Battle For Terra

Animated Family Film

  • Written by Evan Spiliotopoulos
  • Directed by Aristomenis Tsirbas

It’s a wonder no one thought of this before: an alien invasion movie where we are the alien invaders. (Well, someone might have thought of it before, but I don’t know about it.)

The gentle creatures of an apparently unnamed planet (the invaders name it Terra) live a peaceful existence, even if there is something mildly totalitarian about the elders who lead them. Then big machines come down from the sky and start abducting some citizens and killing others.

For a family-friendly, PG animated feature, Battle for Terra brings some complex moral issues to the table. Not only are the bad battle4terraguys the human race, but they’re the last of the human race and facing extinction. The only hope for our survival as a species is to kill off all life on Terra and make it suitable for us oxygen-breathers. And the creatures running the planet are not necessarily saints, controlling even what may be invented. Likable characters must make horrific lose-lose decisions, and not all of them make it alive to the fade-out. Hopefully, this movie will not only entertain children; it will make them think.

On the other hand–and I seriously considered giving it a B for this–it suffers from plot holes, inconsistencies, and the sort of compromises one has to make to finance a children’s film . There’s the standard-issue spunky heroine (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood). Everyone speaks English, and the language barriers implied in the story are papered over in the clumsiest fashion. Some aspects of the Terrian culture and world just don’t make sense.

But it’s a fascinating world. The Terrians can fly–propelled by their fish-like tails–but not high nor fast. The filmmakers put some real thought into how natural flight would effect a culture. For instance, the heroine’s father appears to be crippled (it’s never explained), and he uses a sort of wheelchair, except that instead of wheels, it has a propeller that keeps him aloft.

Any animated feature involving post-Earth humans is bound to be compared with Wall-E. Battle for Terra lacks the humor, the poetry, and the sheer magic of Wall-E’s first act, but then neither does it drop in quality to a disappointing third act, as the Pixar film did. On the other hand, it didn’t need fancy plot twists to get to an action-packed finish–the movie is clearly building up to one from the start.

Thoughtful as it is, there’s plenty of action in Battle for Terra, and it’s fun just as an explosion movie. And it’s especially fun in 3D, which it uses wisely to maximize both the spectacle and the excitement.