Battle for Terra

An Animated Planet in Another Solar System


01 May 2009| No Comments on Battle for Terra     by Sean Chavel


The animated Battle for Terra is a film of visual splendors attached to a story I didn’t care about, even if I did see it as a parable of ethnic cleansing applied to our global struggle. I should have described this first as a children’s movie which it is before anything else. I suppose this movie is made for a certain age range and not for me in mind. I wanted to like it more, and even found a moment or two when my jaw dropped in awe especially when the movie opened with a shot that could be seen as a nod to the work of Salvador Dali. I was impressed briefly, with briefly being the operative word. “Avatar” has nothing to fear at the box office.

The single most telling problem I had is that the sea-horse shaped alien creatures all had faces that looked alike. Only the colors of their head beads distinguished the characters.  Pedigree actors signed onto doing the voiceovers which is certainly essential in following who is who – we recognize their voices and thereby associate them to their characters.  Mala (Evan Rachel Wood) and Senn (Justin Long) are the sympathetic alien creatures whom we identify with most closely.  One day an arrival comes from outer space. “Not Gods.  They are invaders.” They are earthlings on a genocide mission. The plot turns “War of the Worlds” on its ear by making humans the bad guys.

Following an aerial dogfight where Mala tricks her enemy, crashing pilot Jim Stanton (Luke Wilson) is captured. Mala and Senn interrogate Jim with the intention of why humans would do this to their Terrian people. Earth has been exhausted of its natural resources, Stanton explains, and they are looking for a new planet to inhabit. Stanton, shaken and afraid, fears for his life in the face of these aliens. Mala and Senn make every attempt to find a common ground with this human. They are a pacifist species who would prefer to make humans their welcome and not their enemy.

But it is impossible to talk peace when warhorse General Hemmer (Brian Cox, using predatory growl in his delivery) is marshalling the humans. He is an uncompromised individual, and when Stanton is reunited with his military, he cannot make any persuasion in Gen. Hemmer to change his course of action. Hemmer is like a Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore type who gets his jollies in firebombing away. What is realized is that the only way to stop the humans is to take Gen. Hemmer down.

Somehow the movie comes to a point where it endlessly poses characters to question their loyalties. Yet a bigger problem is how noisy the whole thing was in the second half which feels like slapped-together “Star Wars” ingredients, replete with a burdening heavy-handed message about the need to preserve peace and to respect cultural differences. Youngsters (say age 8 to 14) less accustomed to the overall ideas presented in the script will appreciate the added on explanations and layered thematic descriptions. Most others may want to jettison out of their seats early. Other vocal talents include James Garner, Danny Glover, Beverly D’Angelo, Rosanna Arquette, Mark Hamill, David Cross, Amanda Peet, Ron Perlman and Dennis Quaid.

85 Minutes. Rated PG.


Film Cousins: “Forbidden Planet” (1956); “Star Wars” (1977); “Titan A.E.” (2000); “Delgo” (2008).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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