absolute worst direct-to-DVD "cheap-quels" to be made from the house of mouse. Think of it more as being a silly and unnecessary supplemental feature and consider how worthwhile it is to purchase Atlantis: The Lost Empire on its own and you'll be set for another winning release of a fan-favorite Disney feature.

Highly Recommended.



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