BATTLE FOR TERRA
**** (out of 5)
May 1, 2009
Evan Rachel Wood as MALA EVAN
Brian Cox as GENERAL HEMMER
Luke Wilson as JIM STANTON
David Cross as GIDDY
Justin Long as SENN
Studio: Roadside Attractions
Directed by: Aristomenis Tsirbas
BY KEVIN CARR
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Over the past few years, I have become very leery of computer generated films that aren’t from the big two studios of Pixar and DreamWorks, especially when the voice cast is filled with name actors. Even recently, we’ve had some real stinker CGI movies with large casts – “The Tale of Despereaux” and “Delgo” being the best examples I can think of in the past six months.
Not knowing a whole lot about “Battle for Terra,” I was nervous when the film started and had easily a dozen recognizable names in the opening credits. However, as I expected the film to not be very good, I found myself pleasantly surprised. It turns out that “Battle for Terra” is the exception to the rule of CGI films.
The story takes place on another planet where a civilization of pixie-like creatures live in peace. They are fully integrated with their environment and have no military. However, when a strange shape in the sky blocks out the clouds, this civilization is soon threatened by an alien force. That invasion force turns out to be a band of humans who had left a desolated Earth in a desperate attempt to find a new home.
The atmosphere of the planet is poisonous to humans, and a terraforming project would wipe out the inhabitants. One lone alien named Mala Evan (Evan Rachel Wood) comes across a crashed human ship and nurses the pilot (Luke Wilson) back to health. After returning to his mother ship, the pilot works with Mala to find a peaceful solution, but not before the start of an all-out war.
With a name like “Battle for Terra,” along with Hollywood’s current push to go green, I was expecting this film to be preachy and pretentious. Instead, the film tells a story about a clash of cultures. There are quite a few moments that deliver a message, but the film doesn’t ignore reality.
Unlike many animated films, which are often geared towards children, “Battle for Terra” shies away from simplifying things too much. Sure, the aggressive General Hemmer (Brian Cox) in charge of the human forces is a bit heavy handed, but it actually makes sense, considering the mother ship is on its last legs. Terra is the last chance for the human race, so it makes sense that everything comes across as an act of desperation.
Similarly, while the inhabitants of the planet are peaceful now, the story shows that a peaceful community can only go so far when there’s outside aggression. In a roundabout way, the movie makes a strong case for a military with the old cliche that a strong military is in place for preventative measures.
“Battle for Terra” takes the traditional CG film and elevates it to a higher level dealing with ugly issues of our own world using realistic logic in fantastic situations. Like any film dealing with issues, “Battle for Terra” shows that things can’t always work out perfectly, and sacrifices have to be made.
However, with all the issues and minor preaching aside, this film is also a fantastic action piece, as you might expect from the title. Having grown up with the “Star Wars” movies, I was sucked in by the dogfight battles between the human ships and the aliens. The action sequences are thrilling to watch and provide an excellent cap to the drama of the movie.
Like many films this year, “Battle for Terra” is being rolled out in RealD digital 3D, which is the best way to experience the film. While it can still be exciting and fun with traditional projection, if you have a chance to catch the movie on the 3D screen, take it. This film is helping 2009 to become the banner year for the theatrical 3D experience.