So I splurged and got the new Disney+ which means I get to have my fill of classic animated movies. It always makes me sad at how many of the greats didn't have critical success. Disney did get into trouble as some of the older movies are very problematic. And yet one of their movies that didn't get much success if probably one of their better ones when it comes to so many aspects. I'm watching Atlantis and I'm loving the story telling.
First off the women. They are strong commanding and a true power all the way through the movie. All of them are smart. Even the casual crew there is a mixture of men and women. They aren't perfect. After all some of the bad guys are women. (Though the female baddie is the first to start talking about ethical dilemma of killing an ancient race.) But it isn't because they are women that they are evil. They don't try to seduce or use their wiles. Instead it is with their wit and physical strength they try to gain what they want. And this is supposed to be set in 1914. I love that Kidda kicked the guy in the nuts even while they are dragging her away. Funnily enough the movie would fail the Bechdel test even with all these awesome aspects. The interactions between the women are more visceral and physical. Not quite enough in my opinion when you have such good characters to play with.
Instead Milo plays the role of the Ingenue. A role usually played by a young girl. And frankly could have been played by a girl and made the atlantian woman, Kidda, a prince. She is the aggressor in their relationship. I love Milo's innocence. Every indication is that things are shady from the beginning and yet Milo is oblivious to the signs. In an age where men are portrayed as strong and physical. While Milo is far from that.
The adult jokes crack me up. Old men talking about privacy while he shows off his ding dong to his guest. A sexy woman announcing that she came down the chimney, "Ho, ho, ho." A lot of office jokes from the person on the speaker blandly mocking the person who had taken such and such from the break room.
The doctor is a man of colour. He is smart and kind who is clearly meant to be an ally right from the start. Actually there are a lot of characters of colour and different ethnicity. All of who break the usual stereotype. This isn't tokenism as they have several characters who are POC. While the white male characters ironically often are stereotypical. The old guy who is the crazy frontier man, the Soldier character. Often very two dimensional. While they take their time to introduce the POC characters and give them backstories. Mixed racial couples as well. In an age where it was technically illegal when this movie was set. They even make jokes about accents and getting names wrong that I love.
Now I love my steampunk and dieselpunk. It is just beautiful. The colour palette is stunning.
But there are places it falls over. The white saviour trope is clearly being used here. It is countered a little by the fact that Milo is not very competent. Hardly a saviour. You could flip the POV and really it is Kidda who is the saviour in this story. She is the one who can control the power and she is the one to realise Milo can answer the questions. She is brave enough to rock the boat to save her people. Unfortunately I reckon they ruin it when they do the whole rescue the princess trope. I do think it is was a little bit of a cheat that she is the crystal and saves the day. It wasn't really her so that is definitely a downside.
Almost Disney, almost. But a great attempt for the age especially when we are still messing it up now.