The Battle for Terra

The Planet the Death Star Really Needed to Destroy

Battle for Terra

Starring: Luke Wilson, Evan Rachel Wood

By Robert Patrick

The Battle of Terra, the newest installment in the frightening regime of popular 3D movies, is a clunky parable for our social climate. The film has serious undercurrents that deal with moral equity, the impulsivity of violence, and the righteousness of maintaining tolerance within multicultural societies – all of this conveyed by untrustworthy looking and bulbous animation. The CGI in this film looks like it was supported by a Windows 95 graphics card. If I was a child who had the ingenuity to drag my parents to the theatre by the leg of their pants, I would be wholly dumbfounded once my Elvis Costello 3D glasses hit the bridge of my nose. The entire film looks like a crack team of computer specialists raided the trash bins outside Lucas Arts for character designs.

The plotline of the film deals with a peaceful planet called Terra. Inhabited by aliens who have the eye size of large boiling pots, Terra is a world that has lived a paradisiacal existence. The beings on Terra float around like tadpoles, wadding through their sky, and even racing each other with archaic airplanes that look like they were designed by the Wright brothers. 

The creatures’ homes look like giant beanstalks, where I assume they do things like knit burgundy robes and weave unsavory hats. The actual chain of life of these creatures, which seems endlessly interesting, is never fully examined. All that we know is that the planet has flying whales with the wingspans of 747 jet planes, and that the aliens have a band of elders who resemble what looks like a gelatinous version of Christopher Lee. Nevertheless, despite the enigmatic world of Terra, everyone totters along happily.

Off in the distance, a blocky, aesthetically disturbing version of the human race is fluttering through the universe in a battered up space station. The humans, having had eradicated the resources on earth, decide to pummel the congenial residents of Terra, take over their planet, then reproduce at an unstable rate. 

Because both of these species are poorly designed by Lionsgate’s art department, it’s hard to root for either one of them to succeed, as they both look too hideous for you to want them to efficiently flex their numbers. 

Finally, after an extended period of debating, the humans, led by the maniacal General Hemmer (Brian Cox), decide to launch an assault on the unassuming world of Terra. Because the humans have advanced technology, they end up zapping most of the aliens up in their ships. One of the humans, by the name of Jim Stanton (Luke Wilson), ends up crashing into the dunes of Terra. 

Stanton’s character, who looks uncannily similar to wrestler John Cena, gets rescued by an alien named Mala (Evan Rachel Wood). Since Stanton’s face has the emotive capacity of a death mask, we aren’t sure how to connect with him throughout the film. The amount of plasticity in this movie made me feel uneasy – these characters are not likable in the least. The 3D in the film, something assumed to be the flagship of this movie’s strengths, is negligible at best. I felt, throughout the entire film, that I lacked the proper depth perception to acknowledge when a slinking animation was coming at me.

Aside from convincing me that I’m unable to judge protruding objects, The Battle of Terra also bored me to death with its heavy-handed anecdotes about heroism and sacrifice. Apart from the two bookend scenes – the beginning and end of the movie – there isn’t much to hold an exuberant child’s attention. There are conversational escapades that made me think I was listening to a political filibuster at points. If I’m watching a 3D film, ripe with animation and a tagline that suggests action, I better not feel like I’m watching Glengarry Ross on Powerpoint. 

Another drawing feature of the animated feature is generally the voice acting. Studios, finding the most gregarious actors on the market, prop them up in the studio, letting their vocals enthusiastically whip over the microphone. Here, director Aristomenis Tsirbas, chooses the most innocuous voices in the business to embody the characters’ personalities. How in the world did he deduce that Danny Glover and Beverly D’Angelo would be anything less than unmemorable?

The Battle of Terra, for all of its supposed good intentions, winds up being a discomforting mess all the way around. 


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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