October 3, 2009

The Battle for Terra movie image (4).jpg

I had seen a preview for this film when I went to see “Monsters vs. Aliens” in 3-D and I was interested in checking it out, but before I could blink it was out of theaters.  I can’t imagine why a movie about humans invading a peaceful alien planet and in the name of survival tries to destroy all alien life and occupying the land, wouldn’t be an easy ticket for a kid’s film (sarcasm alert!).  It is a bit dark for a kid’s movie and will probably have trouble finding a niche, but I enjoyed the 84 minute animated ride.  More after the jump-

The Battle for Terra Blu-ray.jpg“Battle for Terra” is basically “War of the Worlds” or “Independence Day” or any of the aliens invade Earth movies, but in reverse.  The story is built around the peaceful planet of Terra where it’s inhabitants (that look like those Sea Monkeys I tried to grow in the tiny plastic tank as a kid) live in peace.  There are hints that it hasn’t always been this way, a great war changed everything and somehow peace prevailed and has sustained itself for many generations.  The focus of the Terra species is to celebrate life, until a giant mechanical thing comes hovering over their planet blocking out the sun with it’s shifting metal hunks of garbage.  We soon find out that this junk ship is comprised of the only remaining humans to survive a war that broke out after all Earth’s resources were tapped and Mars and neighboring planets were colonized only to erupt in an interplanetary war that destroyed most of the human race.  Now the last survivors have been scouring the galaxy to find a planet that could sustain human life, before their last bit of oxygen runs out on the ship.

Right from the start the stakes are high for the humans and all it takes is the evil General Hemmer (voiced by Brian Cox) to assert martial law on the ship and declare war on Terra, then all hell breaks loose.  An unlikely friendship is formed between Mala (Evan Rachel Wood) and a human pilot named Jim (Luke Wilson) that might just save both races from extinction.  But that’s all I’m going to tell you… except that there are some pretty awesome battle scenes and a very “mature ending” for a kid’s film that I didn’t expect.  In fact, I was waiting for the obligatory overly happy ending cop-out. Instead I was pleasantly surprised by the adult-themed risked the filmmakers took.

The Battle for Terra movie image (2).jpgThe movie’s ideas and concepts of how destructive mankind can be is pretty dark and not seen too often in what would be considered a kid’s film.  I don’t think the filmmakers were out to make a movie for kids; they were out to make a cautionary science fiction tale, with the mask of a family film so that it was more accessible.  I like the idea of a reverse alien film, where the humans are the antagonists and the violent ones.  General Hemmel is ruthless and has no concern for the Terrians, which he deems as an inferior race.  The themes and actions of the humans ring extra clear because we’ve already done this to ourselves in our own history; with colonizing America, slavery, The Crusades, just to name a few.  So it’s not a huge leap in logic that if mankind were dying, there would be some people that would stop at nothing to continue our species.  While others, like Jim and Mala, would look for a peaceful resolution.  The end of the film leaves us with the hope that peace can prevail and that mankind is inherently good.

I really enjoyed this film for the message it had and I didn’t feel that it was dummied down or too heavy-handed.  It walked a delicate balance.  The script was tight and didn’t waste any time.  The only issue I had was with the animation, which I realized some might say was “stylized,” but the humans especially just looked weird.  I liked the Terrian animation design, but the humans had too exaggerated baby-doll like features that didn’t work for me and took me out of some of the more dramatic moments in the film.  If you can get over the less-than-amazing animation and focus on the story, you’ll enjoy the film.  I eventually stopped worrying that Jim looked like a Cabbage Patch Kid and just appreciated what the overall purpose of the film was.  To make an intelligent, sci-fi action film for kids.

The Battle for Terra movie image (3).jpgSpecial Features:

-Making of Featurette and one on the director Aristomenis Tsirbas

-From Story Board to Final Render of the scene where Mala sneaks around

-Audio Commentary with the filmmakers

-Animatics of Mala’s escape

-Deleted Scenes and a trailer


Film: B-

Features: B-

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