Aristomenis Tsirbas makes his directorial debut with Battle for Terra, a film that unbelievably was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival back in August 2007. This one has been sitting on the shelf for a while, and was released in the UK some ten months after it opened in the States. The big names it boasts include Danny Glover and Evan Rachel Wood, though of course the computer animators put in most of the donkey work in getting words on a page into images on the screen. In this story we humans have managed to let our planet become inhabitable due to environmental meltdown (good job guys!) and so have gone on a journey through time and space (well just space actually) to arrive at nubile planet Terra. All we have to do is exterminate the native inhabitants and the world is ours! The film is told from the perspective of alien Mala (Evan Rachel Wood) who witnesses her world fall apart around her thanks to humanoid General Hemmer (Brian Cox).
So with the pre-mentioned invasion of Terra in its early stages, Mala comes across Lt. Jim Stanton (Luke Wilson) and is faced with a moral dilemma. Give the human up to the authorities who will do goodness knows what to him or risk her own life to keep the invader hidden and safe? Clearly afflicted by the dumb she decides to save him. Will Stanton change his views on the inhabitants of Terra and try to save them? Will the invasion be halted? Can there be a way for both species to live side-by-side? What do you think? It’s a kid’s film.
Before I launch into a full scale analysis of the picture I should point out the following disclaimer… Having been assigned this review weeks after its release I faced the choice of doing the film a disservice by going from memory or doing the film a disservice by seeing it illegally online. My memory is solid so I will leave the evil websites well alone. Besides whether the film is forgettable or memorable should be easy to judge from here. I managed to remember the intricacies of the plot, and I know how I felt coming out of the screen so let’s crack on shall we?
What I felt coming out of the screen was ‘blerrr’ – nothing more, nothing less. It was average. It won’t have any impact upon the world of animation and it probably won’t have much of an impact on the boys and girls that go to see it. It may well have been revolutionary as recently as the 1990s, but it came out in Britain a couple of months after Planet 51, which had pretty much the same plot. The voices are acceptable, the animation is fine, but not entirely enrapturing, and the battle scenes are standard. Nothing really stands out from this film a great deal, which means that at least it isn’t flashy or vacuous, just a bit average. Even the aliens seem rather dull and forgettable, which if I’m honest may be the films biggest flaw. I am there looking at a bunch of aliens and I’m thinking ‘yeah, so what?’ They reminded me more of the characters in A Bug’s Life and Antz than extraterrestrials, and they were knocking around more than a decade ago.
What the film deserves credit for is being a pure kid’s film. There aren’t any pop culture gags for the parents as far as I remember. It is from the viewpoint of a naïve alien kid, a kid whose heart is in the right place and although she is only small, her decisions play a huge role in the future of her species. Children viewing the film will learn that humans make mistakes, those who look different from us still have feelings and families, war is bad, friends look out for each other and that violence doesn’t solve anything. It is all good stuff, even if other films have done it better already.
This film has got mostly average reviews and this reviewer sees no reason to change that. It isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t a particularly good film, hence it is average. There isn’t much else to say on this piece other than perhaps a word on the 3D element. The 3D adds little, but is used to good effect, that is to say it doesn’t distract from the film. I am trying to think of another way to call this film average but I can’t. This review may seem repetitive and boring now, which is unfair on the film as it is no more boring than most other films.