There's a reason many people these days have an aversion to animated movies. Why? Because they've become cheap and manipulative of the low standards of children. That's been the truth behind the majority of kid's movies for a long time now, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire was perhaps the last truly great animated movie Disney made.
Released in 2001, it's a movie behind it's time in many ways. First of all, it's a genuine cartoon. At the time of it's release computer generated effects and animation were becoming the norm, and while Atlantis makes use of what appear to be a few CG visual effects here and there, it's mostly the real deal, and it's the better for it. The main plot concerns a centuries-lost civilization and a archeologist/linguist attempting to find it in his father's place, aided by a group of bizarre and charming mercenaries. I don't believe the sense of style, personality, and charm portrayed here could have been accomplished utilizing the CG effects of the day, or even of today's.
And it's really the sense of style, personality, and charm that sucks you in, almost instantly. The main character, Milo, is an extremely dedicated professor who is never given credit, and is always looked down on as a kid. Even his expertise seems to be part of his social problem; he's a nerd and nobody seems to like that. And yet, his child-like fascination and curiosity is infecting for us viewers. The group of mercenaries he works with comprise of a large and rather hyperactive medical doctor, a world-class professional engineer who happens to be a teenage girl, a charmingly dry and unenthusiastic demolitions expert, a(I suspect) psychologically disturbed dirt and tunneling expert nicknamed "Mole", a commander who is clearly in the expedition for fame and fortune, and a blondie named Helga Katrina Sinclair who, despite her very seductive and intoxicatingly attractive gestures and outward appearance, is actually a real tomboy.
The way this group of mercenaries behaves and interacts together, you'd think that they were siblings. It's amazing the small ways they manage to portray this, really. Over time, Milo slowly starts to become one of them. That's how when they finally do manage to find the lost city for which they've been searching all this time, things get pretty intense as the priorities of Milo's friends turn out to be little different from what he expected them to be.
I think that's why I ended up loving this movie so much: it's just incredible how real it manages to be, even behind all the magic and mystery. In a few ways it's actually rather comparable to Princess Mononoke, but not excessively. It's a Disney movie that, for once, manages stands on it's own two feet, and I pity those that would rather miss it.
8 out of 10