Review: Treasure Planet (2002)

Now that I’ve got access to Disney +, I have plenty of video to watch. A few months ago, someone on Deviant Art referred to Treasure Planet and suggested it would be worth watching. The commenter said that reviewers had panned the film. On the-numbers.com, I learned that it wasn’t a very successful movie financially. It’s worldwide gross did not quite compensate for the film’s budget.

Treasure Planet is a story about a youth, Jim Hawkins, voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is drifting after his father had left the family. His mother, voiced by Laurie Metcalf, was desperate to keep him out of trouble. Despite his mother’s reservations, after getting a map to the legendary Treasure Planet, Jim starts on an adventure in search of riches. The film is inspired by the story Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, but it’s set in outer space. The story uncomfortably conjoins the pirate and buccaneer genre with the science fiction adventure genre. It used Jim, in the role of a troubled youth, to tie them together.

The film was passable but I’m glad I watched it. The crew were little more than caricatures and had their personality revealed by their visual appearance rather than their actions. One of the bright spots of the movie was Morph, voiced by Dane A. Davis, a shape shifting pet who took the place of a pirate’s trusty parrot. Morph added some comic relief and often distracted from the main action—I was spending more time looking and paying attention to its antics instead of the rest of the action. The robot B.E.N. voiced by Martin Short is also a bright spot in the performance.

The pirate John Silver voiced by Brian Murray has a more complex personality than the other characters. Rather than Jim’s stereotyped journey in the story, Silver has his own journey that is more compelling. Jim has a standard fairy tale ending while Silver leaves transformed. The gender roles in the film are pretty stereotypical. The writers realized that the majority of the story didn’t have any female characters, so the captain, voiced by Emma Thompson, was recast as a woman almost as an afterthought.

The art of the movie was well done. I appreciated the ethereal visuals of the sky. The resources spent to make them effective were well spent. If the space environment had not been so colorful and varied, the film would have been very dull and flat. The different ships and other vehicles seemed incongruous with the space theme, but their styling kept the story’s connection to Treasure Island apparent.

Treasure Planet was an acceptable movie. It isn’t close to the top of the pantheon of Disney Films so it’s probably not worth renting but if you want a humorous take on Treasure Island, it might be worth putting on your list of to-watch-someday films. There’s plenty else on Disney+ that is appealing.

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