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Battle for Terra (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

Battle for Terra

Battle for Terra


Featuring the voices of Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, James Garner, Chris Evans, Danny Glover, Amanda Peet, David Cross, Justin Long and Dennis Quaid.

Screenplay by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Aristomenis Tsirbas.

Directed by Aristomenis Tsirbas.

Distributed by Lionsgate Pictures.  85 minutes.  Rated PG.

It’s a sign of how ubiquitous that computer animation has become in Hollywood that a cheesy little space opera like this – which barely registered in an extremely limited theatrical release – could have such a strong, varied cast of A and B-list voice talent.

Battle for Terra is a slam-bang interplanetary war film along the lines of the later (and lesser) Star Wars films – only it is told from the point of view of an alien culture.

However, Battle for Terra does have one interesting, semi-subversive idea.

The bad guys in this movie are the Earthlings.

That’s right.  We’re the evil empire oppressing the peaceful beings of another planet who are just minding their business when they are viciously attacked.

It is a planet called Terra – which is kind of confusing at first, because “terra” is Latin for earth – however eventually we find out that is not the actual name of the planet, but just what the Earthlings have decided to call it.

The Terrans – we never learn what the planet’s real name is – are strange little tadpole-like flying creatures with huge, soulful eyes and big hearts.  They live peaceful lives, in harmony with nature, the arts and family values.

Honestly, they all look pretty much alike, making it difficult to tell which Terran is doing what.  In fact, the only distinguishing factors that any of them seem to have is what they wear on their heads.  For example, Mala, the Terran heroine in the movie, walks around with what looks like shards from a broken green vase on her head.  The elders – apparently in honor of their wisdom – have a series of stylish futuristic looking blinking Kangol chapeaus.

Not that the humans are much easier to differentiate here – the only way you know which one is our hero is that he has a little chunk of his right eyebrow missing – apparently lost to a strange scar that the animators never quite got around to filling in.

Battle for Terra tells the unlikely story of the sudden and heartfelt friendship between an adventurous Terran girl and an Earth fighter pilot.  When they battle each other, Mala saves his life causing the two to suddenly be platonic soulmates – often selling out their own people for their new friend.

Is it realistic?  Not particularly.  Is the animation impressive?  Well, the backgrounds of the strange world and the ships are very impressive, but frankly the characters – both human and alien – look a little cheesy.

Battle for Terra doesn’t seem to know what exactly it wants to be.  Too violent and complex for young kids, too ham-handed and stiff for adults, too simplistic and preachy for just about anyone – it occupies an odd little niche in genre fiction.  The movie has some really cool moments, but there should be a lot more of them.  It’s worth a view on DVD or cable if you’re into this kind of thing.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: September 17, 2009.

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