Escape from Planet Earth
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Escape from Planet Earth

It took a very long time struggle for equality is finally won. After many decades animated movies are now seen as a legitimate form of cinematic arts as traditional live-action films. Once dismissed as mere cartoons even such groundbreaking movies as 1937 Disney classic ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were never considered on par with all is noteworthy movies just because they lack actual live actors on screen. As is always the case with such equality comes with a price; the expectation to be up to the current standards will hopefully exceed them. The bar of excellence set exceedingly high by such animation grades as Disney/Pixar, or DreamWorks audience now rightfully demands not only superior style but the stories have to be fully formed with a strong narrative that expertly layered emotional content. The Weinstein Company may have once been under the Walt Disney studio umbrella now that they’re on their own to have a significant learning curve ahead of them if they expect to compete in the very popular 3-D animated movie business. ‘Escape from Planet Earth’ as an interesting plot that can readily appeal to a younger audience while containing nuances that are best appreciated by their parents unfortunately for this endeavor even the younger kids is now seasoned connoisseurs of three-dimensional animation. They have grown up in an era run such films as the Toy Story franchise, ‘Wal-E’ and ‘Despicable Me’ has formed a baseline of expectations insisting on some of the best examples of this art form in history. I have always been of the consensus that any company or individual branching out into a new means of expression should be afforded some consideration as they redefine their style and technique. Admittedly this movie is several years old I came across it while researching an article concerning the history of animation and movies. This past year has been incredible 3-D movies in both the real-life and animated arenas. It seemed appropriate to step back a few years to better appreciate what is currently considered the best.

Members of the audience with a few more years behind them appreciate the central theme as well as the wording of the title. Growing up we all watched standard science fiction thrillers very daring group of astronauts had to extricate themselves with the dangerous planet. Titles like ‘Escape from the Planet of Prehistoric Women’ or ‘Escape from the Red Planet,' routinely adorn the marquee neighborhood theater. The story of this movie takes the viewers on a journey from the perspective of alien explorers who consider our planet be unknown and potentially quite dangerous. On the Planet Baab, Scorch Supernova (voiced by Brendan Fraser), is a heroic space explorer whose entire family routinely go on missions to investigate other worlds. As the story opens, Scorch was completing a task of rescuing babies from the dreaded alien race, the Gerlach's. Fortunately for our intrepid hero, he managed to complete the rescue before their captors woke up from the deep sleep. Back home his exploits are hailed as a heroic by televised news anchorwoman, Gabby Babblebrook (voiced by Sofía Vergara). Gabby reporting is not entirely objective as she is romantically involved with Scorch.

Scorch works for the Baab Aerospace Administration, BASA, along with his brother Gary (voiced by Rob Corddry). Gary’s son, Kip (voiced by Jonathan Morgan Heit), idolizes uncle who doesn’t sit well with his father was always in the shadow of his famous younger brother. One day Scorch received an urgent message from the head of the BASA, Lena Thackleman (voiced by Jessica Alba), ordering him to respond to a distress call. Scorch has been on innumerable such missions with one dire exception overshadowing this mission; the destination is the ‘Dark Planet.' Members of the audience over of this planet and know it by a less ominous name, ‘Earth.' There have been some attempts to explore the planet no one has ever returned or journey to the Dark Planet. Gary argues with his brother urging him not to go but when Scorch remains determined Gary quits his job. Returns back home where he explains the situation to his wife, Kira (voiced by Sarah Jessica Parker) and his son Kip. Kip is despondent over his adored being in such a dangerous predicament.

Scorch lands on the Dark Planet in front of a building of some sort, actually a 7-11. Outside is one of those inflatable stick figures that flail around with the air being plump through them. Scorch mistaken sit for an entity or in the throes of death. When the authorities show up, Scorch tranquilized and under orders by General Shanker Saunderson (voiced by William Shatner), is taken to Area 51 and as it turns out from our perspective not only does the facility exist but is used to contain aliens from various planets. After so many years of watching terrestrial astronauts being held captive in alien research facilities, we are confronted with the reversal of the circumstances where sympathies must be given to the aliens and not the malevolent human beings. Back on Baab Kip has run away from home, getting into the space agency installing the ship to rescue his uncle.

About a decade or so this film would’ve been in a far better position for favorable reception. It does manage to hold together for an audience still in grade school but, so much more is expected from an animated feature in the current entertainment environment. Aside from a few last altered role reversals, there’s very little here to keep the parents engaged. The target demographic for is something the entire family can experience and enjoy together. The story just doesn’t hold together as suitable entertainment for such a broad spectrum of ages. Admittedly there are a few little Easter eggs designed for the parents such as the area where previous detainees sign their names they include such memorable monikers as Kal-El, Riddick, Ripley, Santa, Spock, and Beta Ray Bill. In the names of the gods in the hazmat suits when concatenated referred to very famous directors in sci-fi and fantasy. It’s an honest try, and I do give them credit for, but it just can’t make up of four the shortcomings of the movie. With the reported budget of some $40 million in 1913 currency, more can be expected even considering the level of technology had achieved at that point. The issue is on so much the technical point of view but inadequacies in both the style and substance of the story. It allows the major studios to maintain their hold on such a lofty position is that their animation contains true emotional depth. There are nuances of the facial expressions or movements that elicit a response in the audience to forget that these are animated creatures and accept them as actual living beings. The story was also so rich with potential as far as character development was concerned that it was disappointing that so little of it was exploited. The sibling rivalry between Scorch and Gary is something that is universally understood and if provided with some additional attention could have helped viewers both young and old to empathize the characters in this situation. Overall the film is entertaining as a popcorn flick for a rainy Saturday afternoon, but it could’ve been so much more.

bulletFeature Commentary With Director Cal Brunker
bulletThe Making Of Escape From Planet Earth
bulletAlternate Takes And Deleted Scenes
bulletHow To make An Animated Feature With Director Cal Brunker
bulletMusic Featurettes With Delta Rae, Owl City and Cody Simpson

Posted 03/08/2016            09/30/2017

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