Battle for Terra (2009)
Release Date: May 1st, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Aristomenis Tsirbas Actors: Justin Long, Evan Rachel Wood, Brian Cox, James Garner, Chris Evans
he epic scope of a brand new world and the futuristic human populace that attempts to invade it proves to be a little too ambitious in “Battle for Terra.” Bland character designs and dull dialogue can’t quite manage to adequately complement the effective, though heavily overused, storyline. While the alien structures and massive human ships provide intriguing visuals and creative CG craftsmanship, the inhabitants of such visions leave something to be desired. The humans display less detail than cheap plastic action figures and the aliens astoundingly disprove the theory that creatures with large eyes are inherently cute. The inventiveness behind an extraterrestrial society living in the winding stalks of giant mushrooms amidst a herd of floating sky whales feels sadly wasted.
The denizens of the planet Terra live in complete peace, not only with each other, but also with their ecosystem of exotic floating wildlife. Such harmony is cataclysmically interrupted when invaders from Earth attack the planet and begin kidnapping many of the Terrians, including the father of rebellious young Mala (Evan Rachel Wood). In an attempt to follow her father’s captors, Mala chases human pilot Jim Stanton (Luke Wilson), whose ship becomes damaged in the ensuing skirmish and crash-lands at the outskirts of the alien city. Saving Jim’s life, she brings the human back to her house where she agrees to fix his ship in exchange for his help in rescuing her father. But time is quickly running out as dastardly human General Hemmer’s (Brian Cox) plot against the alien world collides in an epic battle with the species’ dark past. The two renegade fighters must sacrifice everything to stop the destruction of Terra.
It isn’t obnoxiously preachy, but the methods of badgering the audience over the depletion of natural resources and self-destruction through war don’t boast originality. And former allies fighting on opposing sides is a particularly familiar theme. The absence of communication between alien species and the poor communication amongst the humans leads to a hostile takeover attempt that asks viewers to oppose humankind and route for a seemingly defenseless, peace-loving breed. “Battle for Terra” has uncovered a shocking truth: humans are bad. To further expound that thinking is a singular villainous leader who can take the blame; without Hemmer, it would be too much to contravene the human race. But the Terrians have shortcomings as well: the elders, their teachings, restricted inventions, and forbidden territories riddle their culture with morality questions.
The look of the film provides a very mixed result. The environment of Terra is the high point, with towering mushroom homes, abrupt changes in atmospheric conditions as the cameras move across various elevations, and many floating objects (including primitive airships and enormous sky whales). But the Terrians themselves appear too simple – as if for the sake of easier animation, the natives are little more than tadpoles with large eyes, three-fingered hands, and no lips or nose. The humans are comparably simplistic, with little attention to the texturing details that typically grace bar-setter Pixar’s animation.
“Battle for Terra” is too ambitious an idea for a computer animated children’s film, posing the typical problems that face many similar endeavors. It’s not intense enough for adults and too expansive for little kids, and many of the concepts (including organic data downloading to skirt the natural language barrier) are painfully contrived. On a positive note, the score has an appropriate science-fiction resonance and dramatic fervor, which overshadows some of the flaws in pacing and framing.
– The Massie Twins