Continued from Part One.
To sum up Tentacolino is a daunting task to say say the least. There’s enough wrong with the movie that anyone could go on about it for days. But I’d like to give the film the benefit of the doubt and suggest there’s a fraction of a chance that it may just be about something. I think there may more to this movie than its surface-level insanity.
So Tentacolino is a direct sequel to The Legend of the Titanic, an animated film that’s extremely insulting and insensitive to the innocent people who lost their lives during the tragic sinking of the Titanic. The first film claims no one died on that terrible night. There were enough lifeboats for everyone, and even those who fell into the water were saved by whales. I’d like to argue that with Tentacolino, there are enough clues left behind to suggest the filmmakers are trying to set things right with the sequel.
I’ve mentioned in Part One that there are numerous contradictions between this film and its predecessor; rendering continuity between the two obsolete. The most notable example is that Top Connors gets married and grows old in the first film, but he stays young forever in Atlantis in the sequel after drinking the elixir of life. This contradiction alone is enough to suggest that the events of the first film didn’t actually happen. I think the true explanation is that Don Juan, Elizabeth, their dog Smile, and the mice Ronnie and Top Connors all died when the ship sank. And Tentacolino chronicles their journey into the afterlife.
There’s plenty of dialogue to back this up. Most significantly, after Atlantis’ squadron of mermen and mermaids rescue Smile from the bathysphere, the talking dog practically spells it out for the audience that he’s dead. But the mermaid carrying him sings some kind of siren’s song to convince him otherwise:
Smile: “Help! I’m dead! Come help me! This isn’t happening!”
Mermaid: “Keep calm you’re safe now, keep calm you’re all safe.”
Smile: “No I’m dead! And you’re taking me to doggie hell! And none of this is fair at all! Why is this happening to me? I’ve always been good. Yeah, I chased cats and when I was a puppy I stole some nice juicy steak, but that isn’t a good enough reason for this! I wanna call my lawyer!”
Mermaid: “Calm down Smile, calm down. Look around you. Can you see anything bad? How can you think such a beautiful place can be so evil? And my face isn’t that bad looking, is it? I haven’t changed into the devil, or have I?”
Smile: “You’re right! I’m so stupid not to have realized. You’re beautiful! It’s the shock. This place is really amazing.”
I don’t know what good Smile thinks a lawyer would do him if he’s dead, but he changes his mind so quickly here… just because she’s beautiful? Right. So nothing beautiful can ever be evil. It’s as if the mermaid has some kind persuasive power that eliminates all common sense. I believe she’s an angel of death of some kind, who has collected the soul from Smile’s body and is taking him to Atlantis, the afterlife. Her powers evidently wear off once Smile has left the mermaid’s presence, since his skepticism returns when he tells his friends, “there’s something very fishy going on here, guys.”
In Atlantis they meet Pingo, the bouncing fish on a spring, who introduces them to their situation through a song. The tune begins by welcoming them to Atlantis, “where everything’s a dream.” If they’re dreaming, that means their bodies aren’t truly present in Atlantis, since they are actually carcasses at the bottom of the sea. Pingo also states that they “can thank [their] lucky stars that [he] has saved their lives!” By bringing them to Atlantis, he has saved their souls for all eternity, like some kind of God would. This is made especially clear since they have drank from the elixir of life, and are granted the biblical promise of eternal life. Atlantis is also established in the song as “the only place where you can always stay awake.” There’s no reason for them to sleep anymore, since they no longer have bodies that require it. And of course, Pingo finishes the melody by telling them, “up there, you can’t go back!” There is no escaping their fate; they are dead and can never be resurrected.
Pingo: “This is the most beautiful place in the world, and here you’ll be able to live in peace and serenity!”
Top Connors: “I don’t like the sound of that, it’s like one of those things you see written on a tombstone!”
So Atlantis is this dream-like afterlife that they can’t leave. But the underwater city is neither heaven nor hell. It’s a purgatory between the two realms. And in order to determine where Smile, Ronnie, Top Conners, Elizabeth and Don Juan belong, they must pass a test to prove they are worthy of entering heaven. The test begins when Top Connors and Ronnie are approached by two evil mice and are asked to help out in their sinister plan to steal the elixir of life and escape the city.
Ronnie notes, “it’s like a ghost town down here.”
Top Connors and Ronnie first bring their knowledge of the rat’s intentions to Smile, Don Juan, and Elizabeth. Together, the five of them determine how they should proceed. Do they tell the King about this plan, or do they help the rats? This is their ultimate test. You see, the Faceless King of Atlantis is all-knowing and all-seeing. He can accurately describe what the rats are up to at any given moment. When the king describes some offscreen events as they are happening, one of the his councilmen explains, “he sees and hears everything.” If that’s the case, the King was always aware of the rat’s evil plan, long before Top Connors and Ronnie brought it to his attention. The King presented them with a situation where they could either greedily choose to steal the elixir, or they could do the right thing by warning the Atlanteans.
The King is “not a magician, he’s much more than that!” He’s more like an all-knowing, all-seeing God.
In the end, the gang all pass the test when they band together, bearing arms to do battle with the enemy. They take the most selfless road and as a reward, they move from purgatory into their own eternal paradise. The King arranges for them to take the Titanic to a secret island, where they will spend the rest of eternity. Since we know the Titanic sank, this can’t be the real ship, but a mere ethereal recreation of it. And so, they have passed out of purgatory and are granted eternal life in their own personal heaven.
So there you have it. There’s so many weird lines of dialogue in this film that allude to something sinister, and I think I’ve gotten to the bottom of what they really mean. With this interpretation, it suggests that people did in fact die in the first movie, and the ‘whales-save-the day’ ending was actually some kind of hallucination everyone shared before freezing to death in the water. Now, I bet no one ever intended for this much thought to be wasted on Tentacolino, not even the filmmakers, but I’ve gone ahead and done it anyway. Deal with it.
That’s right, a movie featuring dancing merpeople on an octopus’ tentacles is actually an allegory for death.